8 Atlanta Braves players that will not be back in 2024

There could be big changes coming to the Braves roster this offseason.

Jun 12, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Collin McHugh (32) pitches in
Jun 12, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Collin McHugh (32) pitches in / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Braves' offseason got started earlier than hoped after the Braves got bounced in the NLDS by the Phillies once again. Philadelphia played their brains out and deserve credit for that, but it sure didn't help that the Braves' record-breaking offense failed to show up in the series and the pitching staff gave up some big swings and big innings in route to early playoff exit.

While you don't want to draw too many conclusions about the results of a short series because, well, it is just four games, what was laid bare was that the Braves had a real depth problem with their pitching staff heading into the playoffs. Max Fried's recovery from a blister went down to the wire, Charlie Morton and Kyle Wright were out due to injuries, and Atlanta simply didn't have a lot of arms in the bullpen that they could completely trust. In the postseason, that is a big problem and one that we could see them try to fix heading into 2024.

Here are 8 Atlanta Braves players that won't be coming back in 2024

For the most part, the Braves' offense is set. While they didn't have a good series against the Phillies, the lineup is Atlanta's strength right now. It is possible that we could see them address left field during the offseason, but exercising Eddie Rosario's relatively inexpensive option for 2024 seems more likely. The bulk of the roster turnover next season seems likely to come with the Braves' pitching staff which has several pending free agents and contract options that may necessitate some tough choices.

Lets take a look at the Braves players that may not be coming back next season.

Collin McHugh

If you asked most neutral observers before the 2023 season, they would have probably told you that Atlanta exercising Collin McHugh's $6 million option for next season was a mortal lock. He was tremendous for the Braves in 2022 with a 2.60 ERA with encouraging peripherals and he could pitch multiple innings if need be. Getting anywhere close to that for $6 million is a no-brainer.

However, that is decidedly not how things went in 2023 and his future with the Braves is in question as a result. Not only was McHugh rough when he was on the mound with a 4.30 ERA in 41 appearances while seeing his strikeout and walk rates head in the wrong direction, but he also dealt with shoulder issues off and on throughout the 2023 season.

As good as McHugh was last year, the reality is that relievers are the most volatile commodity in baseball and Collin is 36 years old and coming off a bad, injury-riddled season. Maybe he can bounce back and be close to what he was, but Atlanta can't bank on that happening at this stage of his career. With the free agent and trade markets likely to have a bunch of interesting relief options available, the Braves need to move on here unless he is willing to come back on a cheaper, non-guaranteed deal.

Kevin Pillar

This one is a bummer because Kevin Pillar had some nice moments with the Braves as the righty bench bat of choice in 2023. His .228/.248/.416 line with nine homers wasn't overly exciting, but some of the hits he did have this season came in some big time spots especially when the Braves were up against a tough lefty.

However, baseball is a results oriented business and the fact remains that if you were to circle one spot in the Braves' lineup that could use an upgrade, it is left field. Odds are that Eddie Rosario and his .755 OPS and 21 homers will probably survive the roster culling, but Pillar's value is pretty limited overall. Atlanta only really wants to play him against lefties and there are better platoon options out there if that is the direction they want to continue to pursue.

One argument to keep Pillar around is that he is not likely to be expensive next season as the Braves were able to snag him for $3 million this season, but the value add if they chose to do so is speculative at best. Being a bench bat is tough these days with the DH in the National League now and pinch-hitting opportunities being few and far between. However, the Braves can probably get more from someone younger, more versatile, or with more upside that Pillar without breaking the bank.

Kirby Yates

When the Braves signed Kirby Yates to a two year deal after the 2021 season, it caught a lot of folks attention as Yates was one of the better relievers in the league before he had to have Tommy John surgery. Upon his return in late 2022 for Atlanta, the results were decidedly mixed as he had a 5.14 ERA in nine appearances, but there were certainly some flashes of the filthy stuff he had shown in the past.

The 2023 season for Kirby was....strange. On the surface, a 3.28 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 60.1 innings of work seems like a guy that the Braves should be more than happy to exercise his $5.75 club option for 2024. However, Yates was very often an adventure when he came into games and not in the fun way. His walk rate remained sky high at 5.5 BB/9 and when you combine that with an inability to consistently keep the ball on the ground as well as giving up hard contact, you have a recipe for disaster.

Yates' option is just cheap enough that it wouldn't be completely insane for Atlanta to exercise it, but he shouldn't be relied upon in high leverage situations. The walks are too numerous and the peripherals too spooky for that to happen again. In an ideal world, the Braves would use the money to go after a reliever that doesn't give fans blood pressure problems and who the Braves could slot in as a seventh inning guy without having to worry about immediately having a couple baserunners to deal with.

