On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves outrighted Ben Heller to Triple-A Gwinnett. One day later, Heller elected free agency.
The 32-year-old appeared in 19 games (18.2 innings pitched) with the Atlanta Braves in 2023. He posted a 3.86 ERA over this stretch while striking out 16 and walking 11.
When Heller was able to locate the ball, he had the ability to get outs effectively. However, 11 free passes issued in only 18.2 innings is wildly atrocious. That averages out to 5.3 walks per 9 innings, something any manager would lose sleep over.
The Braves aren't losing much with Heller electing free agency other than potential. Before coming to Atlanta, Heller pitched four seasons for the New York Yankees where he posted a 2.59 ERA in 31.1 innings. Control was an issue even then as he walked 15 batters while wearing pinstripes.
This news also comes following the announcement of relief pitchers Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez reaching deals with Atlanta. Johnson recently signed a two-year contract worth $14.25 million with a third-year option. Joe Jimenez more recently inked a three-year deal worth $26 million.
With both of these relievers returning, it is likely that Ben Heller just felt like he did not have a spot in Atlanta’s big league bullpen and has the confidence he can be an effective arm in the majors for another team.
The Atlanta Braves understand that retaining players, trading players, and letting players walk in free agency is part of the business aspect of Major League Baseball. Ben Heller simply did not have the opportunity he would have liked and chose to leave the Braves organization to look for a big-league chance elsewhere. We wish Heller nothing but success in the future, other than when he steps on the mound against the Braves.