Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com recently published an article highlighting his bold predictions for the MLB offseason, and I’ll give him some credit, most of them are indeed bold. He has Juan Soto landing with the Yankees and Alex Bregman getting traded, but he also had one that solely focuses on the Braves, something I have been adamant about them avoiding.
High school teammates will reunite in Atlanta.
For two straight years, the Braves have fallen flat against the division-rival Phillies in a short postseason series in large measure because of a shortage of quality starting pitching. Even after exercising their 2024 team option on veteran righty Charlie Morton, there is a need for a viable upgrade in the rotation department.
The Braves aren’t prone to top-of-the-market expenditures in free agency. However, there are two interesting options this winter who might be had on lucrative one-year pillow contracts — something the Braves, under Alex Anthopoulos, have done before — to see if they can rebuild their value. That would be Jack Flaherty and Lucas Giolito, both of whom happen to be former high school teammates (at Los Angeles’ Harvard-Westlake School) with Atlanta ace Max Fried.
Reuniting Max Fried with one of his high school teammates in his final year as the Braves attempt to reach the top of the mountain one last time before Fried tests free agency is a story made for Hollywood. Perhaps it even entices Fried to remain in Atlanta; although, I highly doubt it would have much of an impact.
It also makes some sense from a financial perspective. The Braves have never been one to compete for the top free agents. It’s highly unlikely they are in the market for aces like Blake Snell and Aaron Nola, but Lucas Giolito and Jack Flaherty should be well within the Braves price range.
My issue is both Giolito and Flaherty are expected to still be paid handsomely, despite being below average starters for quite some time.
Jon Heyman recently reported that Giolito could be looking at a contract in the $50-80 million range. For a pitcher with a 4.89 ERA over the last two seasons and a 4.43 ERA for his career, that’s a lot of upside the Braves would be betting on. Surely, Alex Anthopoulos could find a less risky and cheaper option via trade.
Heyman also reported Jack Flaherty could receive a three-year deal in free agency. If this were 2019, I would be backing up the Brinks truck. However, Flaherty has one season since 2019 in which he made more than 17 starts, which was last year, and he posted a 4.99 ERA.
In fact, both Giolito and Flaherty made it on my list of 5 free agents to avoid for this very reason. I understand the connection, and the Braves must add at least one starting pitcher this offseason, but these arms have not been reliable for years. Handing them a multi-year contract and hoping they revert back to what they once were is not a strategy, it’s a prayer.
If the Braves are going to sign a starting pitcher to a lucrative deal this offseason, they can do a lot better than Giolito and Flaherty.
Photo: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire