On November 24, the Braves inked 37-year-old Charlie Morton to a one-year 15 million dollar contract. This comes a few weeks after the same team gave a one-year 11 million dollar deal to Drew Smyly.
Neither of these come as that much of a surprise as Alex Anthopoulos has made a trend of signing veteran pitchers to one-year deals in hopes of getting a great return. 2020 was a complete failure on that front, where Felix Hernandez opted out due to Covid reasons and Cole Hamels started one game before shutting it down due to injury.
This year has promise, but neither of these guys shout “World Series Signing”. Charlie Morton stands with a career ERA of 4.08 and Smyly a loaded 4.13. Some of this could be bad luck, bad defense, or just where they played, but it doesn’t exactly put the fans at ease.
Coming into the season, the Braves starting pitching lineup could look something like this: Soroka, Fried, Morton, Anderson, Smyly. Now it’s a safe bet that Soroka will not be ready for some time and will present an opportunity for young arms such as Kyle Wright who we saw have some success last year, Tucker Davidson who had one appearance last year before getting hammered by Boston, and Kyle Muller who was recently added to the 40 man roster.
It’s likely that Kyle Wright will get the first crack in as the starter in the meantime, given his experience in the MLB, and Muller provides the biggest intrigue due to no time in the MLB. Muller has an impressive fastball which bodes well when you see his strikeout numbers.
But if you dig a little deeper, he seems to want to paint the corners, he has a high walk rate while allowing very few home runs. This would suggest he does not miss over the heart of the plate very often, but rather off the corners or in the dirt.
Having a few guys that try their hand at starting early in the season could be a blessing for the Braves, Morton and Smyly have struggled to stay healthy throughout their careers and in the event one gets shut down or goes on IL, you have guys that can come up and get the job done.
Still, these contracts don’t look appealing when you have a loaded farm system of arms. Also, Braves fans have to see that as potential Ozuna or other bigger FA’s signing money just disappearing.