Now that Aaron Nola is off the table, there appear to be two names the Atlanta Braves could be pursuing. Sonny Gray who is an unrestricted free agent and Brandon Woodruff who was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday.
Both of these starting pitchers have had major success at the big league level so let’s compare and see who may be a better fit for the Braves.
Brandon Woodruff just finished his 7th season in the MLB, all with the Milwaukee Brewers. He is just 30 years of age and has reached the All-Star Game twice in his career. He is 46-26 with a career 3.10 ERA. Coming off of a season where he only appeared in 11 games, Milwaukee decided it was time to move on from Woodruff.
With Woodruff only pitching a total of 67 innings a season ago due to a shoulder injury, many may view that as a red flag. However, in those 11 starts, Brandon Woodruff went 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA (including a complete game shutout) and struck out 74 batters.
The Brewers paid Woodruff a little over $10 million in 2023. Given his performance entering the free agent market, Woodruff will likely be looking for around the same pay per season but his history of shoulder injuries could play a major factor in what he is offered.
Most players at the age of 30 would be looking for a long-term contract to finish out their career in Woodruff’s shoes. With the possibility of him not returning to form, it is unlikely that a team will commit to a contract longer than three seasons which could be in the Braves' favor.
Sonny Gray has been around the block for a time or two. The three-time All-Star just finished his 11th season and it was a good one. His 2.79 ERA put him in the conversation for the American League Cy Young Award.
The Braves have been rumored to be the favorites to land Gray during this off-season. He's certainly a perfect fit for Atlanta and the veteran right-hander would give them a strong rotation.
In his career, Gray is 98-85 with a 3.47 ERA between his time with the A’s, Yankees, Reds, and Twins. Gray will be 34 years old entering the 2024 season and after 11 years of big league pitching questions about what is left in the tank arise.
The Twins paid out over $12 million to Gray in the 2023 season and after a Cy Young Award-caliber season, he will likely be looking for more going into 2024. Gray is unlikely to sign a 7+ year contract with anyone but the Braves very well could commit to a 3-year/$50 million deal and provide Atlanta with a quality arm in the rotation.
Could Atlanta land both starters?
The top three concerns (in no particular order) for the Braves are left field, relief pitching, and starting pitching. With the offensive strength this team already possesses, it would make sense to spend the majority of available money on pitching. This is how Atlanta could get both Sonny Gray and Brandon Woodruff.
However, Woodruff wouldn't be available to pitch until later in 2024 or even not until 2025. Signing him would be more for the future and only in the event that Atlanta feels like they won't be able to bring back Max Fried.
Alex Anthopoulos and company have been super busy moving players around to create cap space and roster spots for more off-season excitement. If Atlanta signs one of these two players, here is what the starting rotation could look like in 2024: Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Sonny Gray, Charlie Morton, and Bryce Elder.
Bryce Elder had a great first half of the 2023 season and made the All-Star Game. However, it has been an unspoken agreement among Braves country that Elder simply over-performed. He has the potential to be a solid number-five starter in a big league rotation but in the event, he continues to struggle, AA pursuing both of these arms isn't a horrible idea.
Brandon Woodruff on a 2 year/$25 million dollar deal and Sonny Gray on a 3 year/$50 million contract could improve Atlanta’s rotation drastically. Depending on other moves AA has up his sleeve, this could also allow Atlanta to sign a solid player like Austin Meadows in left field. This could be exactly what the Braves need to bring home another World Series title in the next few seasons.