MLB

1 2 3 15

Turning The Ship Around

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is July 10th, and the Atlanta Braves (43-44) are playing the Miami Marlins (38-50).

Jazz Chisholm Jr. hits a ball into deep right field off Max Fried in the bottom of the 5th inning with Acuna Jr. tracking the ball in right field. Acuna leaps at the right field wall and lands awkwardly resulting in a season ending ACL tear for the Braves perennial MVP candidate.

I think I am speaking for all Braves fans when I say that the Acuna injury seemed to be the moment to write the Braves off for the 2021 season as they were struggling to stay at .500% in a less than thrilling NL East race.

However, Braves General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos, and the rest of the organization thought differently and it’s turning out to be one of the best developing MLB storylines of the season.

Just about the only positive thing about Acuna’s injury for the Braves was the fact it happened before the MLB trade deadline, allowing the Braves to revamp their struggling outfield.

The Braves began their acquisitions by getting Joc Pederson from the Cubs on July 16th and proceeded to add Jorge Soler from the Royals, Eddie Rosario from Cleveland, and retrieved Adam Duvall from the Marlins all on July 30th.

These trades looked good when they were made and are seemingly only appearing to get better as they’ve helped completely turn the Braves struggling season around.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of this was the fact that the Braves were able to make these moves without jeopardizing their future in salary space.

Bringing Adam Duvall back to Atlanta is proving to be one of the best moves of the year, not just at the deadline, as he currently leads the National League in RBIs.

Pederson, Rosario, and Soler have all put together many solid outings as well as making a few clutch plays late in games since arriving in Atlanta.

Not many people thought much of the Braves after the way the first half of the season looked, however, the main point of consistency throughout the season has been the Braves infield.

Freeman, Albies, Swanson, and Riley are each having career years, and each infielder has reached the 25+ home run mark on the season making them the second infield in MLB history to ever accomplish such a feat.

This new Braves outfield has helped this year’s injury riddled team turn the corner, turning a four-game division deficit into a division lead.

I have a feeling that this division title might be a little sweeter than years past and as we all know, anything can happen in the postseason.

The New Titan

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Prior to the NFL Draft in late April, Atlanta Falcons first year general manager Terry Fontenot talked about trading Julio Jones.

Since then, I’ve been waiting to see where he would end up. We don’t have to wait any longer because he was traded to the Tennessee Titans.

Atlanta will receive a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick for sending Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to Tennessee. I think the Titans won this trade. Julio is a seven-time Pro Bowler and a top three wide receiver in the league at least. I think Atlanta should have received a first-round pick for him.

The Titans are already a good team, finishing 11 – 5 last season and winning the AFC South. The year before that they advanced to the AFC Championship game.

Tennessee has great skill players already. Derrick Henry led the league in rushing with 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 15th in the league in pass yards with 3,819. He is tied for 7th in passing TD’s with Deshaun Watson, throwing 33 of them with only 7 interceptions.

Wide receiver A.J. Brown had 70 receptions for 1,075 yards and 11 scores. Corey Davis had 65 catches for 984 yards and 5 touchdowns. He signed with the New York Jets in the offseason, so Julio is essentially replacing him.

The Titans have not had two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season since 2004. That should change in 2021. The biggest winner in the trade is Brown.

“It takes some of the tension off of me and with Derrick (Henry) and Ryan (Tannehill) with Anthony (Fisker),” Brown told ESPN on Sunday. “Having another dominant guy on the other side, everybody has to be honest. Now, you don’t know who’s going to hold who. I may get CB1 or Julio may get CB1. But whoever gets CB2, [that cornerback] is going to be in trouble. It’s going to be fun.”

Tennessee obviously likes to run the ball a lot with Henry and throw play action passes off of that. Defenses would normally have to put eight men in the box to try to slow him down.

They faced eight defenders in the box on 23.1% of their snaps last season, more than any other team in the NFL. Adding Julio makes it difficult to do that now. At this point they basically have to pick their poison.

Their former offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith left to take over as head coach in Atlanta after the 2020 season. Todd Downing is entering his first season as OC in Nashville.

“We’ll look for ways to get him singled up, ways to help him with different coverage indicators and things like that,” Downing said of Brown. “See where we can move him around, expand his route tree a little bit and watch him have success as we expand it.”

The Titans ranked 28th in total defense last year, giving up 398.3 yards per game and 27.4 points per game. They only had 19 sacks in 2020 which is ranked 30th.

