Max Fried is set to return from the 60-day IL on Friday. It is his first start since May, and while the Braves are excited about his return, it also means that a roster crunch is beginning.
In fact, his return is the first of several 40-man roster moves the Braves will need to make in the coming weeks. Players on the 60-day IL don't count towards the 40-man roster, but once they're activated from the the IL, they once again count to the 40-man.
The Braves currently have a full 40-man roster, which means that when Fried is activated, the team not only has to make room for him on the active roster but also has to make room on the 40-man roster.
The team optioned Ben Heller down after the game today, opening a spot for Fried on the active roster, but there will still need to be a corresponding roster move.
But Fried isn't the only Brave coming back from the 60-day IL. In fact, in the next month, there will be several 40-man roster moves. Which Braves might not be in the organization by the end of the year?
Which Braves are on the 60-day IL and which are coming back soon?
The Atlanta Braves currently have nine players on the 60-day IL. Max Fried is set to return Friday against the Cubs, while Dylan Lee and Kyle Wright are likely starting their rehab assignments soon. Jesse Chavez was transferred to the 60-day IL on July 23, but he is eligible to return on August 14.
Both Nick Anderson and Kolby Allard are recent additions to the IL, and thus the 60-day IL. Neither player is eligible to return until September, but it's highly likely at least Anderson returns to the Braves this season.
Both Tyler Matzek and Huascar Ynoa are out for the season recovering from Tommy John Surgery. While they'll factor into the offseason 40-man roster crunch, they aren't going to be an issue during the season.
Lastly, news on Ehire Adrianza, the lone position player, has been non-existent. The utility player was transferred to the 60-day IL on May 19, the day the Braves added Charlie Culberson to the roster. There has been no news on Adrianza since then and with the acquisition of Nicky Lopez, it would be surprising if he sees time with the club again this year.
Who is at risk of being removed from the 40-man roster?
Overall, the Braves will need to make room for at least five spots on the 40-man roster from now until the end of the season.
Designating Yonny Chirinos for assignment is an option when Kyle Wright returns, but DFAing him earlier would put the Braves in the same four-man rotation conundrum they were in when they optioned both Michael Soroka and Allan Winans.
Although he's pitched well at the minor league level and in his spot start, Winans could actually be one player at risk of losing his spot on the 40-man. At 27 years old, the Braves might view the starter as a replaceable pitcher they could sneak through waivers.
Despite his early success with the club, Ben Heller could also be an unfortunate casualty of the roster crunch. In his last seven games, the reliever has a 6.35 ERA and an even worse 8.57 FIP in 5.2 innings. He was optioned to Gwinnett following Wednesday's game.
The Braves also have two position players on the 40-man roster whose names most fans wouldn't even recognize. Luke Williams joined the organization on a waiver claim on June 5, while Dalton Guthrie joined the organization on a waiver claim on July 13. Neither has been impressive in Gwinnett.
One option that does not require potentially losing a player to another organization would be calling up a player. Ian Anderson was optioned to the minors during Spring Training and made one start with Gwinnett, lasting just 0.2 innings before exiting with an elbow injury. He wound up needing Tommy John Surgery and has been on Gwinnett's injured list ever since.
However, the Braves could call Anderson up to place him on the 60-day IL. The Braves have already gained an extra year of control, so there are no service time considerations.
One long shot to be DFA'd is Collin McHugh. The reliever is in the final year of his two-year, $10 million contract, but the Braves do have a club option for 2024 with a $1 million buyout.
McHugh has been far less effective this season than in 2022. The righty has seen a sharp decline in his strikeout rate (from 27.6% in 2022 to 16% in 2023) as well as a steep increase in walks (from 5.1% in 2022 to 7.7% in 2023).
He would be a shocking DFA, but if the Braves felt like their already full bullpen no longer needed McHugh, he could get the ax in the roster crunch.