The Braves are fresh off a 104-win season that once again ended in massive disappointment as they were bounced by the Philadelphia Phillies for the second consecutive season. Ignoring their postseason woes isn’t conducive to reaching their ultimate goal in the near future, but at the same time, acting as if wholesale changes are needed is blasphemy.
The Braves have one of the best rosters in all of baseball right now and moving forward. Tweaks, rather than considerable additions, can get this team back to the World Series. However, one market where the Braves could be shopping for top shelf options is starting pitching.
* Because of his injury, I will not be including Shohei Ohtani. We don’t even know if he will pitch again. I also won’t be including Clayton Kershaw because he’s unlikely to leave the Dodgers, or Julio Urias because of his pending legal situation.
Top 10 Free Agent Starting Pitchers
10. Lucas Giolito
A few years ago, Giolito was a perennial Cy Young candidate. He hasn’t been that for some time now, but he was on his way to rebuilding his value during the first half of this season. Unfortunately, he melted down after he was traded to the Angels, recording a 6.89 ERA in Los Angeles before being waived and picked up by the Indians, where he was even worse (7.04 ERA).
The Yankees acquired Frankie Montas at last year’s trade deadline, hoping he would bolster their rotation through the 2023 season. Unfortunately, injuries had other ideas. He only pitched in one game this season, which came on September 30th when the Yankees were already eliminated from playoff contention. However, Montas does appear to be healthy now and could be an intriguing reclamation project. He finished 6th in the 2021 AL Cy Young race and was even better in 2022 before he was traded to New York.
Some people might be wondering why I am putting a pitcher that had a 6.65 ERA in 19 starts this season on my list of the top 10 free agent starting pitchers available this offseason. Well, Severino’s track record cannot be ignored. He’ll be 30 next season, and his stuff is still electric. The Braves seem to have a knack for reviving the careers of struggling players. A one-year, prove-it deal could be beneficial for both parties.
7. Seth Lugo
Lugo will almost certainly opt out of his $7.5 million player option with the Padres after a fantastic season. For years, he was used as a high leverage reliever with the New York Mets. But San Diego gave him the opportunity as a starter again, and Lugo thrived to the tune of a 3.57 ERA and 8.6 K/9 over 26 starts. He’s not the ace that will make headlines when he signs, but with Max Fried and Spencer Strider in the fold, high quality depth in the middle of the rotation is just as important.
Stroman is an interesting personality, but there’s no denying what he brings on the mound, recording a 3.38 ERA since 2019. He seems like a candidate to be overpaid this offseason, but the Braves could really use an arm like his in the middle of their rotation.
Montgomery has quietly been one of the more consistent starting pitchers in baseball since 2021, and he’s having a fantastic postseason for the Rangers. Given his success with Texas and their deep pockets, I would be shocked if they didn’t re-sign him, but he would look fantastic with a tomahawk across his chest.
Yamamoto is an NPB star that has been a nightmare for opposing hitters over the last three seasons, posting ERAs of 1.39, 1.68, and 1.16. He strikes out batters at a high clip and doesn’t give out free passes. That kind of success doesn’t always translate to Major League Baseball, but when looking at his numbers compared to the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Kodai Senga, who have quickly blossomed into frontline starters, Yamamoto’s are significantly better. Toss in the fact that he will only be 25 next season, and he could be the next Japanese superstar in MLB.
3. Sonny Gray
Perhaps it’s because of the markets he has played in since his tumultuous time with the Yankees, but Sonny Gray really doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the national media. Since 2019, he’s recorded a 3.22 ERA and is coming off arguably the best season of his career with the Twins, posting a 2.79 ERA.
2. Aaron Nola
Aaron Nola is coming off a poor season for his lofty standards, but the Braves should know all too well what he’s capable of in the postseason. He’s a big-time pitcher with some of the nastiest stuff in the game and deserves to be paid like it. Stealing him away from the Phillies would also be the cherry on top.
1. Blake Snell
Snell is in line for his second Cy Young award after recording a 2.25 ERA over 32 starts with the Padres. He might be the most expensive name on this list, but the Braves have money to spend and probably should make a splash.
Photo: Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire