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Braves Mailbag: Playoff bullpen, Charlie Morton and more

This week’s mailbag is full of postseason roster questions.

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

A huge thank you to everyone that took the time to send in questions for this week’s Atlanta Braves mailbag. I couldn't get to all of them, but we will do it again soon. Let’s get to it!

It’s still jarring seeing Freddie Freeman in a Dodgers uniform. At the end of his career, do you think he will have done enough in ATL for the Braves to retire his number?

Since it is Andruw Jones number retirement day, let’s start here. I think the Braves will retire Freeman’s number and induct him into the team Hall of Fame when he is finished playing. He ranks in the top 10 of most offensive categories in team history. At one point he signed the richest contract in franchise history, helped guide the team through a rebuild and capped that off by winning the World Series.

I know his departure hurt some feelings, but I don’t think there is any doubt that he will be celebrated when he decides to call it a career.

At this point which relievers do you think the Braves will carry in the NLCS? Also what order do you see the relievers in terms of leverage? Seems like they have a lot of good options but short of A.J. Minter and Raisel Iglesias, I’m not sure who I trust for the 7th/ high leverage at this point.

NLCS? They need to get through the Division Series first so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Still, it is a good question and there are a lot of options. I’m operating on the assumption that the rotation for the NLDS will be Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton. I’m also guessing that Bryce Elder is in the bullpen for that series. I doubt that they will carry 13 pitchers in the Division Series, but I’m going to go ahead and rank the relievers for how I see them.

  1. Raisel Iglesias
  2. A.J. Minter
  3. Pierce Johnson
  4. Joe Jimenez
  5. Dylan Lee
  6. Kirby Yates
  7. Michael Tonkin
  8. Brad Hand

That is my pick if they carry 12 pitchers for the Division Series. Those eight along with Fried, Strider, Morton and Elder. Not listed are Jesse Chavez and Nick Anderson who are still on the injured list and could be in the mix provided they head out on rehab assignments soon. Both could also miss the DS, but be in play for the NLCS should the Braves advance. Also not mentioned is Kyle Wright, who could definitely alter this picture. We should have a little more clarity on his status in the next 10 days.

As far as leverage goes, Iglesias and Minter are at the top of the list, but Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez have been really good, though Jimenez seems to have an unfortunate quality of being forgotten by the team and blowing it in higher leverage when he gets used there. If Dylan Lee can get back to where he was pre-injury, then the bullpen shapes up pretty well for October.

Is Michael Soroka with the team next year? He is arbitration eligible again this offseason and will be out of options next season. I was just curious what you thought might happen. Such a terrible break last night with the numbness in his fingers.

Michael Soroka’s status with the team will be one of the early storylines of the offseason. The Braves said that initial testing revealed forearm inflammation as the source of numbness in Soroka’s fingers and that there was no structural damage. That in itself was good news.

A lot of the discourse online about Soroka heading into Tuesday’s start was how the Braves could gain an extra year of control for him, but honestly I was wondering if he could get through the non-tender deadline. I don’t really have a good feel for it at this point. It was good that he was relatively healthy for most of the season and built up a pretty good workload at Gwinnett. He wasn’t really effective at the major league level, but looking back, that might have been a lot to ask of a player coming off not one, but two Achilles injuries.

Knowing how much Alex Anthopoulos values depth, my guess today would be that they tender Soroka a contract and he goes to Spring Training. With no minor league options available though, he is going to have to win a job which may not be an easy thing to do.

Looking ahead to next season’s starting rotation, which would you rather have: Charlie Morton on another one-year deal or a multi-year free-agent signing (Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, etc.)?

We had a bunch of Charlie Morton questions this week. The Braves hold a $20 million club option on Morton for next season and I am under the impression that if he wants to return, then he will be back. He’s been better this season than he was in 2022 and the leadership and intangibles that he provides to the many young pitchers the Braves have is invaluable. If he decides that 2023 is going to be his last season, then that changes the calculus a bit.

