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Braves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player deal

The Braves announced the acquisition of the reliever Aaron disappointing from the White Sox for a five-player package. Chicago acquires starters Michael Soroka And Jared Shusterinfielders Nicky Lopez And Braden Showmake and minor league right-hander Riley Gowens. All but Gowens occupy spots on their teams’ 40-man roster.

Bummer, a 30-year-old left-hander, had spent his entire career with the ChiSox. He went from an overlooked 19th-round selection to one of the most quietly excellent setup men in the game. Bummer broke out in 2019, when he posted a 2.13 ERA in 67 2/3 innings thanks to a staggering 72.1% of players on the ground.

The following February, Chicago signed Bummer to a long-term extension. Various injuries plagued him between 2020 and 2022, as he spent time on the shelf with biceps and lat issues in his throwing arm and a sprained right knee. Bummer remained effective when healthy, putting up a 2.92 ERA during that span.

Braves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player deal

This strong brand of run prevention collapsed last season. Bummer was tagged for nearly seven of nine earned runs in 58 1/3 innings. Among pitchers with more than 50 frames, only 12 had an ERA higher than his 6.79 mark. While this makes this move a real headache for many Atlanta fans, it’s clear that the front office places much more importance on Bummer’s promising underlying metrics.

Bummer has struck out an above-average rate of 29.2% of batters faced this year. He has fanned just under 27% of opponents during his career. He averaged 94.5 MPH on his sinker (a solid mark for a lefty) and missed bats against hitters on both sides. While it no longer publishes ground figures that recall the peak Zach Britton, he kept the ball on the ground with a high rate of 58.2%. This is the 10th highest rate among relievers with at least 50 innings.

Granted, Bummer is not a perfect pitcher. Although he tends to keep the ball on the ground, he gives up quite a few hard contacts. He has well below average control and walked more than 13% of opposing batters last season. Although a high batting average on balls in play was a major reason for his disappointing ’23 campaign, he didn’t do himself any favors by handing out so many free passes.

The Braves clearly feel Bummer’s results will be more in line with what he managed before this year. He joins AJ Minter And Tyler Matzek as potential high-leverage options on the left side. Pierce Johnson And Joe Jimenez are righties in the middle of the late inning to help close the gap to get closer Raisel Iglesias.

If Bummer returns to form, he could be a longer-term part of the bullpen. He’ll earn $5.5 million next season in the final guaranteed year of the aforementioned extension. He is guaranteed a $1.25 million buyout on a $7.25 million club option for 2025, while the deal also contains a $7.5 million team option ( with a $1.25 million buyout) for the 2026 season.

This is a consolidation trade for a now-winning Atlanta team that can afford to target specific players it plans to finalize a championship-caliber roster. The White Sox are in the opposite position. Fresh off a 101-loss season, first-year general manager Chris Getz decided to add depth to a team that had become way too top-heavy.

Trading one reliever for five players – four of whom are MLB options – is one way to do that. While none of the big four leaguers are near the peak of their trade value, it’s easy to imagine that one of them will play a role on the 2024 White Sox from day one.

Soroka is perhaps the most recognizable name. A former first-round pick and top prospect, he earned an All-Star nod and a second-place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2019. Soroka had pitched to a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts during his age 21 season. He looked like one of the brightest young pitchers in the sport before his career was sidetracked by a horrific injury.

Braves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player dealBraves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player deal

The right-hander suffered successive tears of his right Achilles tendon nine months apart in 2020 and 2021. The injuries cost him nearly two full seasons. While he returned to the mound in 2023, he struggled to a 6.40 ERA in seven big league outings. Soroka had a little more success in Triple-A. Over 17 starts with their primary affiliate in Gwinnett, he had a 3.41 ERA with an above-average strikeout rate of 25.9%. Forearm inflammation ended his season in September but is not expected to require surgery.