They did try to address that in free agency, signing corner back Janoris Jenkins, linebackers Bud Dupree and Jayon Brown.

They also signed defensive tackles Trevon Coley and Denico Autry. They drafted Virginia Tech corner Caleb Farley in the first round.

If Julio stays healthy, I think they will win the division again. The only AFC teams that are better on paper are Kansas City and Buffalo.

I’m looking forward to see how this season plays out and who Atlanta will draft with the picks they acquired.

Beaten Up

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Coming into the season Braves fans were excited about the success that Braves Baseball has seen throughout the past few seasons and hope to continue.

Just last October, the Braves lost in a heartbreaking NLCS Game-7 against the Dodgers.

Since then, the Braves Ball-Club and its fans have had one thing on their mind, ‘get back to the NLCS (if not the World Series)’.

As most of us know by now, the Braves are one of the best teams in the National League, but the NL East is nothing to mess with this season.

Coming off of three Division Titles in a row, the fourth is shaping up to be the hardest one yet for Manager Brian Snitker and company.

Throughout the offseason, Braves fans around the country were excited to see the ball club take the field after their deepest postseason run since 2001. However, things haven’t gone according to plan for the Braves so far this season.

The Braves are around .500. Not exactly where experts expected them to be at this point either, thus sending Braves Country into panic mode, with fans beginning to blame anyone who looks the part.

Therefore, each series against a divisional opponent will only get more and more important for the Atlanta Braves as we get deeper into the season.

However, as a fellow Braves fan, I wouldn’t push the panic button just yet, for these three reasons:

Injuries: Already this season, the Braves have seen more than their fair share listed on the Injured List. The IL currently sits with 9 players that the Braves consider major contributors to the three-time division champion.

Fortunately, none of these injuries have been season-threatening so the Braves lineup should be back together in no-time.

Ronald Acuná Jr.: We’re early into this MLB season and Ronald Acuna Jr. is putting together MVP number early on.

He’s hitting over .400 and his OPS is over 1.000 along with a ton of homeruns, which all lead the league in its category while also being tied for second in RBI’s.

Since Acuna came into the MLB, he has been a spark-plug for the Braves by continuously driving in runs and making outstanding plays in right field.

Unfortunately for the Braves, they will need more than just Acuna to be able to produce runs in order to get back to the top of the division.

Pitching Bullpen: The injuries for Atlanta’s pitchers so far this season have been difficult to overcome for Atlanta’s ball club.

Injuries to three of their best pitchers in their rotation definitely hurts depth throughout the entire bullpen.

Unfortunately, that’s where the Braves are. Although the Braves came away with a 3-2 record over their most recent road-trip, they have exposed their bullpen depth early and often.

The conversation surrounding Atlanta’s bullpen coming into the season appeared to be one to have the Braves Bullpen as one of their biggest assets.

However, If the rotation continues to be shaky throughout the season. Don’t be surprised if General Manager Alex Anthopoulos makes some moves to keep the Braves in contention for the NLCS/World Series.

A large part of the early season mishaps for the Braves have been due to injury, but only time will tell if the injuries continue to be a theme throughout the entire MLB season.

Let The Kids Play

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

After watching the Braves vs. Nationals, I began to think about the same debate that has gone on since the two made their Major League Debut in 2018.

Who would you prefer as a centerpiece for your baseball franchise, Ronald Acuná Jr. or Juan Soto?

Juan Soto hit a walkoff single to win the Season Opener for the Washington Nationals and extend the Braves losing streak to four games.

In that same game Acuña hit two solo shot homers off of Max Scherzer and one of those being the first pitch of the ball game.

Acuña has played a pivotal role in the Braves three consecutive division championships, whereas Juan Soto was a key contributor for the Nationals World Series victory over the Houston Astros in 2019.

Juan Soto is just about 10-months younger than Ronald Acuña Jr. and both have had an immense impact on their teams, as well as sending ripples throughout the MLB with their top-tier talent displayed on the field.

Their MLB debuts were both within a month of one another and neither of the two have looked back since… so why not take a look and see how they stack up against one another at the beginning of their fourth season.

Ronald Acuña Jr.: Career Stats: .281 AVG/.371 OBP/.911 OPS, 83 Home Runs, 61 Doubles, 198 RBI’s, with 63 Stolen Bases.

Throughout Acuna’s time in Atlanta, he is probably most known for his spark and swagger while he plays the game.

