Best blockbuster starting pitching free agent target for the Braves

MLB: MAY 17 Twins at Dodgers

A lot of how the Braves operate will depend on Charlie Morton‘s decision to retire, but either way, they should be looking for a starting pitcher in free agency.

Injuries have plagued the Braves rotation in each of the last two postseasons, and Kyle Wright is already out for the 2024 season. Even if Morton returns, it would be unwise to assume the entire rotation will be healthy going into the postseason, especially after Max Fried spent most of 2023 on the IL with an elbow injury.

I’m expecting the Braves to be in the market for one of the elite starting pitchers. It may not be Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who could all garner north of $150 million in free agency, but a name that makes a lot of sense is Sonny Gray.

Gray is coming off arguably the best season of his career at 33-years-old. He was an All-Star and posted a 2.79 ERA over 32 starts. Given his age, he won’t cost nearly as much as the pitchers mentioned above, and the production could be similar. Jim Bowden of The Athletic recently predicted his next contract to be in the range of three years, $64 million. He also has the Braves as a potential fit.

10. Sonny Gray, RHP

Age: 33
HT: 5-10 WT: 195
2023 (Twins): 5.3 WAR
Career: 30.0 WAR
Agent: Bo McKinnis 2023 salary: $12.7 million

Sonny Gray had an excellent platform year and is expected to at least finish in the top five in the AL Cy Young Award voting. He went 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA over 32 starts, striking out 183 in 184 innings. That was the most innings Gray has thrown since 2015. He finished in the 99th percentile in both pitching run value and breaking run value as opposing batters hit just .097 against his newfound sweeper, which was a difference-maker.

Best fits: Twins, Rockies, Giants, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, Braves
Contract prediction: Three years, $64 million

Three years for $64 million is a more than fair price for Sonny Gray. I tend to believe he’ll get slightly more than that, and perhaps even a fourth year. But regardless, that should be something the Braves are interested in.

Since 2019, Gray has pitched to a 3.22 ERA with a 3.44 FIP and a 9.8 K/9. He may not be an ace, but he’s right there on the second tier and would slide in perfectly behind Max Fried and Spencer Strider.

This is also a deal that would help the Braves tremendously in the future. Max Fried’s future is cloudy at best, as he’s set to become a free agent after the 2024 season, and even if Charlie Morton returns, 2024 will likely be his last year. Gray would give the Braves a tremendous top-three right now, and he also provides some stability to the rotation for years to come.

Photographer: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire

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