Nola’s gone. Gray’s gone. Who’s left for the Braves?

Philadelphia Phillies baseball team pitcher Aaron Nola, center, takes questions from the media after signing a seven-year contract, with President of Baseball Operations David Dombrowski, right, and Vice President and General Manager Sam Fuld, left, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Philadelphia Phillies baseball team pitcher Aaron Nola, center, takes questions from the media after signing a seven-year contract, with President of Baseball Operations David Dombrowski, right, and Vice President and General Manager Sam Fuld, left, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

They made a run at Aaron Nola, who opted to remain with Philadelphia. They surely kicked the tires on Sonny Gray, who chose to sign with St. Louis. Nola’s new deal: $172 million over seven (!) seasons, which is an average annual value of $24.7M. Gray’s: $75M over three seasons, an AAV of $25M.

I thought Gray might sign here. He’s from Smyrna – not the one in Cobb County, but the one outside Nashville. That said, the Braves of Alex Anthopoulos haven’t thrown big money over a longish haul at any free agent, least of all a pitcher. (They signed Charlie Morton in November 2020 for $15M, but that was a one-year deal that keeps getting renewed.)

This isn’t to say the Braves won’t address their need for starting pitching. They’ve added Reynaldo Lopez for $30M over three seasons with an eye toward making him a full-time starter. Reports hold that they’re interested in Dylan Cease. The White Sox are looking to sell, and a pitcher under contract trumps a free-agent pitcher every day of the week.

Cease is 27. He’s under contract though the 2025 season, though there’ll be arbitration involved. He’s from Milton – the one in Fulton County. He finished second in American League Cy Young voting in 2022. He wasn’t as good in 2023, but his FIP (fielding independent pitching) suggests his 4.58 ERA wasn’t as bad as it looked.

The catch: To get Cease, or someone of his ilk, the Braves will have to trade somebody they’d rather not trade. Maybe Vaughn Grissom. Maybe A.J. Smith-Shawver. Maybe both. And maybe another team will say, “The guy we really want is Ozzie Albies.”

Any mention of Albies should be a deal-breaker. But the Braves really, really need a starting pitcher, and sometimes, as the Brits say, needs must.

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