As a result, the Braves coaching staff decided to insert Ronald at the top of the batting lineup in order to ‘get the ball rolling’ and it’s fair to say it works more often than not.

Ronald gets a lot of respect at the plate but that often results in the fans overlooking what he is capable of in the outfield. With his terrific speed and a cannon for an arm, Acuña is consistently a threat to throw anyone out from his position in right field.

Which is just further proof of why Acuña is consistently in the mix for a National League MVP, along with his teammate Freedie Freeman the 2020 National League MVP.

There is no doubt about the electricity Ronald provides Braves Country but the downside for Acuña would be that his arrogance gets the best of the 23-year-old at times.

Most say that will come with time as he will mature throughout his career in Atlanta.

However, Acuña has already acquired outstanding awards such as the NL Rookie of the Year in 2018 as well as the Silver Slugger Award in 2019 and 2020.

Juan Soto: Career Stats: .285 AVG/.416 OBP/.971 OPS, 69 Home Runs, 71 Doubles, 218 RBI’s, with just 24 Stolen Bases.

After being a runner-up to Acuna’s rookie of the year honors in 2018, Soto has been one of the most dependable guys on a daily basis in all of baseball.

He put his name on the map with his performances throughout the 2019 postseason, where the Nationals won their first and only World Series Title with the help of Soto’s clutch performances.

Soto delivered again and again for Washington in that playoff run and continues to play well under the spotlight.

Soto is much better at waiting for his pitch than Acuña is, helping him to his impressive on base percentage at .416 through his career thus far.

However, the biggest difference between these two players would be speed.

Soto is just not able to match the speed and strength that Acuna brings to the table each night.

At the same time, Soto’s poise on the big stage, as well as his calm demeanor is what seems to make him slightly more attractive to some people than Acuña.

Safe to say that both these outstanding outfielders are two of the best in the game, but who would you rather build your baseball club around, Acuña or Soto?

 

 

4-Peat?

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NL East is the best overall division in Major League Baseball.

The Braves, Mets, and Nationals could all finish over .500 on the season. In 2019 the last full season before the pandemic four teams finished at .500 or better in this stacked division.

Let take a look at each team:

Miami Marlins: The Marlins made the playoffs in the pandemic shortened season of 2020, and eliminated the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs before the Braves ended their season.

This team has one of the top farm systems in baseball and just continues to produce talent.

Sixto Sanchez is one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Starling Marte is an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in the outfield and will be surrounded by all of that younger talent. This team will continue to improve.

Washington Nationals: The Nationals won the World Series in 201, and finished last in the division in 2020.

They still have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin in this rotation, so they will be in just about every game.

Juan Soto is a superstar and they have Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell potentially surrounding him in the line-up. How will this bullpen perform in 2021? That is the question surrounding this team.

Philadelphia Phillies: This team has spent a lot of money on free agents over the past couple of seasons but still floats around the .500 mark in the standings.

Bryce Harper is only 28 years old and will probably have a monster season and you have J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius.

The core is there, but will this pitching staff hold up? Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have to have great seasons for this team to contend.

NY Mets:  The Mets have become the trendy pick by most everyone to win the NL East.

Can this team be consistent enough to win the division? That is a huge question mark in my mind.

Pete Alonzo will probably hit 40+ HR’s, and the Francisco Lindor trade was huge offensively and defensively.

Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Marcus Stroman will lead this pitching staff. This team has good pitching and will hit a lot of HR’s.

Something to watch down the stretch is can Noah Syndergaard return this summer from his Tommy John surgery? If he does and is effective then this could tilt the NL East in the Mets favor.

Atlanta Braves:  We all know the Braves are one of the best teams in baseball. Freddie Freeman is the reigning MVP and Ronald Acuna Jr. is a young superstar.

The Braves resigned Marcell Ozuna. The Braves signed Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to beef up the starting rotation.

How quickly can Mike Soroka regain form in 2021 after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon last season?

Can Kyle Wright be the starter the Braves envisioned when they drafted him?

The everyday line-up is the best in the division if the Braves play Cristian Pache in CF.

Who will grab the closer job?

 

My NL East Predictions:

Atlanta Braves: 93-69

NY Mets: 91-71

Washington Nationals: 88-74

Miami Marlins: 78-84

Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

I see the Braves winning the NL East in the last weekend of the regular season.

 

 

 

The Rookies

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Let’s take a look at a couple of young Atlanta Braves that could be depended on heavily to get the Braves back to the NLCS and perhaps further.

