The Atlanta Braves agreed to the first arbitration deal of the lockout damaged off-season, bringing back oft-injured starter Mike Soroka.
Atlanta Braves leadership proved they still believe in Mike Soroka by agreeing to a one-year, $2.8M, non-guaranteed contract early today (Twitter link), which matches the MLBTR projection for Soroka.
Soroka made his Major League debut in 2018 lasted only 25-2/3 innings before shoulder discomfort ended his season in May. He returned in 2019 and, despite a recurrence of shoulder inflammation, earned an All-star game nod and ended the season with a 2.68 ERA and a sixth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting.
The Braves young ace looked forward to a big season in 2020, but the pandemic forced MLB to cancel Spring Training; they ran an abbreviated version in July before the 60-game schedule began. Soroka made two successful starts before collapsing with a torn Achilles tendon on August 3.
Atlanta Braves now look to mid-year
The club expected Soroka back by the middle of the 2021 season, but his Achilles barked at him in May and a month later snapped as he was walking through the clubhouse.
Fresh off their World Series win, the Braves look to their strong starting staff to once again lead the way and expect it to get stronger in July with the projected return of Soroka.
He’s been cleared to resume running and throwing but has yet to throw off the mound. The club placed him on the 60-day IL this week, but only to make room for a new signing. The team expects him to return later this season (June? July? August?) and affirmed that belief with today’s deal.
Two down, eight to go
Soroka’s signing is the second arbitration contract agreed by the Braves; Guillermo Heredia signed a $1M contract before the lockout.
Eight players still await their arbitration offer, which MLBTR’s projections total at just under $39M for Duval, Swanson, Jackson, Minter, Fried, Newcomb, Matzek, and Riley. I don’t expect most to result in a hearing, but a few might get interesting.
The lockout removed the opportunity to negotiate early; final numbers are required by March 22, and the season will start before any hearings are held.
Fangraphs calculates the Atlanta Braves opening-day payroll at $170M. Remove the $6m+ already paid for buyouts of player contacts, leaving $163.4M active player payroll, a huge increase over 2021.