The Braves won 96 games in 2013, just one short of the Cardinals for the N.L.'s best. Then they were dispatched in their division series matchup with the Dodgers, three games to one.
Did they say they weren't lefthanded enough? Did they rip apart a 96-win team? No, they did not. Their only significant acquisitions this offseason was a starting pitcher coming off an injury (Gavin Floyd).
But oh, the money they have spent locking up some of their young players. $135 million over eight years to Freddie Freeman. $42 million over four years to Craig Kimbrel. $32 million over six years for Julio Teheran. $58 million for seven more years of Andrelton Simmons. Where are they getting this money? The Braves' local TV deal is still one of the worst in baseball. They must be figuring that if and when they get their new stadium built, money will be flowing, perhaps even enough to give a similar extension to Jason Heyward.
The Braves' only major departure is catcher Brian McCann, who headed to the bright lights and even bigger money offered by the New York Yankees. Evan Gattis, who started and played effectively last year while McCann was rehabbing an injury, takes over as the starting catcher. Gattis had a solid rookie year (.243/.291/.480 with 21 home runs in 344 at-bats), but he won't be staring down runners who don't "play the game right" like McCann did.
In addition to Floyd -- who doesn't even appear on the team's depth chart -- the Braves also welcome back Brandon Beachy from injury, and will hope for a good first full year in the rotation from 23-year-old lefty Alex Wood. The bullpen is solid behind Kimbrel, whose contract extension isn't unreasonably priced.
I don't see any reason why the Braves won't repeat as N.L. East champions. Last year the Cubs lost five of six to Atlanta, and had to watch the Braves clinch their division title at Wrigley Field. At least the latter won't happen in 2014; the Cubs will make their only trip to Atlanta from May 9-11, and the Braves' sole visit to Wrigley will be the series just before the All-Star break, July 11-13.