JUST IN: 3 starting moves the Braves are set to make…

CLEVELAND, OHIO - APRIL 20: Starting pitcher Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Guardians jokes with teammates prior to game one of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field on April 20, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Here are 3 moves the Braves need to make now that the Winter Meetings are over

As much fun as it would be for Reynaldo to turn from an excellent reliever signed at a pretty fair market rate into an absolute steal if he can become a quality starting pitcher, Atlanta can’t bank on that happening. The rest of this offseason has to be centered around getting the starting rotation in a good spot in the short-term and long-term especially with a Max Fried extension beyond this season looking less likely by the day.

With that in mind, here are the moves the Braves need to make now that the Winter Meetings are finally over and things are set to heat up in the coming days and weeks.

The Braves need to trade for Shane Bieber

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The starting pitching free agent market is in a really weird place right now. There are some really strong names still available like Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, but that market is essentially frozen until Shohei Ohtani and/or Yoshinobu Yamamoto decide where they are going to play. It does sound like Ohtani should be (hopefully) making a decision pretty soon, but Yamamoto isn’t even visiting teams in person until next week.

Given the prices that the top free agent names are expected to get this offseason in addition to the lack of activity right now, the trade market remains the Braves best option. Atlanta has been rumored to be targeting Dylan Cease this offseason, but the White Sox’s asking price remains high and they are going to be playing hard to get as they wait for teams who miss out on the top free agent starters to enter the fray.

Tyler Glasnow could be an option and there is a connection to the Braves, but the $25 million he is owed combined with his injury history and his status as a rental makes that feel like a stretch. However, one name that is rather interesting on the trade market is Shane Bieber who the Guardians have been listening and who could be exactly the kind of arm the Braves are looking for.

The good news with Bieber is that he would be a significantly lesser hit on the Braves’ 2024 payroll than a guy like Glasnow as he is entering his last year of arbitration. He also has a lengthy track record of success including winning the Cy Young in 2020 and pitching extremely well in 2022 where he posted a 2.88 ERA in 31 starts. Word has also gotten out that Bieber is willing to sign an extension in the event that he is traded which is right in AA’s wheelhouse.

There is some cause for concern with Bieber, however, He is coming off a down 2023 season where he had some elbow trouble that cost him some playing time. His 3.80 ERA last year was the worst mark he has posted since his 2018 rookie season and his strikeout rate has been heading in the wrong direction the last couple of years. Assuming his medicals check out, the Braves should still look long and hard at him, but a certain amount of caution is obviously wise especially if Cleveland’s asking price is high for the rental starter.

Atlanta needs to trade away Raisel Iglesias

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Okay, okay…there are going to be folks that are going to be mad about this one and frankly, it is understandable. The Braves are right in the middle of their competitive window and trading away their closer may seem strange on the surface. However, given the Braves’ luxury tax situation, the depth of their farm system, as well as the state of their bullpen, Atlanta needs to at least consider moving Raisel Iglesias.

Over the next two seasons, Iglesias is set to make $16 million a year. Given that he was lights out after the Braves acquired him at the trade deadline in 2022 and that he posted a 2.75 ERA in 58 appearances last season, he is more than worth paying that much. However, Alex Anthopoulos greatly prefers to have some money at his disposal to make moves during the season (especially at the trade deadline) and it is hard to see that being the case in 2024 unless they shed some payroll.

On top of that, the Braves bullpen is loaded going into 2024 with AJ Minter, Joe Jimenez, Aaron Bummer, Daysbel Hernandez, Pierce Johnson, and Reynaldo Lopez (maybe) in tow as well as Tyler Matzek and possibly Huascar Ynoa returning from injury. That is a crowded bullpen as things stand now and moving Iglesias isn’t likely to hurt the Braves’ 2024 prospects much. Additionally, a guy like Iglesias with the track record and team control he has would fetch a nice return in a trade which would help the Braves restock their minor league system which needs an infusion of talent.

Is moving Iglesias altogether likely? Maybe not. However, if Josh Hader’s market becomes really competitive this offseason, the Braves would be wise to talk to the teams that end up missing out on him to see if they can work a deal that is to their advantage to move Iglesias to set themselves up for further success down the road.

The Braves need to sign Seth Lugo


While a good chunk of the quality free agent starters are still available, a lot of the guys that felt like the best fits for the Braves are not. Sonny Gray signed with the Cardinals, the Braves tried for Aaron Nola and failed to steal him away from the Phillies, and Eduardo Rodriguez just recently inked a deal with the Diamondbacks. With the Braves being generally reluctant to hand out lengthy free agent deals to pitchers, one name that remains available and who could be very interesting is Seth Lugo.

Lugo isn’t a name that has a lot of recognition nationally, but he was kinda awesome in San Diego last season after the Padres converted him back into a starter. In 26 starts in 2023, Lugo posted a 3.57 ERA while limiting walks and keeping the ball on the ground. While his ability to miss bats took a step backward after the transition back to starting, that could also mean that there is even more upside than that as he gets used to having a starter’s workload.

While Atlanta is in the mix for Lugo, it is sounding like the Red Sox are pushing hard to bring him to Boston. Before the offseason, Lugo was expected to sign a two or three year deal at $10-12 million a year. At that price point, Atlanta needs to be players for him. If he somehow starts getting significantly more than that, evaluating other options on the free agent market may be wise as the allure of a 33 year old arm that only recently became a starter again drops off a good bit as his price goes up.

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