Jesse Chavez

Some folks are going to be mad about this one, but the reality is that Jesse Chavez is almost always going to be a guy on the chopping block because, well, history suggests that is just his nature. Jesse was putting together another great season for Atlanta with a 1.56 ERA in 36 appearances despite essentially being a professional junkballer that relies on deception and his experience to get the job done.

However, when he got hit in the leg by a line drive off the bat of Miguel Cabrera, all of that changed. It took him a while to come back from that injury and upon his return, the Braves still decided that he wasn't worth carrying on their postseason roster which certainly tells us something about where they think he is at this point.

At 40 years old, that King Jesse is still around pitching at all is a miracle let alone pitching as well as he has for the Braves. The signs do seem to be pointing to the Braves potentially starting the 2024 season without him in the fold, but he always seems to find his way back to Atlanta anyways if he is able to contribute.

Sam Hilliard

Bringing in Sam Hilliard last offseason in a trade with the Rockies had the potential to be a sneaky good trade. While Hilliard's hit tool in his limited time in the big leagues had left a lot to be desired, his physical tools pointed to him having tremendous upside and he impressed a whole lot of people in spring training this year.

Unfortunately, Sam wasn't able to carve out a consistent role with the Braves in 2023 as his issues with strikeouts followed him to Atlanta. It is hard to find consistency at the plate off the bench anyways, but Hilliard's swing and miss issues proved to be problematic this season and Eddie Rosario got the bulk of the playing time as the lefty outfield bat once he got his feet under him.

The nail in the coffin, though, was when Hilliard injured his heel in July. Originally, it wasn't expected that that injury was going to keep him out for a long time, but he suffered a setback while on rehab assignment and ended the season on the 60 day IL. There are just too many question marks here unfortunately to warrant giving Hilliard a roster spot in 2024.

Kolby Allard

Many remember Kolby Allard's first stint with the Braves as he was their first round pick back in 2015. After a pretty quick ascent through the minor leagues, Kolby wasn't able to solidify a spot in the Braves rotation and ended up getting traded to the Rangers in the deal that brought Chris Martin to Atlanta in 2019.

However, Kolby would make his return to Atlanta when the Braves mercifully sent Jake Odorizzi out of town. After starting the season on the IL with an oblique injury, he would go on to make a handful of appearances for the Braves this season and ended up with a 6.57 ERA after his last couple of games went rather poorly.

Kolby is only just hitting arbitration and there is a chance that the Braves go ahead and keep him around given how cheap he will likely be, but the bigger problem is that Kolby isn't healthy right now. In July, the Braves placed him on the 60 day IL with nerve inflammation in his throwing shoulder which is never good news. At this point, it is hard to see him getting tendered a big league contract, although bringing him back on a minor league deal could make some sense.

Michael Soroka

This one hurts because everyone is fully aware at this point of just how much Soroka has had to overcome to even make it back to the big leagues. A shoulder injury cost him his rookie season and then two Achilles tears back to back cost him most of the previous three seasons before he finally made it back to the big leagues in 2023 where he appeared in seven games and posted a 6.40 ERA.

The results weren't great, but a certain amount of rust after such a long layoff was to be expected. However, his injury bad luck did not end this season as he had a hamstring issue that pulled him out of the competition for a rotation spot this spring and then he ended the season on the IL with an issue in his throwing elbow.

Everyone loves Mike and frankly, they should because he is an amazing person to be around. The reality is, though, that he is about to enter his last (and most expensive) year of arbitration and guaranteeing him a major league contract with all of his issues doesn't seem like a wise decision. Mike proving that assumption wrong would be amazing, but the Braves probably can't afford to have a roster spot taken by a guy that simply hasn't proved that he can stay on the field especially with all of the pitching options they are going to have to entertain going into 2024.

Charlie Morton

Finally, we come to the most speculative name on this list in Charlie Morton and there is a lot to unpack here. Based purely on performance, Charlie is a guy the Braves should want to keep around. While he certainly had his fair share of maddening starts in 2023, he still put up a 3.64 ERA in 30 starts and maintained a strikeout rate north of 10 batters per nine innings pitched.

However, these sorts of decisions cannot be made in a vacuum and there is cause for concern when it comes to bringing back Morton next season for his hefty club option of $20 million. First, that is a lot of money for any one player and Charlie is soon to be 40 years old. Second, he ended this season hurt as his injured a finger on his throwing hand right before the playoffs. While that injury could have been a fluke, it also is a reminder that older pitchers carry a lot of risk and that risk doesn't decrease as the years go by.

Could the Braves exercise Charlie's option? Absolutely. The organization truly appreciates his contributions to the team and loves him as a human being. However, the Braves need pitching depth that they can rely on. With Charlie in the twilight of his career and needing to be paid a healthy chunk of money that could go to improving the roster elsewhere, it shouldn't be a sure thing that they bring him back. Frankly, it isn't outside the realm of possibility that Charlie could decide himself that its time to retire which would take the decision out of the Braves' hands.

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