Other than Max Fried in 2020 the only other consistent starter in the Braves rotation was Ian Anderson.

Anderson came up late in the season and was amazing in the playoffs. In his six regular season starts Anderson posted an ERA of 1.95. He has good stuff; a fastball in the mid 90’s, a curve in the 87-88 mph range, and a change that has been improving.

Anderson is projected to be in the starting rotation for the Braves along with Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly, Mike Soroka, and Max Fried.

That rotation on paper is in much better shape than the 2020 rotation. Soroka got hurt early in the season and Cole Hamels, well don’t get me started there.

While the 2021 Braves will be in better shape in the starting rotation than the previous season. how will that rotation stack up against the Dodgers, Padres, and even maybe the Mets?

Back to Anderson, what does he have to improve upon?

He must continue to develop his change-up as a valid out pitch to keep hitters off balance. He must also throw more strikes. Anderson can pile up some pitch counts, and he needs to stay in games longer. Actually, the entire staff needs to stay in games longer due to some questions surrounding the bullpen with the departure of Mark Melancon and the status of Shane Greene.

Braves starters must start consistently pitch into the 6th or 7th innings in games or I think the team could struggle this year.

If Anderson can stay healthy, he has a decent shot at winning 14-17 games this season and maybe Rookie Of The Year.

Another contender for Rookie Of The Year is outfielder Cristian Pache.

Pache was called up by the Braves in last August and was added to the playoff roster and hit his first MLB homerun in game 3 of the NLCS.

At only 22 years of age Pache had only four regular season at bats for the Braves, but shined in the spotlight of the NLCS, as he started six games after Adam Duvall was injured.

Going into 2021, it looks like Marcell Ozuna in LF, Ronald Acuna Jr. in RF, and either Pache or Ender Inciarte in CF.

Inciarte was left off of the Braves 2020 playoff roster and that opens the door for the 22-year Pache to take over in CF for Atlanta.

Pache is already the best defensive outfielder on the team, he is fast, and his power as a hitter is developing. Pache is still developing as an overall player, but needs to be in the line-up every day to take advantage of his potential.

The outfield combo of Acuna and Pache could be a special one to watch over the next decade in Atlanta.

If I had to choose from the two above give me Anderson, because the Braves seem to have this fascination with Ender Inciarte that could limit Pache’s development.

Anderson was 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in the postseason. He should get a full season of starts in to be in contention for the NL ROY.

Fountain Of Youth

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

After three straight NL East Titles, The Atlanta Braves are looking to make it a fourth as long as they can keep a healthy lineup heading into the 2021 season.

A season ago the Braves were just one game away from a trip to the World Series and showing the world of baseball how good this young Atlanta team is, but Mookie Betts and company stood in the way.

Atlanta’s Bullpen fizzled out late in the NLCS against the Dodgers and ultimately turned out to be the breaking point for the Braves.

However, Atlanta was unable to showcase all of their talent last season due to injury. Mike Soroka was an All-Star for the Braves in the 2019 season going 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA, before tearing his achilles tendon just three starts into the 2020 season.

In the absence of Soroka, the Atlanta bullpen leaned on Max Fried, who had a record of 7-0 and a 2.25 ERA last season.

Alongside Fried was the Braves pitching standout throughout the playoffs and into October, Ian Anderson.

Anderson played great in his rookie season and even better throughout his first playoff appearances. Anderson won all three Game 2’s against the Reds, Marlins, and Dodgers before coming up short in Game 7 against the Dodgers.

Hoping these three starters stay healthy for Atlanta, the Braves returning pitchers are a force to be reckoned with.

Atlanta went out and signed Charlie Morton to add to the rotation. Morton is back where his MLB Career began 12 years ago. Morton signed a one-year deal with the Braves to add yet another strong arm to an already loaded starting staff. \

Much like Ian Anderson, the Braves had another young star show flashes of great potential throughout the NLCS against the Dodgers. Christian Pache did much more than what he needed to do when he was thrown onto the field in the NLCS after an Adam Duvall injury.

Since then, the 21-year-old hasn’t flinched and is drawing comparisons from teammates to Braves great, Andruw Jones.

Over this three to four year stint of Braves NL East titles it seems that they have a never ending pool of youth to pull from. It seems like yesterday that Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies had taken the Braves fan base by storm.

Yet, here we are again with another great addition to the team so early in his career. Not to mention, Atlanta is also returning the 2020 NL MVP in first baseman Freddie Freeman, who has been nothing but great for the Braves since he arrived in 2009.