Soroka accrued MLB service time throughout his injury rehabilitation. As a result, he has more than five years of service and will be a free agent next winter. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a salary of $3 million for him in his final arbitration season. This made him a no-call candidate for Atlanta, especially since he can no longer be offered to the minors. The White Sox are apparently willing to commit something in that range to see if he can return to mid-rotation or better form.

Chicago has almost nothing in terms of rotation locks beyond Dylan Cease. Soroka now looks likely to get that opportunity. He could be joined by Shuster, a former first-round pick out of Wake Forest. The left-hander earned an Opening Day rotation spot with Atlanta a season ago. He struggled in his first MLB appearance, allowing a 5.81 ERA with a well-below-average strikeout rate of 13% over 52 2/3 innings.

Shuster had similarly discouraging numbers in Gwinnett. He was marked to a 5.01 ERA over 16 starts with the Stripers. He struck out just 17.9% of batters in Triple-A while walking 12.6% of opponents. While there aren’t many positives in Shuster’s performance in 2023, he is only a year away from being ranked among the best pitchers in the Atlanta system. He had posted a 3.29 ERA with a strong 26.2% strikeout rate in the minors in 2022, drawing praise for the potential for positive change along the way.

Braves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player dealBraves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player deal

At just 25 years old, Shuster could be fighting for a spot at the back of Chicago’s rotation come spring training. He still has two option years remaining and less than a year of MLB service. The Sox hope they can put his rough start behind him and reach the back-end projection of many potential evaluators.

In some ways, Shewmake is an analogue to Shuster as a position player. He’s also a former first-round college recruit who was a sensation in Atlanta as recently as last spring. The Texas A&M product had a big spring training that led to speculation that he could open the season as the Braves’ starting shortstop. Atlanta rolled with a veteran Orlando Arcia instead, a decision that worked out well.

Not only did Arcia put together an All-Star season, but Shewmake had a rough year in the minors. He hit .234/.298/.407 in 526 plate appearances for Gwinnett. He hit 16 home runs, but hit just .264 on balls in play, which helped keep his on-base percentage low.

Scouts are wondering what offensive potential left-handed hitting Shewmake brings to the table. He will soon be 26 years old and has only played two games in MLB. Still, he’s a plus runner who went 27 of 28 on stolen base attempts in Triple-A. Shewmake can play any spot in the middle of the field and has two minor league options.

Adding talent to the midfield was a necessity for Getz and his team. The Sox had almost nothing at second base, relying on Lenin Sosa And Romy Gonzalez there. After the buyout Tim Anderson, they were even lighter at shortstop. Shewmake could fight for a job, while Lopez seems likely to take on an everyday role at one of those positions.

The Sox know Lopez very well from his years with the Royals. The 28-year-old received elite grades for his defense at both midfield spots and in more limited time at third base. This is an all-glove profile, as Lopez has low-end power. He is a .228/.297/.284 hitter in 742 plate appearances over the past two seasons.

Braves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player dealBraves acquire Aaron Bummer in six-player deal

Lopez has between four and five years of service and is expected to earn an arbitration salary of $3.9 million. It seemed like a luxury for an Atlanta team that relies on Matt Olson, Ozzie AlbiesArcia and Austin Riley almost every day. That’s a more palatable sum for a team that will use Lopez as a regular at the bottom of the lineup — as the Sox now appear positioned to do.

The return is completed by Gowens, a 24-year-old right-hander who was selected in the ninth round of last summer’s draft. He pitched to a 6.30 ERA, but struck out nearly 28% of opponents in 12 starts during his junior year at Illinois. Baseball America praised the life of his fastball in its draft report, suggesting he could project as a reliever in pro ball.

This is an unexpected exchange made possible by the depth gap between the organizations. Atlanta could afford to package some players who fell to the bottom of the roster for a reliever with positive but legitimate question marks. Chicago is buying a handful of position-of-need players cheaply, hoping one or two can click and provide more value than they would have received from Bummer.

Images courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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