The Atlanta Braves have yet to address their rotation, but it’s not for a lack of spending. They’ve spent plenty of money bolstering the bullpen, and also essentially paid for the rights to Jarred Kelenic, who is slated to start in left field. Their current luxury tax payroll is set to be over $260 million according to FanGraphs, which is far more money than the Braves have ever spent before.
Despite that, arguably the most significant hole on Atlanta’s roster coming into the offseason remains unfixed. It’s hard to imagine them going after one of the marquee remaining names in free agency with so much money already committed to 2024. A trade seems like a much more viable option, but with a farm system as barren as the Braves, one has to wonder if Alex Anthopoulos would be willing to give up the likes of AJ Smith-Shawver or Hurston Waldrep. If not, he may have to go to the bargain bin to shop for a starting pitcher.
Potential Short-Term Free Agent Starting Pitchers
Most project Lucas Giolito to earn a four-year deal in free agency, and based on Seth Lugo‘s recent three-year contract with the Royals, I could see that happening. If that’s the case, Giolito should probably jump at the opportunity. However, he does strike me as a potential one-year candidate. He’s coming off a couple of poor seasons and was once regarded as a perennial Cy Young candidate. Perhaps he would be interested in a one-year contract with the Braves in an attempt to win a World Series, improve his value, and strike even bigger next offseason. It’s also worth noting that Giolito and Max Fried were high school teammates. There’s some risk for him, but it could pay substantial dividends.
From one high school teammate of Max Fried’s to another, Jack Flaherty’s career has been derailed by injuries. However, he was able to make 27 starts this past season. Somebody will likely take a chance on his upside and hand him a multi-year contract, but Flaherty is another guy that could be more interested in a one year deal, betting on himself and signing a much more lucrative contract this time next year.
Montas was acquired at last year’s trade deadline by the Yankees and was supposed to help stabilize their rotation. Unfortunately, injuries had other ideas as he made just eight starts over the last season-and-a-half and appeared in just one game this year. In 2021, Montas posted a 3.37 ERA and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young race. The year after, he recorded an even more impressive 3.18 ERA before he was traded to the Yankees. Montas is now reportedly fully healthy, and a one year deal to improve his value makes a lot of sense.
Paxton had a three-year stretch where he was a frontline caliber starting pitcher, going 38-17 with a 3.54 ERA and 11.1 K/9 from 2017-2019. But like a lot of guys on this list, a plethora of injuries have plagued him since, including Tommy John surgery in 2021 which forced him to miss all of 2022. Paxton returned this season with the Red Sox and performed decently, boasting a 4.50 ERA and 9.5 K/9 over 19 starts. At 35-years-old, he’s likely in line for a one-year contract worth around $10 million and comes with some upside.
How about a familiar face? Wood has had an up and down last three seasons, recording a 4.41 ERA but his 3.85 FIP is much more palatable. His strikeout rate took a nosedive this year to 17.2% from 23.6% in 2022, but he’s a veteran with familiarity with the organization and shouldn’t cost too much on a one-year contract.