I recently wrote an article about five players Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves should avoid this free agency period. Among them was former White Sox star Lucas Giolito.
From 2019-2021, Giolito never finished outside the top 11 of the AL Cy Young race. He was one of the bright young arms in the game, but he’s been anything but over the last two seasons. Giolito posted a 4.90 ERA in 2022 and followed it up with a 4.88 ERA this year on three different teams, recording a 6.89 ERA after being traded to the Angels and an even more unsightly 7.04 ERA with the Indians. He also led the league in home runs allowed with 41.
There’s undoubtedly some upside. Giolito is still generating whiffs at a high clip and punching out batters. He also doesn’t give up many free passes and is still just 29-years-old. On a one or two-year deal, Giolito would make a lot of sense for the Braves. However, that doesn’t seem like something he’ll have to settle for.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, “Lucas Giolito is expected to be in the $50M to $80M range, even after allowing at least eight earned runs in a game three times this season — and for three different teams.”
That’s a ton of risk for a pitcher with a career 4.43 ERA. It doesn’t matter how talented, but that’s simply the nature of the market for rotation arms these days.
Also important of note, Heyman reports Aaron Nola will be fishing for $200 million this offseason.
“The uber-reliable Aaron Nola is said to be seeking $200 million, and who’s to say he doesn’t get it? The Phillies are talking to Nola first, but were $100M apart in spring,” Heyman writes. “If they can’t bridge a gap wider than the Schuylkill River, the Phillies will likely replace him with another ace.”
That most likely takes him out of the Braves price range. Alex Anthopoulos has shown he isn’t comfortable handing out six or seven year deals to starting pitchers, but perhaps that changes after a couple of disappointing playoff runs. If there is any starting pitcher that might be worth $200 million in this free agency class, it’s Aaron Nola.
But Nola isn’t the only one chasing $200 million. Blake Snell and Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto will likely be in that ballpark as well, and Jon Heyman believes Jordan Montgomery may not be too far behind. With all those younger pitchers demanding so much, it could create a perfect storm for Sonny Gray, who is older at 34 but has a fantastic track record.
All this to say, if the Braves want to find affordable starting pitching, it isn’t going to happen in free agency. There are too few options and too many suitors. It will be nearly impossible to find value, which may force Alex Anthopoulos to get on the phones and work another blockbuster trade, something he’s accomplished in each of the past two offseasons.
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