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Taking stock of the Braves’ 40-man roster heading into the offseason

The Braves have a lot of players on the 60-day Injured List that will necessitate some roster shuffling

2020 Grape Fruit League Media Availability Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The offseason came much quicker than most were expecting for the Atlanta Braves, but as teams continue to duke it out in the postseason, the Braves and many other teams are in a holding pattern until after the World Series is completed. For the Braves, there are going to be some decisions that will have to be made, and some early roster moves to get their 40-man roster in line by the time free agency opens.

Before we get too far, keep in mind that the Braves are currently operating with a full 40-man roster. That number will go down the day after the World Series when eligible players file for free agency, but they will also have to make room for nine players who are currently on the 60-day Injured List, which disappears during the offseason and dumps all of its residents onto the “normal” part of the 40-man roster.

Below is a breakdown of some of the roster decisions that will have to be made soon.

Free Agents (4): Jesse Chavez, Joe Jimenez, Pierce Johnson, Kevin Pillar

The Braves only have four full-fledged free agents, and three of the four are relievers. The exception is outfielder Kevin Pillar. The bullpen is going to be a focus for the Braves this offseason out of necessity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a reunion with any of these four players, but for now, the coming and going of this filing date will drop the 40-man roster to 36.

Options (5): Brad Hand, Collin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Kirby Yates, Eddie Rosario

Atlanta has five more players that have contract options for the 2024 season. These options must be exercised or declined within five days of the World Series ending.

  • Brad Hand’s deal has a $7 million club option with a $500,000 buyout that will certainly be declined.
  • Collin McHugh has a $6 million club option with a $1 million buyout. Given his performance in 2023, it’s not clear the Braves have much to gain by exercising the option, but they may do so anyway.
  • Similarly, Kirby Yates has a $5.75 million club option with a $1.25 million buyout. The Braves might exercise this option, but Yates was not good at all in 2023.
  • Rosario’s club option is for $9 million with no buyout. There were points during the season where picking up the option was a lock given his revised approach and some success that came with it, but Rosario’s season was erratic on the whole and ended on a sour note. The Braves could approach this many different ways; it’ll be interesting to see whether they pursue a bonafide upgrade in left field in lieu of the $9 million commitment to run it back with Rosario. In short, it seems possible-to-likely that the Braves will pick up Rosario’s option, but it’s a spot where the team could conceivably seek an upgrade.
  • All of this brings us to Morton, whose option is the most impactful at $20 million (no buyout), but is also clouded by the possibility that Morton might retire. Morton had an okay season overall, but the $20 million him went way farther than did bigger deals for numerous other “established” starters this offseason. Again, the Braves could easily run it back, but it remains to be seen whether Morton’s services are even available for the 2024 season, or whether the Braves will choose to pivot and pursue another name or something less akin to a short-term, high-money deal with someone else.

60-Day Injured List (9): Kolby Allard, Nick Anderson, Yonny Chirinos, Dylan Lee, Tyler Matzek, Michael Soroka, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa, Sam Hilliard

Players on the 60-day Injured List must be reinstated onto the 40-man roster five days after the World Series ends. Atlanta currently has nine players that are on the 60-day Injured List; six of them are arbitration eligible. Technically, they could stay at 40 players if they decline all of the options and reinstate each of these players, but that seems unlikely.

Kyle Wright is slated to miss all of the 2024 season after shoulder surgery, but will still need to occupy a 40-man roster spot throughout the offseason. The Braves hold some team control over Nick Anderson, who seems likely to be retained. Some of the other players, like Kolby Allard, Yonny Chirinos, and Sam Hilliard may find themselves removed from the roster just to make room, and potentially re-signed immediately thereafter to deals that don’t take up 40-man space.

Summary

The Braves will need to have no more than 40 players, including those that are injured, on their 40-man roster five days after the World Series ends. It doesn’t stop there though. Atlanta will need 40-man roster spots to sign free agents, and will need some spots to protect minor league players from the Rule 5 Draft later in the offseason. Therefore, several players that are currently under team control could have a difficult time holding onto their spot on the 40-man throughout the entire offseason.

DFA Candidates: Jackson Stephens, Chadwick Tromp, Braden Shewmake, Andrew Velazquez, Lucas Williams, Forrest Wall

Velazquez and Williams are the most likely of this group to suffer from a round of cuts, since they were both added as just infield depth. Velazquez spent part of last season with the Angels, but finished the year at Triple-A Gwinnett. Williams spent some time on Atlanta’s active roster down the stretch, but saw very little playing time.

Braden Shewmake would be the most controversial name on this list and is probably the least likely to be DFA’d. However, with Orlando Arcia, Nicky Lopez and Vaughn Grissom all currently on the roster, it is hard to see where he fits. Lopez is due a pretty significant payday through arbitration and there is a chance that Grissom is shopped this summer, perhaps for a controllable pitcher. So maybe the picture changes, but Shewmake will turn 26 in November and put up a 72 wRC+ in over 500 plate appearances at Triple-A.

Tromp has been a reliable emergency option at catcher for the last two seasons, but the Braves may need that 40-man spot, and they could always find a different third catcher during the offseason. Stephens was DFA’d last offseason, so another cut here wouldn’t qualify as a surprise. Wall put together a great season at Triple-A and his speed and ability to play all three outfield spots is intriguing, but his skillset is hardly irreplaceable. The decision on Sam Hilliard, who is arbitration-eligible and out of options, could figure into whether there is room to keep Wall.

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