Braves: Lower-cost free agent starting pitching options

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As I’ve been attempting to reiterate since the season ended, the Braves don’t necessarily need to go after a headline starting pitcher like Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman, and I don’t expect them to. It’s much more likely they bank on Mike Soroka‘s return to boost their rotation and add a veteran arm with some postseason experience to push their young arms. Fortunately, there are a lot of starting pitchers on the market that fit that description. A few new players have had their options declined, so a couple new names are in the fold.

Charlie Morton

We start with a man who began his career with the Braves all the way back in 2008, but his best years came much later with the Astros, and most recently, the Rays. Given the financial outlook for teams due to the coronavirus, it’s no surprise Tampa Bay didn’t pick up his $15 million option. I expect him to receive something in the one-year, $5-8 million range after posting a 4.74 ERA last season. However, the sample size was small (only nine starts), and in 2019, Morton finished third in the AL Cy Young race with a 16-6 record and 3.05 ERA. He’s also been fantastic in the postseason, recording a 3.38 ERA over 13 appearances (12 starts).

Mike Minor

A reunion with Mike Minor is possible. I don’t expect him to fetch more than $5 million in this market, and though he posted a 5.56 ERA in 2020, he was an All-Star in 2019 with the Rangers and finished 2019 with a 3.59 ERA.

Jake Odorizzi

Injuries basically cost Odorizzi the entire 2020 season. He only made four starts and recorded a 6.59 ERA. However, he’s another guy that was an All-Star in 2019, posting a 15-7 and 3.51 ERA. In a typical year — as is the case with most of these guys — he’d probably be in line for a multi-year contract. However, after a forgetful 2020, I could see Odorizzi betting on himself again and taking a look at the market next offseason.

James Paxton

Paxton’s another example of a player that had injuries ruin his 2020. However, he has an unbelievable track record, boasting a 3.58 ERA over his eight-year MLB career. Still, coming off an injury in this market, I could see Paxton settling for a one-year deal around $10 million.

Adam Wainwright

Wainwright has already been linked to the Braves, and it makes a lot of sense. In perhaps the final year of his career, he gets to return home and make one more run at a championship with the team that drafted him. Going into his age-39 season, Wainwright showed in 2020 that he still has some gas in the tank. He’d be a high-quality option to round out the Braves rotation.

Jon Lester

Lester is coming off the worst season of his career, but again, the sample size is small. He posted a 5.16 ERA in 12 starts. I still think he has a couple of good years left in him, and his postseason experience would be extremely valuable, especially considering he shouldn’t cost more than $5 million on a one-year deal.

Anibal Sanchez

Sanchez is a guy I could see receiving a minor-league contract with the Braves. He’s coming off an awful season with the Nationals and will be 37 next season. However, he’s just a year removed from helping Washington win the World Series, and he’s two years removed from posting a 2.83 ERA with the Braves.

Robbie Ray

Ray is another talented pitcher coming off the worst year of his career; however, he looked a little better in the second half of the season with the Blue Jays. Since I expect him to bet on himself and take a one-year deal, Ray comes with a lot of upside.

J.A. Happ

Happ may be 38 next season, but he’s coming off a very good season for the Yankees and was an All-Star as recently as 2018. Plus, he has loads of postseason experience. Like Wainwright, he would be a great low-cost option to fill one of the Braves final two rotation spots.

Jake Arrieta

Arrieta’s performance declined in each season with the Phillies, and his strikeout numbers are alarmingly low, which probably means he is nearing the end of his career. However, perhaps he can resurrect himself with another organization.

Chris Archer

Archer will never get the monkey off his back from the trade that sent him to Pittsburgh. That will go down as one of the worst trades in MLB history, but that’s not Archer’s fault, and at 30-years-old, he still has something to offer at the major league level. However, he had his worst statistical year in 2019 (5.19 ERA) and missed all of 2020 with an injury. Archer shouldn’t cost more than a couple of million and comes with a decent bit of upside at that price.

Corey Kluber

Kluber will be 35 and is coming off back-to-back injury-riddled seasons, totaling just eight starts combined. However, the last time he was healthy, he won 20 games and posted a 2.89 ERA for the Indians, finishing third in the AL Cy Young race — and award he’d already won twice before. If he’s healthy, he will be a great low-risk flier for a competing team like the Braves.

Alex Wood

With all of their starting pitching, I doubt the Dodgers will be interested in bringing back Alex Wood. Like Kluber, Wood has battled injuries over the last two seasons, but he did return for the postseason and allowed just one earned run over 6.2 innings.

Félix Hernandez

Assuming Hernandez wants to keep playing, bringing him back on a minor-league deal to try out for the team again makes sense.

Cole Hamels

I’ve already talked about this, but if Hamels can prove he’s healthy, the Braves may be interested in giving him another shot. At the very least, his experience seemed to help Max Fried take the next step, and Hamels shouldn’t cost more than a few million on a one-year contract.







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