3 Braves players who don’t deserve to be on the 40-man roster

While the Braves' roster is loaded, there are a some cuts they could make if they needed to.

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Spring training is right around the corner and the Atlanta Braves find themselves in a great spot with their roster once again heading into the 2024 season. They have star power at nearly every position and the depth they have assembled rivals any team in baseball. Assuming a world where they don't make another move before the season starts, this is still arguably the best team in the league top to bottom.

Most spots on the active big league roster are also pretty well set. There will be a competition for the last spot in the Braves' rotation and a couple spots on the bench as well as in the bullpen are somewhat flexible, but the biggest changes we could see before the season starts have to do with who the Braves carry on their 40-man roster to start the 2024 season.

To be clear, there is no 40-man roster crunch with the Braves. Thanks to a series of moves this offseason especially the Aaron Bummer trade, Atlanta has already culled their 40-man significantly ahead of spring training. The Braves currently have four open spots on their 40-man roster and that doesn't account for the guys that are likely to start the season on the injured list like Ian Anderson which will make more room albeit temporarily.

However, if the Braves went wild adding guys that get cut from other teams in spring training, there is a slight chance that they would need to move guys off their 40-man or they could just decide that there are guys that won't fit into their 2024 plans at all. Here is a look at the Braves players on the 40-man roster that could be on the chopping block.

Penn Murfee

Murfee is a pretty easy choice here because, well, he has already technically failed to make the cut once this offseason. The Braves claimed Murfee off of waivers from the Mets back in November despite the fact that he had Tommy John surgery in June and is likely to miss most of the 2024 season as a result. Murfee has shown an impressive ability to pound the strike zone, limit hard contact, and miss bats when he is healthy, so claiming him despite his injury was a low risk, high reward move.

The funny thing is that even though the Braves claimed Murfee on November 14th, they promptly non-tendered him just a few days later which doesn't make a ton of sense on the surface. However, the Braves' plans became clear when they signed him to a split contract later that month which will just impact how much he is paid based on whether or not he is in the minors vs. giving him a guaranteed big league deal.

Murfee does have some interesting potential, but it is unknown how he will look coming back from Tommy John and he is also about to turn 30. Combine those factors with the fact that they Braves have already technically cut him once already this offseason before he threw a pitch for him and you have a guy that could be expendable if the need ever arose.

Jackson Stephens

This one is a bummer because Jackson Stephens was an unlikely success story for the Braves in 2022. Stephens' big league career was in jeopardy after he became a free agent from the Reds organization after the 2019 season. However, a successful stint playing in the Mexican League got him on the Braves' radar and he earned a minor league deal that he parlayed into a promotion to the majors in April 2022.

By in large, Stephens pitched very well for the Braves especially early on. Altogether, he posted a 3.69 ERA in 39 appearances in 2022, but he unfortunately got hit by a line drive during a game against the Cardinals and ended up on the injured list with a concussion. Since that point, he has struggled to break back through and earn a regular spot in the Braves' bullpen.

Stephens is another example of a guy that has already been cut from the Braves' 40-man before. They non-tendered him before the 2023 season, and then brought him back. He was removed from the 40-man AGAIN, sent to the minors, and then promoted late in the 2023 season for some added bullpen depth.

Weirdly, one of the nice things about Stephens is that the Braves can remove him from the 40-man roster. One consideration that goes into 40-man moves is whether or not a team can pass a guy through the waiver wire and get them back to the minor leagues without losing him. Stephens has made that journey multiple times now, so he would represent a relatively easy cut without too much risk of losing him unless he decided he has had enough and elected free agency.

JP Martinez

Another new addition to the Braves 40-man roster this offseason came via a trade with the Rangers that brought in JP Martinez. While adding Martinez did cost the Braves a promising young arm in Tyler Owens, Martinez is a pretty interesting left-handed outfield depth piece as he posted a .963 OPS in the minor leagues in 2023. However, his brief stint in the big leagues didn't go nearly as well as he only managed a .225/.250/.325 in 44 plate appearances.

The problem with Martinez is a combination of lack of opportunity and a lack of track record of production. While his 2023 season in the minors was very good, his previous campaigns were more lackluster and there are some that openly question whether or not his success last year was more a function of his experience vs. the level of competition instead of representing what his true ceiling is. The Braves also already have a very capable fourth outfielder in Forrest Wall who is also a great pinch runner, so one wonders when the Braves would use Martinez at all in the near future.

Again, there is no reason for the Braves to cut Martinez anytime soon as they have plenty of 40-man space and having outfield depth has a lot of value especially with Jarred Kelenic being a little bit of a wild card this season. The best guess is that the Braves' outfield of Kelenic, Harris II, and Acuna Jr. will get the vast majority of the playing time with Wall probably coming in a bit to give guys days off as needed. There is a chance that Martinez could get a look if someone gets hurt, but he is more an insurance policy than anything else.

However, if Martinez struggles in the minors and the Braves find themselves either in need of a 40-man spot or they find another outfield depth piece that they like better, don't be surprised if Martinez is the odd man out.

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