The Braves goal heading into the offseason should be simple. They have to upgrade all parts of their pitching staff. It may not necessarily have been what cost them in this year’s postseason, but it will in future years if upgrades are not made across the board.
This continues a series discussing the Braves current outlook at each position for 2024. If you missed the first part of this series, follow the link below:
Braves Bullpen 2024 Outlook
- Raisel Iglesias
- A.J. Minter
- Collin McHugh (option)
- Kirby Yates (option)
- Brad Hand (option)
- Nick Anderson (arbitration)
- Michael Tonkin (arbitration)
- Ben Heller (arbitration)
- Tyle Matzek
- Dylan Lee
The Braves can’t go into 2024 with their bullpen as currently constructed. The only guarantees they currently have on the roster are Raisel Iglesias and A.J. Minter. That’s a good start, but bullpens these days need to be eight deep, and that was not the case for the Braves in 2023.
As you’ll notice, Pierce Johnson, Joe Jimenez, and Jesse Chavez are not on the list above. They are all set to hit free agency, and I imagine the Braves would like to have all of them back. That would make this group look much more promising than it does right now.
But before free agency begins, the Braves will have to make a few key decisions on three players with club options. Brad Hand’s should be the easiest to decide. His club option is for $7 million with a $500k buyout. He will not be brought back at that figure. The others are a bit more difficult.
Colling McHugh’s option is for $6 million with a $1 million buyout. Based on how he performed in 2023, I’m not sure the Braves will be interested in handing him $6 million. However, it really depends on if they think he still has some gas left in the tank to bounce back at 36 years of age.
Kirby Yates has a $5.75 million option with a $1.25 million option. It wasn’t always smooth sailing when he toed the rubber, but a 7-2 record with a 3.28 ERA and 11.9 K/9 is pretty good for a player that hasn’t pitched meaningful baseball in quite a while because of injuries. My gut is leaning toward the Braves retaining him for 2024.
The Braves three arbitration candidates are also up in the air. Assuming Nick Anderson’s medicals are clear following the shoulder injury that prematurely ended his season, the Braves will bring him back. He was fantastic before the All-Star break. Michael Tonkin and Ben Heller also had their moments and will not cost very much to retain, but the Braves could look to upgrade.
The final two names on this list might end up being two of the most critical pieces to the Braves bullpen in 2024. Tyler Matzek should be fully healed and ready to go for Spring Training next year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery at the end of the 2022 season. That could prove to be a massive boost to a bullpen that desperately needs one. Dylan Lee is another lefty the Braves missed at the end of this season as he battled multiple shoulder injuries. Hopefully, the offseason is all he needs to heal properly and once again become a critical part of this relief core in 2024.
Like the rotation, the Braves have more questions than answers in their bullpen. Health will determine a lot with this group, but expect them to add a bunch of relief arms this offseason. You can never have too many, and bullpens are oftentimes what decides playoff series in October.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire