Following an earlier report from Ken Rosenthal that the Braves are willing to spend big on a free agent starter, in which Rosenthal name-dropped Aaron Nola as a specific option, Jon Morosi is reporting that Nola and Sonny Gray have “emerged as strong possibilities” for Atlanta.
The Braves have reportedly had intermittent trade interest in Gray dating back to before 2018 even. Aaron Nola has a connection with Atlanta pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who worked with him in Philadelphia before coming to Atlanta. Both have some regional connections to the Braves. These two would seem to be the most connected to the Braves of the available starting pitching free agent options, but the Anthopoulos front office will surely explore all available options.
The Braves have a clear need to add a quality starting pitcher this offseason to add depth to the rotation, add high-level quality with the uncertainty around Morton and Elder, and protect against the looming potential departure of Max Fried after the 2024 season.
Aaron Nola has been projected to get somewhere in the range of 6 years, $150 million. Nola will be in his age 31 season in 2024 and has been an exceptionally durable number 2 starter for essentially all of his career, some seasons more mid-rotation level and some true number one quality.
Sonny Gray has been projected to get somewhere in the range of 4 years, $90 million. He has been of a similar quality to Nola over his career, but will be entering his age 34 season in 2024 and has not been as durable overall.
Either would add significant talent to the Braves’ rotation, but Nola would almost certainly become the highest paid player on the team by AAV and Gray be fairly likely to reach that threshold as well.