Aaron Nola seems to have taken a small step back this season, but I expect him to be one of the biggest names on the pitching market and probably one of the most expensive. I don’t see the Braves handing him a big contract while Max Fried remains unsigned and I have never been the biggest fan of Nola to begin with. The price tag on someone like Gray would be cheaper and I could see something like that, especially if Morton decides to retire, but I also gave up trying to predict what players the Braves and Alex Anthopoulos might pursue through free agency or a trade.

As the Braves are in a competitive World Series window, based on the core talents contracts, would it not make sense to offer Max Fried 7-8 years at $30 million a year? That money would come from Charlie Morton’s $20 million dollars and Max Fried’s current $13.5 million dollar contract? This would solidify our rotation of Fried and Strider through 2030 which appears to be our current window. I just don’t think I could stand watching him and Freeman playing for the Dodgers. The way he plays against the Dodgers… it just feels like he is auditioning to come back home to CA.

Which brings up to Max Fried. It has been painful to watch players like Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson leave to sign big free agent deals, but it is hard to argue with how Alex Anthopoulos built this roster. He’s locked up this young core and no one is making more than $22 million annually. That has allowed them to spread out what is a franchise record payroll. You don’t have to look far in the NL East to find teams that have given out huge contracts, particularly to older pitchers, that simply haven’t worked out.

Fried isn’t as old as say Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander, but he does have some injury risk in his past and he isn’t getting any younger. I’m still holding out hope that they can find some common ground, but my guess will be that if they do, it is going to be for something around $22 million annually and won’t be anywhere close to 7-8 years. That would mean that Fried would likely be able to find more money elsewhere. Just given everything we have seen throughout the last two years, I don’t expect Anthopoulos or the Braves to deviate from their plan.

What will the Braves do with their 2024 options players: Morton, Rosario, Hand, Yates, McHugh? Any arb-eligibles you think they will let go?

I already talked about Morton and I think the decision is his. We could probably have a whole discussion about Rosario, but without looking to see who is available, I think the Braves do pick up his $9 million option and he is back. Of the relievers, Kirby Yates is the one that I think has a chance to be back. He has gotten better as the season has gone along and the price tag isn’t that much different than the price for Collin McHugh this season. I don’t think they will pick up McHugh’s option or Brad Hand’s $7 million option.

As far as arbitration players go, I already talked about Soroka’s situation above. They probably sign Yonny Chirinos to a non-guaranteed deal or non-tender him. Nicky Lopez is an interesting one too. The Braves have raved about what he has brought to the club both on the field and off. He is making $3.7 million this year and will be looking at a bump. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Atlanta try to buy out a couple of his arbitration years. I don’t think there is any chance that he gets non-tendered.

What are we to think of Eddie Rosario potentially becoming the team’s every day, all day left fielder starting with the Dodgers’ series? Kevin Pillar & Rosario have been in a near platoon situation for pretty much the entirety of the season up to that point. However, in the Dodgers’ series Pillar didn’t see the field despite 6 of Rosario’s 15 PAs in the series coming against LHP & the Braves protecting late leads in the first 3 games of the series (Pillar is the way better defender of the two).

Was this series the beginning of Snit’s grooming of Rosario to be the every day, all day option in LF? Or was it simply Snit irrationally banking on Rosario’s prior small sample success against the Dodgers?

I noticed that too and thought it was interesting. When talking about Rosario, I have heard Snitker refer to him as an “everyday player” particularly when he is going good. I think Rosario’s track record against Los Angeles probably played a little bit of a part, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the situation during the postseason. I still think we will see some platooning against lefties the rest of the way, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked either to see Rosario in the lineup against a lefty in the playoffs either.

What are the odds Hurston Waldrep makes MLB Top 100 Prospects list next year? Is he getting notice from sports writers yet?

He already did. Baseball America has him at No. 99 and we wrote about it here. I wouldn’t be surprised for him to make a cameo appearance at Gwinnett before the end of the minor league season.

What are the injury updates on Cole Phillips and Adam Maier who both had procedures well over a year ago?

You guys keep asking and it is hard to get these updates for lower level guys. They just don’t talk a lot about injuries in the minors, but my understanding is that both Maier and Phillips have been throwing at the complex in Florida.

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