Also outbound: Nicky Lopez, the infielder acquired at the trade deadline who never would have started here, plus pitcher Riley Gowens, who’s 24 and who has worked 15-2/3 professional innings.
We mentioned last week that the Braves might non-tender Soroka. He’s scheduled to make $3 million next season, and the Braves didn’t see him contending for a rotational role. The sinker that made him one of baseball’s best young pitchers is a memory. After tearing an Achilles tendon twice, he altered his delivery. He hasn’t lost velocity, but he has lost the pitch that made him special.
Add Soroka’s $3M to the $3.9M Lopez is projected – by MLB Trade Rumors – to make in arbitration, and the Braves saved themselves nearly $7M for two guys who didn’t feature in their plans. Shuster didn’t, either, having flunked last season’s audition. He was the 25th pick of the 2020 draft. He was allowed to start 11 big-league games last season. His ERA was 5.81. He struck out 30 in 52-2/3 innings.
Soroka is 26. Shewmake turns 26 this weekend. Shuster is 25. The latter two were taken on Anthopoulos’ watch, which means this isn’t a case of a new GM shedding inherited detritus. But here we ask: Why Bummer?
Because he has struck out 309 batters over 272 big-league innings. Because opponents have hit .224 and slugged .307 against him. Because his career ground-ball rate is 65.8%. Because last season’s fat ERA might have been a fluke; his FIP (fielding independent pitching) was 3.58, which is more like it.
Also, because Anthopoulos is moving beyond last season’s so-so bullpen. The Braves have cut ties with Brad Hand, Collin McHugh and Kirby Yates. They’ve re-upped Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez. Tyler Matzek is due back from Tommy John surgery.
Bummer is scheduled to make $5.5M in 2024. The Braves just traded Soroka and Lopez, for whom they had no use, for a reliever they hope will be of much use – and saved a little money. It’s strange, yes. But it’s not the worst deal ever.