Before the non-tender deadline on Friday, The Star is eliminated…

Braves Rumors: Soroka on the block, Alex Anthopoulos risk, Mets upset.

Alex Anthopoulos is taking a calculated risk, the New York Mets know the Braves stole a good pitcher, and Michael Soroka could be on the chopping block.

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

Braves Rumors: Could Michael Soroka be on the outs in Atlanta?

Michael Soroka has been a rumored cut candidate prior to Friday’s non-tender deadline, assuming the Braves cannot trade him before then. Soroka is a former ace and AL Rookie of the Year candidate. He even made the NL All-Star team at one point. Then came the injuries.

Soroka missed the better part of two full seasons and has been working his way back ever since. In 2023, he finally returned to the major leagues, though the Braves watched his innings. He struggled initially against big leaguers, but did have productive innings both in MLB and especially in Triple-A Gwinnett. Soroka provides rotation depth to a club that desperately needs it, as they found out just last season thanks to injuries suffered by Kyle Wright (who remains out for 2024) and Max Fried.

While Soroka likely will not reach All-Star status again with Atlanta, he could start the season in the MLB rotation if he pitches well in spring training. At the very least, he’s minor-league depth in Gwinett, and another arm if Atlanta needs it. Chase Owens of The House That Hank Built made the same argument. You can’t have too much pitching depth:

“The Braves main priority this offseason is starting pitching. Adding one or two big names is not enough. Atlanta used 16 different guys as starters last season and struggled to find consistency outside of Morton, Strider, and Fried (when healthy). Last year (like most years) was an example of how you can never have enough starting pitching,” Owens wrote.

While Atlanta could add some big arms this offseason, Soroka has a role to play on next year’s Braves team.

Braves Rumors: Alex Anthopoulos takes a risk

The Braves have one of the weakest far systems in all of baseball, per MLB Pipeline. Outside of A.J. Smith-Shawver and a select few others, Atlanta didn’t have many prospects to add to its 40-man roster, thus protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. Because they have such a strong big-league team, there isn’t much room to protect unproven players.

That’s true for prospects such as Jesse Franklin IV, who was the most obvious standout that can now be selected by any team in the Rule 5. Franklin is a former third-round pick but has been stuck at Double-A the last two seasons. The young outfielder hasn’t made the necessary progress at the plate, and therefore could find himself in a new organization this offseason. Here’s how MLB Pipeline described Franklin IV.

“A solid athlete, Franklin showed he can steal a base with his above-average speed. He’s seen time in all three outfield spots, but left seems to be the best spot if he were to settle into one outfield position as an everyday player. More than anything, he needs a full season of reps to show whether he can be a power-hitting run producer at the upper levels.”

Franklin has missed some time due to injury, and while his raw athleticism is obvious, he has some holes in his swing he’ll need to clean up to make the majors. Hopefully, that happens with Atlanta.

Braves Rumors: Latest waiver claim could come back to haunt the Mets

A savvy pickup by David Stearns has now been used against the Mets, as Alex Anthopoulos added Penn Murfee to the bullpen mix entering the 2024 season. Murfee is injured for now, but should be back at some point this coming season.

When healthy, Murfee has looked excellent, pitching to a 2.70 ERA in 80 relief appearances. Here’s what I wrote on Murfee when the Braves initially claimed it. Frankly, it was a surprise he was available in the first place:

“At his best, Murfee is a solid middle relief arm, and we know how much Alex Anthopoulos has prioritized improving the Braves bullpen…Murfee was drafted in the 33rd round by the Seattle Mariners in 2018, but since has been a positive surprise, pitching to a 2.70 ERA in 80 relief appearances. Clearly, he has what it takes to be successful against major-league hitters at a consistent rate.”

5 takeaways from Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos' end of year statements

Tim Boyle at The Rising Apple had similar thoughts, especially considering Murfee was thought to a missing piece in the Mets bullpen by midseason, and a creative pickup at that by Stearns:

“Losing Murfee to the Braves is a minor inconvenience we really hope doesn’t come back to bite the Mets. We’ll always have those two weeks when we brainstormed all of those puns about writing utensils we couldn’t wait to add into a headline. Back to the drawing board, this time without Penn,” Boyle wrote.

If we know anything about Anthopoulos, Murfee will play a role in the Braves bullpen this season, and perhaps even log some important innings while he’s at it. Sadly, the Mets will have to watch and wonder what if.

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