As they should, Braves executives have awarded their Manager Brian Snitker to a contract through the 2023 season for his success since 2016.

Snitker knows the Braves organization inside and out, from the minors to the majors, being around for 45 years gives you that privilege.

However, still on Snitker’s agenda is to bring a World Series trophy back to Atlanta for the first time since 1995.

Acuna Matata

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks.

The Major League Baseball season is quickly approaching and it is time to start talking baseball, while the Kansas City Chiefs are in the process of winning back-to-back Super Bowls.

Back to my topic, who the most exciting player in baseball?

That answer is easy to me his name is Ronald Acuna Jr. Is there a more beautiful swing in all of baseball than his? The ball just explodes off his bat.

I have been watching videos of him hitting bombs this offseason in his native Venezuela with the classic bat flip and doing some humanitarian work in a once great country that has been ravaged by a dictator.

The pandemic shortened season of 2020 kept Acuna from chasing the 40-40 HR/Stolen base club. He blasted 14 home runs in just 46 games and 202 plate appearances.

Acuna recorded 40 hits with 25 of them going for extra bases. He battled a nagging wrist injury that hampered him all of last season.  Acuna had an OBP of .406 which is outstanding and walked 38 times in those 202 plate appearances.

The offensive stats are always going to be there with Acuna. The consistency of where he plays in the field has not.

Cristian Pache’s arrival in center field means that Acuna will move permanently to his natural spot of right field, where he can settle in defensively. Acuna has been blessed by the Baseball God’s with a cannon for a right arm.

Back to Acuna and the 40/40 club discussion. Becoming a member of the 40–40 club is an elusive achievement in modern American baseball, as very few players possess both the power to hit 40 home runs and the speed to steal 40 bases in a season.

Generally, a player with the strength to hit 40 home runs will not have nearly the speed necessary to steal 40 bases, and vice versa.

There are only four members of the 40/40 club in the history of baseball:

 

Members of the 40–40 club:

Year/Player/Team/HR/SB

1988    Jose Canseco   Oakland Athletics        42        40

1996    Barry Bonds     San Francisco Giants   42        40

1998    Alex Rodriguez            Seattle Mariners         42        46

2006    Alfonso Soriano           Washington Nationals           46        41

 

In 2019 Acuna barely missed the elite club by belting 41 HR’s and stealing 37 bases. Acuna could be the first player to achieve this milestone more than once in his career.

I actually think in the next 5 years Acuna will be the only man in MLB history to reach the 50/50 club.

The 2021 Braves are good enough to win the World Series. Probably should have beat the Dodgers in 2020 but we will chalk that up to lack of playoff experience.

I do know this, if I’m looking for one player to build a baseball team around it would be Ronald Acuna Jr.

He is a generational talent, and I would not be surprised if he wins the NL MVP in 2021.

The Braves have him signed to a long-term deal, but soon will have to renegotiate that deal to make Acuna one of the highest paid players in the game.

Braves fans, baseball season is almost upon us, and I hope we enjoy the next few years because they have the potential to be special, and Ronald Acuna Jr. will be the best player in baseball during that run.

Heavy Is The Head

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

If there’s a problem with success, it’s the expectation of repeating it. That’s the case in many walks of life, and so it is in Major League Baseball. Winning teams are expected to follow up successful seasons with more successful seasons.

For the Atlanta Braves, who have now won three consecutive National League East Division Championships, they are expected to repeat that feat a fourth time. Especially, given the youth of the team and the starting rotation holes from 2020 that GM Alex Anthopoulos has already taken steps to fill in the guise of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly.

In fact, the crown likely lies even heavier, given that the Braves went (much) deeper into the playoffs in 2020 than in the previous two seasons, coming within one game of the World Series.

With that on their recent record, Atlanta will be looked at to not just win their division, but to advance to the World Series in 2021 as well.

But there are some teams that would like to stop them and since we often talk about why a team will win, let’s look instead at the four teams that might stop the Braves’ quest to four-peat, in order of least concerning to most concerning.

  1. The Washington Nationals-The crazy thing here, and really about this division in general, is that the Nationals are not a bad team.

They have a top-tier pitching staff that couldn’t stay on the field in 2020, and they won the whole thing just 2 years ago (admittedly with the help of an MVP-caliber Anthony Rendon).

They’re really only one or two good pieces away from being back in the trophy hunt and word is that they’ve been meeting with top free agents like JT Realmuto.

