The Hot Stove is heating up, and we have the first major rumor of free agency that is associated with the Braves. According to Andy Martino of SNY, the Mets view the Braves and Rangers as the biggest threats to pry arguably the best pitcher on the planet away from them.
— SNY (@SNYtv) November 8, 2022
Now, I don’t want to rain on this parade, but this is a rumor that has been around since the middle of the season, and it’s one I’ve become extremely skeptical of once the Braves handed Charlie Morton a contract extension a couple of months ago.
With Morton back in the fold, the Braves already have four proven starters, and they have a boatload of other options to choose from for the fifth and final spot — Mike Soroka, Kyle Muller, Bryce Elder, Freddy Tarnok, and Ian Anderson, to name a few. The last thing this team really needs is another high-priced starting pitcher.
Had Morton’s option not been picked up, this would be an entirely different scenario. Atlanta would be much more inclined to find another rotation piece in free agency. They would also have $20 million extra to spend in the offseason. But with that money now going to Morton, The Braves really don’t have a boatload of cash to spend this winter.
As things stand now, Atlanta already has around $160 million committed to 2023. Once they agree to arbitration deals with Max Fried, Mike Soroka, A.J. Minter, and others, that number will be around $180 million, which is pretty close to last year’s payroll.
The Braves have made it clear that payroll will continue to rise heading into next year, but by how much? Signing deGrom would put them very close — if not into — the luxury tax, a place they’ve never been before. And that’s without even addressing their hole at shortstop, which could cost another $25+ million.
If you ask me, there’s more smoke than fire surrounding the Braves and deGrom. I don’t see Atlanta being able to afford a shortstop like Swanson and a frontline starter. Unless they are all of a sudden ready to go WAY over the luxury tax in 2023, it’s likely their primary focus will be on a necessity (shortstop) rather than a luxury (starting pitcher).
Photo: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire