Michael Soroka trade: Why Braves moved five players, including former All-Star, to relieve White Sox

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The Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox engaged in the first major trade of the offseason late Thursday night. Atlanta acquired lefty reliever Aaron Bummer from the ChiSox for a five-player package: righty Michael Soroka, lefty Jared Shuster, infielders Nicky Lopez and Braden Shewmake, and minor league righty Riley Gowens. Both teams have announced the trade.

Bummer, 30, had an ugly 6.79 ERA in 58 1/3 innings in 2023, though he pitched to a 2.59 ERA from 2019-22, and his on-base numbers were very strong. The gap between Bummer’s ERA and FIP (3.58) was the largest of any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched in 2023. The Braves are betting on a positive regression and Bummer a ‘ return to his pre-2023 form.





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Bummer walks a bit too much (13.5% vs. 8.6% MLB average), though he is excellent at getting missing bats and ground balls, and limits weak contact as well. That is a very strong foundation. Bummer is also affordable. He is owed $5.5 million in 2024 with club options for 2025 ($7.25 million) and 2026 ($7.5 million). He is a long-term addition for the defending NL East champions.

The Braves now have two top lefty relievers in Bummer and AJ Minter, plus 2021 postseason hero Tyler Matzek should return from Tommy John surgery in early 2024, perhaps even in time for the Opening Day. Quality lefty relievers are a must when sharing a position with Jazz Chisholm Jr., Bryce Harper, Brandon Nimmo, and Kyle Schwarber, among others.

For the White Sox, this trade adds inventory and some upside. The 26-year-old Soroka is the biggest name, though injury kept him off the mound in 2021 and 2022, and he had a 6.40 ERA in 32 1/3 big league innings in 2023. With a projected salary in the $3 million range, the former All-Star was a candidate to go without an offer before Friday’s deadline. He will be a free agent after 2024.

Shuster, 25, was the No. 25 pick in the 2020 draft. He made his MLB debut in 2023 and posted a 5.81 ERA in 52 2/3 innings with the Braves, and had a 5.01 ERA in 79 Triple-A. Shuster took a step back this season, though he is a recent first-round pick and has pedigree to look forward to. The White Sox are clamoring to get Shuster on the way, and he will be a rotation building block.

Like Soroka, the 28-year-old Lopez was a non-tendered candidate with a projected salary in the $4 million range. He is not much of a hitter, although he is a talented defender. Shewmake, 25, was the No. 21 pick in the 2021 draft. He had a rough season in Triple-A (.234/.299/.407), but like Lopez, he’s a very good defender, and is a candidate to replace Tim Anderson at shortstop.

Gowens was Atlanta’s ninth round pick in this summer’s draft. He allowed three runs in 15 2/3 innings in the minors in his debut. The 24-year-old was drafted as a senior out of Illinois and has dominant fastball data and a promising slider. As the fifth piece in the trade, Gowens is a good option as a reliever who could move quickly.

For the Braves, they turned two non-tendered candidates (Lopez and Soroka) and some unnecessary depth (Shewmake and Shuster) into potential left fielders at a time when they are all set to To win the World Series. The trade also clears the way for Vaughn Grissom to be the primary backup under center behind Ozzie Albies and Orlando Arcia next year.

Atlanta has been the most active team in the early days of the offseason, notably re-signing relievers Joe Jiménez and Pierce Johnson to multi-year deals, and now trading Bummer. Adding a head start is said to be a priority and that will remain the case, not that Soroka and Shuster were more than depth options going into 2024.

Meanwhile, the White Sox turned one of their major trading chips into four rolls of the dice. Shuster and Shewmake could carve out long-term careers if they get going, Gowens has a chance to help down the road, and Soroka could be a valuable trade chip at the end. day if he stays healthy and sets up well early next season.

This is the first significant move in the Chris Getz era for the White Sox. Getz was named senior vice president and general manager last month, replacing longtime general manager Rick Hahn. Chicago is expected to take a step back and rebuild after going 61-101 in 2023.

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