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Led by Max Fried, Braves should once again have stellar starting rotation

Justin Toscano, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

The idea is simple: When you have a great starting rotation, you have a chance to win every night. It’s a relatively reliable path to piling up victories.

The execution is difficult, because only a select group of teams find themselves in that position each season. Building a dominant rotation is tough because you need at least five good pitchers – and almost certainly more than that for depth purposes.

The 2023 Braves are one of the teams that can expect to win every night because of their rotation.

“We got a lot of talent,” Kyle Wright said.

Of course, it starts with Atlanta ace Max Fried, who is coming off a season in which he finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting. On Saturday, a panel of arbitrators ruled in favor of the Braves in Fried’s salary arbitration case, and Fried will be paid $13.5 million instead of the $15 million he sought.

A quick reminder here, for those who may not be experts on salary arbitration: It is simply part of the business, and Saturday’s decision doesn’t mean Fried and the Braves are at odds, or that he’s mad at them, or that they are undervaluing him. It won’t create bad blood and doesn’t decrease their odds of signing him to a long-term extension. Nothing changed – arbitration is just part of the process for players in baseball’s current economic landscape.

 

Last season, Austin Riley “lost” in arbitration – he wanted $4.2 million, but got $3.95 (a smaller gap than in Fried’s case) – and signed a long-term extension months later. The Braves had five arbitration hearings a year ago and won 101 games.

And so Fried will soon head to North Port, where he’ll begin another season as the team’s leader in the rotation. Two topics you’ll hear from now until the end of 2024: Will the Braves extend Fried? How much money will it take?

“My goal with these guys is that you only hear about it when we put out a release, we try to keep that stuff quiet,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said during a fan Q&A session at Braves Fest in January. “But I’ve said this: Our 2025 rotation is a big concern of mine, as much as we’ve got to worry about ‘23 and ‘24. I believe our two best seasons, during the (regular) season, were when our rotations were the deepest: 2019 and 2022. We had really deep rotations, that’s going to be a priority.”

Even if he declines to go into potential contract situations publicly, Anthopoulos has praised Fried multiple times this winter. And why wouldn’t the Braves want to keep the left-hander? A season ago, he posted a 2.48 ERA over 185 1/3 innings. He’s one of the game’s top pitchers. He might have won the NL Cy Young had Alcantara not had a ridiculously good season.

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©2023 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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