The Braves top priority this offseason has to be starting pitching. Their bullpen could use another arm or two, but after the signings of Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez, most of the funds remaining should be used on the rotation.
Tim Britton of The Athletic recently provided contract predictions for a number of free agent starting pitchers. Their are several top-of-the-line options available, and the Braves should at least inquire on the likes of Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and other marquee free agents. However, if the past has taught us anything, Anthopoulos isn’t comfortable outbidding teams with higher payrolls for top-of-the-market pitchers. He generally shops on the bargain aisle, looking for shorter-term deals with upside.
So, using Britton’s projections, we’ll take a look at some candidates that fit that description. I’ll be including some of my own that fit the bill as well.
Britton’s Projection: 1 year, $13 million
Montas was traded to the Yankees last year at the trade deadline, as New York attempted to stabilize their rotation. However, injuries have plagued him since the move and he only made one start this year after being shut down with shoulder inflammation. He’s a talented arm that pitched to a 3.37 ERA in 2021 and had a 3.18 ERA with the Athletics before being traded to the Yankees. However, he’ll have to prove to teams that he’s healthy and the same pitcher before receiving a lucrative contract in free agency. These are the type of deals Alex Anthopoulos has favored in the past, but it won’t come without significant risk.
Britton’s Projection: Two years, $26 million
After a lengthy stint with the Mets, where he was primarily a high leverage reliever, the Padres gave Lugo the opportunity to start again, and he made the most of it, posting a 3.57 ERA and 8.6 K/9 over 26 starts. He should be able to parlay that into a multi-year deal, and his versatility makes him a very intriguing target.
Britton’s Projection: 1 year, $10 million
Lynn was an elite starting pitcher for a long time, but Father Time might be catching up to him a bit. He’s coming off a season in which he gave up an MLB leading 44 homers to go along with a 5.73 ERA. At 37-years-old, Lynn might not have any gas left in the tank, but some team will take a gamble on him in hopes he could look like the pitcher he was from 2019-2021.
Britton’s Projection: 1 year, $10 million
Maeda missed all of 2022 with injury, but appeared in 21 games this year with 20 of those being starts, recording a 4.23 ERA and 10.1 K/9. He’s another pitcher nearing the end of his career, but he’s proven to be a solid mid-rotation option as long as he can stay healthy.
Britton’s Projection: 1 year, $12.5 million
Heaney was apart of the World Series champions Texas Rangers this year, and he performed decently, pitching to a 4.15 ERA and 9.2 K/9. However, his numbers during the 2022 season in Los Angeles are even more enticing. Injuries limited him to just 16 appearances (14 starts), but he posted a very good 3.10 ERA and ridiculous 13.6 K/9.
Severino wasn’t featured in Britton’s piece, but he fits the mold of the other players on this list. Injuries have tormented him since 2018, when he was one of the best arms in baseball, and he’s coming off a season in which he posted a 6.65 ERA in 18 starts. However, there is no denying his upside. Severino has a live arm with a fastball that can touch triple digits. He’ll likely be looking for a one-year, prove-it contract this offseason, and the Braves make a lot of sense.
Britton’s Projection: 1 year, 11 million
Ryu finished second in the NL Cy Young race in 2019 then finished third in the AL Cy Young race after signing with the Blue Jays in 2020. However, injuries have plagued his career since then, and he’s set to turn 37 years old before the start of next season. Ryu could be worth a flier on a one year pact, but nothing more than that.
Britton’s Projection: 1 year, $11 million
Lorenzen had a good first half with Detroit before he was traded to the Phillies. It looked as if the fit in Philadelphia was going to be a perfect marriage, as he tossed eight innings of two-run ball in his first start and then followed it up with a no-hitter. However, he would go on to post a 7.96 ERA over his next five starts and was eventually relegated to a bullpen role. Lorenzen is a decent option as a back of the rotation starter or bullpen piece, but the Braves could probably do better.
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