Braves' Reynaldo Lopez has turned into one of MLB's best signings from last offseason

Atlanta's wildest expectations have been exceeded by Reynaldo Lopez since he was converted back to the rotation.

Chicago Cubs v Atlanta Braves
Chicago Cubs v Atlanta Braves / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

At the time, the Atlanta Braves were ridiculed in some corners of the internet for refusing to play in the deep end of the pitching free agent pool last offseason. Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray, Blake Snell, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Aaron Nola were all available and the Braves came up with none of them. They were connected to Gray and made an offer to Nola, but that was the extent of their involvement with the top names and fans were frustrated that a key need was "ignored".

Both Sale and Lopez pitched in Monday's doubleheader against the Padres and while the Braves' bullpen blew a lead late in the first half of it, that doesn't take away from the fact that Lopez put together another great start for Atlanta and is making a really strong case for being one of the best moves in all of baseball from last offseason.

Reynaldo Lopez has exceeded every expectation with the Braves

As of this moment, we already knew that the Chris Sale trade has been a huge coup for the Braves. Sale looks like he is in peak form and the Braves got the Red Sox to pay the vast majority of his salary for this season, promptly extended him, and they only had to give up Vaughn Grissom to get him. Assuming he can keep his current pace up, he'll get some Cy Young love at the end of the season.

In Lopez, though, the Braves may have gotten an even bigger steal. Lopez was already highly regarded reliever entering last offseason, but there was a certain amount of skepticism regarding transitioning him back to starting. While he was a highly regarded pitching prospect when he first got his start, starting didn't go well for him the first time around and many thought that the Braves' experiment with him this year was going to be short-lived.

Instead, all Lopez has done is be one of the best starters in baseball this year. The Braves are being careful to manage his workload as he hasn't thrown more than 66 innings in a season since 2019 (again, he was a RELIEVER), but Lopez has rewarded the Braves with a 1.54 ERA across eight starts while going at least five innings in all of them. Not too shabby for a guy that is essentially averaging $10 million a year for three years.

As for the top names on the free agent market that the Braves "missed" out on, here is where they stand.

  • Sonny Gray - averaging $25 million a year for three years, has to play for dreadful Cardinals, 2.87 ERA in eight starts
  • Jordan Montgomery - making $25 million on one year deal, fired Scott Boras, 4.98 ERA in six starts
  • Blake Snell - forced to take two year, $62 million from Giants, 11.57 ERA in three starts, been out since mid-April with adductor strain
  • Aaron Nola - resigned with Phillies for seven years, $172 million, 3.05 ERA
  • Yoshinobu Yamamoto - signed with Dodgers for 12 years, $325 million, 3.17 ERA

All of these pitchers are obviously incredibly talented and while a couple of them have struggled, all are likely to turn out just fine in terms of production. However, from a value perspective, all of these guys are making a lot more per year than Lopez and he has arguably been better than all of them. The pitcher that actually has the best argument for being a better value that Lopez is actually Shota Imanaga who has taken the world by storm with a 0.84 ERA after signing a four year, $53 million deal with the Cubs, but even then it could end up being close.

It is still too early for the Braves to declare victory here. Lopez has been amazing and the Braves should be lauded for having the testicular fortitude to make the bold move to put him back in the rotation. However, the baseball season is long and we still don't know for sure how well Lopez will hold up with such an increased workload.

That said, things are definitely trending in the right direction and if Lopez can keep this up, he will be among the biggest steals and one of the best deals handed out in all of baseball last offseason period.

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