Late Thursday night, the Atlanta Braves sent RHP Michael Soroka, LHP Jared Shuster, INF Braden Shewmake, and INF Nicky Lopez to the Chicago White Sox for LHP Aaron Bummer.
This move is being questioned by many but may make more sense than what people realize. Let’s break down this trade in depth and focus on six reasons the Braves just may have won this trade.
It is no secret that Michael Soroka has faced countless injuries and setbacks in his professional baseball career. 2023 was the season for Soroka to show that he was able to recover from injury and still be effective at the major league level.
Before facing another season-ending injury, Soroka pitched 32.1 innings where he surrendered 23 earned runs (6.40 ERA) and walked 12 batters, an unusually high number for a pitcher who makes a living on control. With this type of performance, Soroka was likely going to be non-tenured by the Braves and his future consisted of too many question marks to stay in Atlanta. Soroka is estimated to earn $2.8 million in 2024.
With the complications the Atlanta Braves pitching rotation faced this past season, Jared Shuster was called upon to make 11 starts. Over 52.2 innings, the 24-year-old lefty posted a 4-3 record with a 5.81 ERA.
This off-season improving the starting rotation is one of the top priorities for Alex Anthopoulos so there is likely no room for advancement for Jared Shuster.
A common debate within the Braves organization over the last couple of years has been who was going to be the next shortstop for the MLB squad. It appeared to be between Braden Shewmake and Vaughn Grissom. Shockingly, the answer turned out to be neither thanks to the surge of Orlando Arcia.
Shewmake is now 26 years of age and has had limited experience at the big league level. He struggled in Triple-A this past season and seemed to be facing a roadblock with the Braves due to the play of Arcia and Grissom.
As crazy as it sounds, Nicky Lopez may be the biggest piece the Braves gave up in this deal. His solid defensive effort and strong offensive improvement this past season made him a valuable asset to Atlanta. If someone needed a day off at any position, Lopez could be plugged into the lineup and perform.
Lopez is set to earn around $4 million in 2024. With the superstar infield the Atlanta Braves possesses, Lopez would have seen very limited playing time had he stayed in a Braves uniform. AA will likely still look for a utility player similar to Lopez in case of an injury but will be looking for an even cheaper price tag.
Many people are getting too caught up in Aaron Bummer’s 2023 struggles and forget he has had two seasons where he posted a sub-3.00 ERA, most recently in 2022 where his ERA was 2.36 and struck out 30 batters in just 26.2 innings of work. He has more than a chance to be successful in Atlanta, especially moving to the National League where most hitters he will face have not seen him before.
He also suffered from being a groundball pitcher with one of the worst infields in all of baseball in 2023. That completely changes for Bummer as he gets a fresh start with Atlanta who has arguably the best infield in all of baseball.
Adding a hard-throwing left-handed reliever to the Braves bullpen could be very beneficial in 2024. Bummer will join Minter and Matzek as the third southpaw out of the pen.
3 Free Roster Spots and $9 Million Freed up
With the complete haul Atlanta sent to Chicago, the Braves now have 37 players on their 40-man roster. In addition, about $3.5 million was taken off of Atlanta’s payroll. This creates the opportunity for Alex Anthopoulos to raid the free agent market with a little more money.
AA made it clear that the plan was for Atlanta’s payroll to increase in 2024. The assumption could very well be made that this move puts the Braves in prime position to sign a big-name free agent and spend some cash. Rumors of Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, and even Shohei Ohtani may be more in reach than most expected.