So far, the Atlanta Braves are the only team to make a significant move in their bullpen this offseason, and they’ve now made THREE of those moves.
Now they’re signing Reynaldo Lopez to add to their collection of high-priced relievers:
Wow. So that’s three years and $30 million guaranteed, but the fourth year is an effective $4 million decision, so it’s either three and $30 million, or four and $34 million. The crowd at FanGraphs had Lopez projected at just two years and $12 million, so this blows that away. Credit to Ben Clemens, though, as he pegged it at 3/$27M, and MLBTR nailed it at 3/$30M.
Lopez, 30 in January, was long a disappointing starter with the White Sox, never quite able to full tap into the considerable upside seen in him as a prospect. But in 2022, his first full year in relief, Lopez was dominant (2.76 ERA, 1.93 FIP), and in 2023, he was still very good (3.27 ERA) despite his walk rate shooting past 10% and his HR rate stabilizing to something more like normal (and despite having to shuffle among three teams). If you buy the last two years as who Lopez really is, then he’s going to be worth this contract and then some.
But here’s the interesting thing:
A legit claim? Just preserving leverage in the market as they pursue other starting pitchers?
Well, it’s possible it could be legit, as the Braves might believe they can do what the White Sox never could (ERA and FIP near 5 as a starter), but I’ve gotta think it’s at least a little bit about the fact that the Braves are known to be pursuing top starting pitchers this offseason. Rather than have their backs against the wall in that process, they now have a little bit of cover to keep agents from squeezing them, and also a little bit of cover in case they actually do have to use Lopez as a starter.
The signing makes a ton of sense regardless, because the Braves have a mighty positional core in place for multiple years, but don’t have a ton of prospect talent on the way (and have clear pitching needs).
Also, this is what the Braves do: they make their moves early in the offseason. It works well for them.