Free agents from Jim Bowden’s top 100 that could interest Braves

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Braves Country is impatiently waiting for Alex Anthpoulos to make his next move, thinking all of the good players are already taken because the Cardinals landed Sonny Gray and the Phillies brought Aaron Nola back.

It couldn’t be further from the truth. Anthopoulos brought back Charlie Morton, Pierce Johnson, and Joe Jimenez while bringing in Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo Lopez via trade and free agency, respectively.

The bullpen is already in a better position this year than it was last year, and the rotation is in the same place. It’s only up from here with plenty of talent available.

The Braves are reportedly finalists for Dylan Cease, but even if the club doesn’t land the Georgia native, the free agent market is still ripe with intriguing players. Here are some of The Athletic’s Jim Bowden’s top 100 available players that could interest Atlanta:

1. Shohei Ohtani, DH/RHP (10.0) — The most sought after-free agent on the market. He is expected to become the first half-a-billion-dollar player in MLB history.

2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP (N/A) — Yamamoto, 25, is expected to become the highest paid starting pitcher in this free-agent class not named Ohtani.

I grouped these two together (and will with others that fit into similar categories) because the likelihood isn’t great. Ohtani and Yamamoto are the two most sought-after free agents left on the market, but they’re going to cost an exorbitant amount of money, and it hasn’t been AA’s M.O. since taking over in Atlanta.

Ohtani is expected to garner a deal somewhere around $500 million and become the highest-paid player in history, while Yamamoto is pretty much guaranteed to land something with a two in front of it, and the way it’s looking, that number could approach $300 million. Both would be franchise-altering acquisitions.

6. Jordan Montgomery, LHP (4.1) — Montgomery’s strong postseason performance had many clubs prioritizing him over Nola and Snell. His preference is to remain with the Rangers.

9. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP (3.5) — Rodriguez will probably need to wait to sign until Snell and Montgomery make their decisions, but after posting a 3.30 ERA over 26 starts, he’ll fare well in free agency.

These are also grouped for a reason. They’re the next tier of starters, just under Ohtani and Yamamoto. Montgomery and E Rod are both reliable arms. The former should garner a richer deal, especially considering his recent postseason success with the Rangers. The latter might be cheaper, but it still won’t be pennies. He’ll fetch somewhere just south of a 12-figure deal. The Braves would be well-positioned for a postseason run with either of these guys.

11. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. LF (3.0) — Gurriel had the best year of his career, slugging .463 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs.

Though most of fans’ focus is on the starting rotation, the Braves still have a hole to fill in left field. In his six-year career, Gurriel has a career OPS+ of 118 and an OPS just shy of .800 at .791. Moreover, he’s somewhat positionally versatile. Gurriel primarily plays left field but has also seen some time at first base. He’s more consistent than Eddie Rosario if that’s what Anthopoulos prefers.

14. Wade Miley, LHP (2.5) — Miley is coming off an impressive season in which he went 9-4 with a 3.14 ERA over 23 starts (120 1/3 innings). The soft-tossing lefty adds a different look to any rotation loaded with flame-throwers.

17. Michael Wacha, RHP (2.4) — Wacha had arguably a career-best year, going 14-4 with a 3.22 ERA over 24 starts. He has mastered his delivery to create a special downward plane.

28. Seth Lugo, RHP (1.8) — Lugo proved he belonged in the rotation, posting a 3.57 ERA over 26 starts with the Padres this year.

This would be another tier down from Montgomery and Rodriguez, but they are still options. Miley is on the older side but coming off a campaign in which he made 23 starts. He’s not a flame thrower, which might be something Atlanta finds interesting given the ability of Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton to throw heat.

In 2021, Wacha went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA with the Red Sox then followed it up with a campaign where he went 14-4 with a 3.22 ERA for the Padres. Seth Lugo is probably slightly worse of an option than Wacha and Miley but would still be a great addition to the back of the Braves rotation.

29. Jorge Soler, RF/DH (1.8) — Soler hit 36 home runs and slugged .512 for the Marlins this year, logging a 128 OPS+. He drove in 75 runs and scored 77 too. Soler will bring the most value to a team that can DH him exclusively.

The Braves don’t have an obvious spot for Soler, given Marcell Ozuna’s position on the team and Soler’s lack of defense. On the other hand, Soler isn’t the worst defender in the world; Michael Harris is more than capable of covering a little more ground in the outfield, and Soler’s power in this lineup would be absolutely terrifying for opposing pitchers.

33. Marcus Stroman, RHP (1.6) — Stroman is one of the best athletes at the pitcher position in the sport. I was surprised he opted out of his contract with the Cubs, leaving $21 million on the table.

Stroman’s personality may not mesh with the Braves clubhouse; that’s at least what the media has portrayed. What does vibe is his production when available. Injuries limited him to 52 appearances and 275.1 innings in 2022 and 2023, but he pitched well when he was able to get on the mound, posting a 3.73 ERA, with a 116 ERA+.

35. Adam Duvall, OF (1.6) — Duvall hit 21 home runs with a 119 OPS+ in 320 at-bats. He’s an above-average defender in both center and left field with a plus arm, but also has a below-average hit tool.

37. Tommy Pham, LF/DH (1.5) — Pham brought his leadership skills and professionalism to the Diamondbacks after they acquired him from the Mets at the trade deadline. Overall, he hit 16 home runs and stole 22 bases last season.

Duvall is what he is — a power bat with above-average defense. The fit is seamless. Unless the Braves want a contact bat in left field, Duvy should be brought home because his skill set and ethos match up with exactly what this club wants.

Pham is another option too; he is a leader in the clubhouse who has done a lot of winning during his time in the league. He might not be as effective as Duvall in certain facets, but he could provide an edge to a team that has seemingly missed that exact thing since the magical 2021 World Series run.

38. Aroldis Chapman, LHP (1.4) — Chapman posted a 3.09 ERA over 61 appearances, striking out 103 in 58 1/3 innings. Lack of command and control is a big drawback.

52. Jordan Hicks, RHP (0.8) — Hicks is back to throwing in the triple digits. He was dealt from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline and finished the year overall with a 3.29 ERA, 12 saves, and 81 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.

The Braves bullpen is filled with horses, but why not overkill it? Chapman wouldn’t be expected to assume any high-leverage situations with Raisel Iglesias, Pierce Johnson, Joe Jimenez, and Reynaldo Lopez in the fold. What Chapman provides is blistering heat, which plays in October. Everything that was said applies to Hicks. Both would be cherries on top of an already-loaded bullpen.

62. Joc Pederson, DH/LF (0.6) — He hit 15 home runs with 51 RBIs and a 111 OPS+ in 358 at-bats. He remains a strong fantasy football player, doing whatever it takes to win.

Every Braves fan would love to bring Joctober back to Atlanta. His locker room presence alone would be worth the price of a free agent deal, not to mention the clutch factor he brings.
Photographer: Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire
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