Which brings up to the team he may not be returning to:

  1. The Philadelphia Phillies-They really should have been much, much better in 2019.

They spent tons of money bringing in players to shape their lineup into something intimidating, and then they just…didn’t win.

Bryce Harper was signed and then surrounded by loads of other acquisitions, but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

Now Realmuto, arguably the next-best player on their team and inarguably the best catcher in the game, is a free agent and may walk.

I couldn’t really pinpoint what it is that makes the Phillies not work right now – though certainly their rotation isn’t as good as ¾ of the rest of the division – and neither can they.

But the thing that separates them from the Nats is that they could flip a switch without really making any roster changes and be a huge threat in the division.

  1. The Miami Marlins-The other team from the NL East to make it to the playoffs in 2020, the Marlins starting rotation is young and gifted in a way that only the Braves can even come close to touching in the division.

They leaned on Sixto Sanchez, Pablo Lopez, and Sandy Alcantara last year, and it served them very well.

There’s no reason to believe that Derek Jeter and the rest of the Marlins brass is going to waste that kind of talent in their primes and a few moves to bolster their lineup could make Miami the toast of the division.

1.The New York Mets-That’s right, the New York Mets. This might seem like a crazy choice for the top threat in the NL East to unseat Atlanta’s three-year stint on the throne, but there are few things scarier than a new owner with a vision and a deep, deep wallet.

They’ve already got Jacob DeGrom, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball and Noah Syndergaard will be back with a vengeance after missing last year due to injury.

New owner Steven Cohen could very well fund new GM Jared Porter to go out and add Trevor Bauer to the rotation too and he could make a lucrative offer to Realmuto, or put together a trade package for Nolan Arenado wherein the Mets absorb his massive contract.

The point is, there’s a new top dog in New York, and that brings the threat of a massive upheaval in an attempt to make a splash and a statement in 2021.

Granted, that doesn’t always work (see #3), but it should be enough to strike at least a little questioning fear in the heart of Braves Country.

Arming Up

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Braves have signed their second veteran starter this offseason, announcing that they’ve agreed to a one-year pact with right-hander Charlie Morton.

The contract will pay Morton a guaranteed $15M for the 2021 season.

Morton joins southpaw Drew Smyly, who inked a one-year deal worth $11M earlier in the offseason, as two new faces who’ll round out the Braves’ rotation behind Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Ian Anderson.

The addition of Morton and Smyly likely pushes Kyle Wright out of the Atlanta rotation, and likely back to Triple A Gwinnett to start the 2021 season.

Sean Newcomb, Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint, Huascar Ynoa, Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel and Jasseel De La Cruz don’t really have a shot at being part of the rotation going into the 2021 season.

Soroka is still recovering from his season ending Achilles injury may need some extra time to recover, and may not be available to start the season in April.

The Braves have quality arms on the roster and in the farm system they could part ways with some of those arms to build up other areas of the roster.

Morton is 37 years old and a short-term fit but he should bolster the Braves’ rotation.

He’s 47-18 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 in the past four seasons.

The only four starting pitchers in baseball over that span who’ve matched Morton’s ERA, WHIP and K/9 in as many innings are Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Morton has also been a solid in the playoffs something the Braves will need in the short term as this team is a World Series contender.

Morton and Smyly make the Braves the favorites again in the NL East and maybe the National League in 2021. The Dodgers are still the team to beat and the Braves are right there nipping at their heels.

This will be Morton’s second stint with the Braves. The Atlanta Braves selected Morton in the third round with the 95th overall selection of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft.

The Braves added Morton to their 40-man roster on November 20, 2007. Morton made his major league debut on June 14, 2008.

On June 3, 2009, the Braves traded Morton with Gorkys Hernández and Jeff Locke to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Nate McLouth. Any Braves fan remember that trade?

I think adding a veteran like Morton to this rotation makes the Braves a much better team. It is a short-term fix for a team that can win a world championship next season, and a great bargain for $15M.

It is also cheaper than the failed Cole Hamels experiment from 2020 that provided no ROI.

Biggest question now for Atlanta is will the National League adopt the designated hitter rule permanently in 2021 so they can resign Marcell Qzuna?

If they can’t the Braves are going to have to package some of those arms listed above in a package to sign another power hitter to insert in the lineup.

I’m still not sure about third base for the Braves also. I feel like the Braves need to address that position this off season.

With the signing of Morton, the Braves will have one of the top rotations in MLB.

1 2 3 15