With the offseason already underway, the Atlanta Braves are just waiting for the World Series to end so they can get to work on their 2024 team.
Pitching will be a major focus for the team as it usually is because you can never have enough depth with your pitching staff. Will Michael Soroka find himself in those plans for 2024? That remains to be seen.
Soroka has been struggling to get back to form on the mound after missing a few seasons recovering from two tears of his Achilles tendon, including 3 surgeries. No one liked seeing Michael experience this after he showed so much promise for the Braves.
What happened to Michael Soroka in 2023?
The Canada native found himself back on the mound in 2023 but it didn't go the way he or Atlanta hoped it would. He started the season with Triple-A Gwinnett before getting the call to the big league club about a month into the season.
His first start came on the road in Oakland and it wasn't the best. However, pretty much everyone expected it to be tough as it was his first game back on an MLB mound. He lasted 6 innings while allowing 4 runs on 5 hits with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts. He was immediately sent back down to Gwinnett after this outing.
Many fans saw this as a way to manipulate Soroka's service time and give them another year of control but he was called up and down a few times and after pitching through 7 appearances with the Braves, he gained another year of service time. So, if that was the plan, it failed.
Soroka finished with a 2-2 record and a 6.40 ERA through 32.1 innings pitched. He had 29 strikeouts and walked 12 batters. At Gwinnett, he was 4-4 with a 3.41 ERA across seventeen starts and carried a 9.5 K/9 rate. That lower ERA just couldn't translate to the MLB level for some reason.
Soroka also struggled with allowing homers as he was tagged for nine round-trippers in the 32.1 innings pitched. That equaled a rate of 2.5 homers per nine innings of work. This isn't remotely close to how successful he was with limiting the long ball in 2019, where he allowed just 0.7 HR/9.
He just struggled to find the consistency that made him so good for Atlanta in 2019. He couldn't keep the ball down and that definitely shows with the homers hit against him in 2023. Michael is a player I root for heavily but it may be time for the Braves to cut their ties.
Soroka's financial cost versus output
Michael's contract for the last 3 years has been $2.8 million through his arbitration years. So, that's $8.4 million over 3 seasons with little return.
It's not Michael's fault that injuries kept him sidelined for a while and it was always going to take time for him to get back in form. However, you can tell he's having a hard time repeating the success he found early in his career.
Soroka is projected to earn $3 million in arbitration which is pretty close to what the Braves have given him the last few years. So, they aren't losing too much if they decided to bring him along but now that he's reached 5 years of service time, that creates a bit of a tough situation.
Now, Soroka has the option to decline being sent to Triple-A if the team decides to do so and become a free agent. While it's only $3 million, that money could be put towards a deal for another player that helps the team.
There's no indication Soroka can't help the team but it's not a hopeful feeling as things just feel stacked against him. His 2023 ended with an IL stint as he was dealing with a forearm injury that left him feeling numbness in his fingers. That is one of the worst things a pitcher could feel.
But... the Braves have some unanswered questions with the rotation as Charlie Morton's future is uncertain, Kyle Wright is lost for 2024 due to shoulder surgery, and you don't know what you'll get from Bryce Elder after a bi-polar 2023 season.
Atlanta may elect to just take a chance on Soroka and cut their losses if he isn't able to regain any of his early success. The opportunity there is that he could figure things out and provide the Braves with some valuable innings.
However, there comes a point where the team needs to consider it may be better to move on. Soroka is unfortunately a perfect candidate to be non-tendered. They have AJ Smith-Shawver in the waiting. Darius Vines showed some promise and Hurston Waldrep seems to be on a fast track to Atlanta.
Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster are still developing and could become pieces of the rotation. So, there's no reason to worry about giving Michael a shot since there are plenty of internal options to consider should it go south.
Personally, I'd love to see Soroka find a way to succeed again because he has so much talent and potential. So, my answer would be yes. The Braves should consider bringing Soroka back and hope for the best. Hopefully, for Michael's sake, everything comes together for a special season for the right-hander in 2024.