The Atlanta Braves front office made two more additions to their thin 40-man roster on Wednesday evening.
Atlanta's pitching depth took a bit of a hit when they made a 5-for-1 trade early in the offseason for reliever Aaron Bummer. That trade sent Michael Soroka, Jared Shuster, Nicky Lopez, Braden Shewmake, and Riley Gowens to the White Sox.
They also traded Kyle Wright to the Royals for Jackson Kowar which brought it down even more. Once the Braves non-tendered a few more players, they found themselves with just 30 players on the roster.
Reynaldo Lopez would join the Braves soon after on a 3-year, $30 million contract and began the journey of building back the roster. They made a few minor-league additions earlier this week but two players who were recently removed from the 40-man roster, find themselves back with the NL East powerhouse.
Wednesday night, we learned Atlanta announced an agreement for non-guaranteed split contracts with Penn Murfee and Jackson Stephens.
The Braves claimed Murfee back on November 14 but he was non-tendered just three days later. Murfee isn't expected to pitch again until sometime in June of 2024 as he is still recovering from elbow surgery. Prior to being hurt, he was pitching well for the Mariners with a 2.70 ERA over 80 games between 2021 and 2022.
Murfee is known for possessing an impressive "sweeper" pitch which is complemented with a 4-seam fastball and a rare sinker. He carries a 28% strikeout percentage and when healthy is very good against both lefties and righties.
Jackson Stephens returns for his third season in Atlanta. He was a decent option for Brian Snitker in 2022 with a 3.69 ERA but injuries in 2023 limited him to appear in only five games at the MLB level.
Stephens did have a 3.28 ERA and 26% strikeout rate in 24.2 innings with the Stripers. He is officially out of minor league options so he will have to really impress the Braves to make the MLB roster after Spring Training.
What exactly is a split contract?
A split contract calls for a player to earn different salaries between the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues. Basically, they would earn a pro-rated portion of their Major League salary for any time spent on the MLB roster. This is determined by dividing their MLB salary by 187 (the number of days in the MLB regular season) and multiplying that number by the number of days spent on the big league roster.
The contracts are also non-guaranteed which simply means they aren't guaranteed the entire salary they signed for unless they spend the entire season at the MLB level.
These are purely depth moves for an already crowded Braves bullpen. Atlanta has Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Aaron Bummer, Joe Jimenez, Tyler Matzek, Reynaldo Lopez, and Pierce Johnson ready to go next season.
Don't expect Jackson Stephens and Penn Murfee to have a lot of high-leverage action in 2024.