Many good things happened to the Atlanta Braves in 2020: They won a playoff series for the first time since 2001, Freddie Freeman won the MVP award, Max Fried went 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA, Ronald Acuna Jr. was one of the best hitters in the league, and the bullpen was outstanding.
The loss to the Dodgers in the NLCS, blowing a 3-1 series lead, was a disappointing end to the season and left clear that the Braves needed to upgrade the starting rotation. Acting quickly in an otherwise slow offseason in the sport, the Braves have done that, signing Drew Smyly to a one-year, $11 million contract last week and now agreeing with Charlie Morton on a one-year, $15 million deal, per Jeff Passan.
Give baseball operations president Alex Anthopoulos credit for the signings while other teams are still determining their budgets for 2021 or waiting to see the potential flood of non-tendered players hit the market in early December. The one-year contract has become a signature move for the Braves in recent seasons -- Josh Donaldson in 2019, Marcell Ozuna and Cole Hamels in 2020 -- so Smyly and Morton fit that pattern. For Morton, it's a return to his original organization -- Atlanta drafted him in the third round out of high school in 2002 and he debuted with the team in 2008.
A Braves rotation that ranked 28th in the majors in 2020 with a 5.51 ERA will now make three significant additions if you factor in that Mike Soroka made just three starts after tearing his Achilles tendon. Or, really, 3.5 additions, since rookie Ian Anderson made just six starts. This now looks like a rotation that could go from worst to best and not just keep the Braves as favorites to win a fourth straight NL East title -- no matter what the Mets or Phillies or Nationals do this offseason -- but allow them to go toe-to-toe once again with the all-powerful Dodgers.