Buy or Sell: Blockbuster Free Agents for the Braves (Part 2)

outfield trade targets Soler

This continues a series evaluating the top MLB free agents this winter. I’ll be using Jim Bowden’s list of the top 40 free agents along with his contract predictions for reference. Based on his projections, I’ll determine whether the Braves should be interested.

Important note: I do not necessarily agree with Bowden’s contract predictions. Some I even strongly disagree with, which I’ll make clear in the description of each player.

This is the second of a four part series, as there are 40 players on Bowden’s list. If you missed Part 1 of this series, follow the link below.

11. Eduardo Rodriguez

Jim Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 5 years, $90 million

Rodriguez spent the first part of his career with the Boston Red Sox, helping them to the World Series in 2018. He then signed a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers; however, the deal includes a player option that he can and most likely will exercise this offseason, given he is coming off the best season of his career. In 26 starts, Rodriguez posted a career-low 3.30 ERA (previous career-low was 3.81) and 8.4 K/9. I wouldn’t be surprised if he fetched something close to 5 years, $90 million in free agency, but that’s a bit too pricey for my liking for a pitcher with a career ERA north of 4.00.

Buy or Sell: Sell

12. Michael Wacha

Jim Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 2 years, $32 million

In 20221, Wacha went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA with the Red Sox. This season, he went 14-4 with a 3.22 ERA for the Padres. For two years at $16 million AAV, he wouldn’t be a bad option to add to the Braves rotation. However, as Bowden notes, the Padres can pick up his options for 2024 and 2025 at $16 million a year, so he probably won’t be going anywhere.

Buy or Sell: Sell

13. Lucas Giolito

Jim Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 2 years, $24 million

Giolito was a name a lot of Braves wanted at the trade deadline. Once a legitimate Cy Young candidate from 2019-2021, it looked like he was regaining his form in the first half of the 2023 season, but he was miserable after he was traded to the Angels. I’m not the biggest Lucas Giolito fan at this point in his career, but he has talent and may be fixable. If the Braves feel like they can get him back close to the level he was at in his prime, he would be well worth a 2 year, $24 million contract.

Buy or Sell: Buy

14. Marcus Stroman

I didn’t include Bowden’s contract prediction because he has Stroman opting into his player option that will pay him $21 million in 2024. Stroman did suffer an injury this season and didn’t look like the same pitcher when he returned, but unless there are health concerns going forward, I see him opting out and looking for a multi-year deal. Regardless, I don’t like his fit with the Braves.

Buy or Sell: Sell

15. Seth Lugo

Jim Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 2 years, $20 million

Buy! Buy! Buy!

Sorry, I couldn’t wait until the end of this one. Braves fans should be very familiar with Seth Lugo, who was a high leverage reliever for the Mets from 2018-2022. However, the Padres gave him the opportunity to start again, and he made the most of it, pitching to a 3.57 ERA and 8.6 K/9 over 26 starts. I like Lugo’s stuff and his versatility. He could be a weapon in the postseason, and at this price point, I would be all in.

Buy or Sell: Buy

16. J.D. Martinez

Jim Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 1 year, $12 million

Martinez is someone I wanted the Braves to desperately go after last offseason, but that was before Marcell Ozuna turned into Marcell Ozuna again. With Ozuna under contract for 2024, there’s not much reason to target a pure DH like Martinez.

Buy or Sell: Sell

17. Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Jim Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 3 years, $36 million

Gurriel was a critical piece to the Diamondbacks World Series run. He’s coming off the best season of his career, earning All-Star honors and finishing the year with 24 homers and a .772 OPS. Like most right-handed bats, he’s better against left-handed pitching, but he’s no slouch against righties either. If the Braves are looking for an upgrade in left field over Eddie Rosario that can play every day, they could do a lot worse than Gurriel.

Buy or Sell: Buy

18. Teoscar Hernandez

Once again, I’m not including Bowden’s contract prediction for Hernandez because he has him accepting the Mariners qualifying option. That’s a very real possibility, but if Hernandez does reach unrestricted free agency, I would love to add him to the Braves lineup. 2023 was a down year for his standards, but he still hit 26 homers and has 25+ homers in each full season since 2019.

Buy or Sell: Buy

19. Jorge Soler

Jim Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 2 years, $32 million

If you follow the site, you know what the answer is here. After a forgetful first year in Miami, Soler blasted 36 homers in just 137 games for the Fish. He’s more of a DH, and the Braves already have Marcell Ozuna, but I don’t care. They can figure something out. Bring the 2021 World Series MVP home.

Buy or Sell: Buy

20. Whit Merrifield

Bowden’s Contract Prediction: 2 years, $16 million

Merrifield was once one of the more coveted players in the league. Now, he’s a veteran whose best attributes are his leadership and defensive versatility. I wouldn’t mind him in a platoon alongside Rosario that can also fill in on the infield in a pinch.

Buy or Sell: Buy

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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