Every year, there are players on the 40-man roster who come to Spring Training but don't make the team on Opening Day. This year, there are four Atlanta Braves players who stand out as having at least a decent chance of not sticking with the organization.
From a pitcher you didn't even realize was on the 40-man roster to the 2021 NLCS hero, here are the four guys I think will be released before the end of Spring Training.
4 Atlanta Braves who won't be on the team past Spring Training
There's a good chance you don't even know who Michael Tonkin is. After pitching for the Gwinnett Stripers in 2022, pitching 48.1 innings and holding a 3.17 ERA, the Braves selected his contract right after the season.
Tonkin is a major league vet, having played for the Minnesota Twins from 2013-2017 and then for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the NPB in 2018.
Since then, however, he's bounced around, playing in the Rangers, Brewers, and Diamondbacks organizations, as well as the Long Island Ducks, although he hasn't been able to find himself on a major league roster.
ZiPS project the Braves bullpen to be the best bullpen in the league. This makes Tonkin's path to the big league team very narrow. Without any options, unless there are a plethora of injuries – Dylan Lee and A.J. Minter are the only bullpen arms with options – expect Tonkin's tenure with the Braves to end in a DFA.
Despite only having 270 PAs, Rosario's -1.1 fWAR was 3rd worst in the big leagues last year, behind only Miguel Cabrera and Elias Diaz.
While Rosario's eye issues certainly contributed to his 62 wRC+, he only had an 81 wRC+ after coming back from eye surgery in July.
The Braves only have committed money to Rosario for the 2023 season ($9 million) along with a $9 million option for 2024. While the LF spot is wide open, the projections aren't pretty for Rosario. The NLCS hero is projected from -0.4 WAR by ZiPS.
If Rosario doesn't hit well enough in Spring Training, his contract wouldn't even be the most the Braves could eating in Spring Training.
Despite having a solid season out of the bullpen with the Braves in 2022, finishing the year with a 3.69 ERA and 3.54 FIP in his first season in the majors since 2018, he was designated for assignment after Dennis Santana's acquisition in November.
He re-signed with the Braves right after Christmas to a split-level major league deal. While the contract has stipulations depending on whether he's in the big leagues or minors, he actually doesn't have options left.
This means that if he doesn't make the team straight out of Spring Training, there's a possibility that he gets claimed by another team before the Braves have a chance to clear him to AAA.
The Orioles tried this contract structure this past offseason as well, but they weren't able to hold onto Jake Cave, a player who signed a split-level contract, when they exposed him to waivers.
Stephens faces the same uphill battle making the Opening Day roster that Tonkin does. If the righty isn't able to land a spot on the Opening Day roster, the Braves will have no choice but to expose him to waivers during a time when many teams are looking to pick up low-risk relievers.
On the field, he's been worth -0.9 fWAR across 715 PAs, putting up a 88 wRC+ and -3 OAA. This is, of course, a far cry from his 2020 performance in the 60-game season.
At first, the Braves cutting the cord on Ozuna seems unlikely, purely from a contract perspective. After all the DH/OF is still owed $37 million for the next two years, as he's set to make $18 million the next two years and has a $1 million buyout on his 2025 $16 million option.
Additionally, as previously mentioned, the Braves don't have an obvious answer for LF and DH. While Ozuna hasn't been great in the field, he still played 52 games last season in LF. With so much guaranteed money on the books with Ozuna, it wouldn't be surprising if the Braves kept him hoping he returns to an above-average hitter.
However, in a recent interview with The Athletic's Jeff Schultz, Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos was asked about Ozuna's status on the roster.
After stating he expects Ozuna to be competing for a spot in Spring Training, Schultz pushed further, inquiring about afterward. His response?
"Ask me in spring training."- Alex Anthopoulos
If Ozuna shows his 2021 and 2022 is his norm, the Braves could cut bait.