ATLANTA -- You might have heard by now that Alex Anthopoulos, the Atlanta Braves' fourth-year general manager, resurrected his team's season by acquiring four new outfielders before the end of July. It was a strategy that initially caused confusion -- the Braves had a losing record and sat on the fringes of contention at the time -- but is now widely celebrated for the way it catapulted Atlanta to its first World Series appearance in more than 20 years.
Anthopoulos seems equal parts amused and uncomfortable by the praise. At 44, he has led a baseball-operations department long enough -- 10 years, including six with the Toronto Blue Jays -- to know mistakes are inevitable and successes fade quickly. He referenced a line attributed to former basketball coach Tex Winter in an ESPN documentary, "The Last Dance," about the Chicago Bulls' 1998 season: "You're only a success at the moment you do a successful act."
"It's true," said Anthopoulos, whose team will look to take a 2-1 series lead over the Houston Astros in Friday's Game 3 at Truist Park in Atlanta. "When all this stuff is over, you start from scratch. No one cares. If you're bad the following year, you're gonna get ripped, you're gonna get killed. No one's gonna say, 'Well, give him a break, they were in the World Series last year. They won the division four years in a row.' That's gone. That's old news. No one cares."
The logic is sensible, but Anthopoulos is also missing something: The players he added in July may go down as the most impactful group of midseason acquisitions in baseball history.
The four outfielders -- Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler -- had accumulated a combined 0.7 FanGraphs wins above replacement before joining the Braves. All can be free agents this offseason (Duvall and Pederson have mutual options for 2022) and, unsurprisingly, didn't cost much of anything in prospect capital. But no team has ever ridden its midseason acquisitions to postseason success like the 2021 Braves. At least not offensively.
The numbers make that clear.