Is Atlanta Braves Reynaldo Like John Smoltz? Lopez

Out Of No Where

By: Charlie Moon news services

Oh come on, we all saw this coming, right?

Raise your hand if you knew the following: Prior to the 2024 Atlanta Braves campaign, a guy with one of the most unassuming names – Lopez – would not only lead the Braves in ERA, but as of June 26, all of Major League Baseball. Oh, come on, stop that!

I mean, Lopez? In the English language world of last names, you got names like Smith and Johnson. But in Hispanic culture, you have names like Fernandez and… Lopez. Who would have thought a guy that was destined for a velled middle relief spot in the Braves bullpen would sit atop MLB?

When you think of momentous trades and/or roster additions in Atlanta Braves and MLB history during my lifetime, a couple come to mind.

Probably the most recognizable and arguably, the most influential trade in Braves history, was for the man affectionately known around Braves Country as “Smoltzie.”

It was August 1987 and the Braves were still in their lovable losers days, while Detroit was in a heated AL-East race with the Blue Jays.

The Tigers needed one more starting piece to their rotation and they got it. The Braves sent veteran Doyle Alexander to the Tigers. Alexander went on to garner 10 wins in that short August – October span. The Tigers won the AL East by two games over the Blue Jays and lost in the ALCS to the Twins in five games.

And the Braves got an unknown kid named John Smoltz, who wasn’t even in the majors. He was in his rookie season, with the Tigers’ minor league affiliate, Lakeland, (FL) team.

Who knew then, that Smoltz would become one of the most renowned pitchers in Atlanta Braves history?

Who can forget the July 20, 1993 Fulton County Stadium fire in the press box prior to the game against the Cardinals?

The Braves were 8 games back of the San Francisco Giants. I guess it was a presage to McGriff’s own fire at the plate. He belted a tying home run in the 6th, enroute to an 8-5 win over St. Louis.

Call it six degrees of separation, but later I’ll tell you the Cardinals tie to Lopez’s big splash. McGriff went on to aid Atlanta in an epic 8-game division winning comeback in the second half of the season.

And that trade? The Braves sent OFs Melvin Nieves and Vince Moore and RHP Donnie Elliott to the San Diego Padres for McGriff. I’d say the Braves got the best of that one.

And now, Reynaldo Lopez? In most trade reports, you’ll see something like, “On November 20, 2023, the Braves added another reliever…..”

That’s right. Lopez has spent nearly all of his 9-year career in the bullpen. He went a combined 17-25 in 2018 and 2019 as a starter for the Chicago White Sox, but that’s pretty much it for the big, strong right-hander out of the Dominican Republic.

The rest of his nine years have almost all been in the pen.

That is – until now. Chris Sale and Max Fried have been phenomenal, combining to go 17-5. Sale has even been a pleasant surprise, since coming over from the Red Sox. That was a huge get for Atlanta itself.

But it’s been Lopez, from nowhere, that has stolen the show, from a numbers standpoint. Remember that tie-in with McGriff and the Cardinals?

Well, in Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Cardinals, Lopez went 5 innings and earned the win. But, it also put him over the required 75 innings to be on the MLB Leaderboard in ERA, at 1.70.

Look, between Braves GMs Schuerholz and current Alex Anthopoulos, they have been a lot of great trades and signings. But in the end, it may be one that came while we were all eating left-over turkey sandwiches during November’s hot stove league, that just might take the cake.