Braves' Updated Starting Rotation After Charlie Morton's Contract

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistNovember 24, 2020

Tampa Bay Rays' Charlie Morton winds up during the second inning of the team's baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

After reaching Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, the Atlanta Braves have taken steps address their biggest 2020 weakness. 

The Braves announced the signing of Charlie Morton to a one-year, $15 million deal Tuesday.

Combined with the signing of Drew Smyly last week, here's what Atlanta's pitching rotation will look like next season, per ESPN's Buster Olney:

Though Marcell Ozuna (1.067 OPS) is a free agent, the Braves offense still features several stars in Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr.

The unit led Major League Baseball with a .349 on-base percentage, .483 slugging percentage (tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers), weighted on-base average (.355) and FanGraphs' offensive value (65.2). Its 348 runs scored ranked second, behind the Dodgers (349). 

Outside Ian Anderson and Max Fried, starting pitching was an issue for Atlanta. That group finished 26th in FanGraphs wins above replacement (2.0), 28th in ERA (5.58) and 28th in strikeouts per nine innings (8.01). 

Mike Soroka, who made the NL All-Star team as a rookie in 2019, only made three starts before his season ended because of a torn Achilles.

The right-hander told MLB.com's Mark Bowman he hopes to be back within a "four- or five-month period." That would put him on track to be ready by January. Atlanta opens the regular season April 1 against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

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Morton's 4.74 ERA with the Rays last season was his highest since 2015, but some of that was just bad luck. His FIP was a respectable 3.45, and he still missed bats with 42 strikeouts in 38 innings. 

The postseason was also a reminder that Morton is great on the biggest stage. The 37-year-old had a 2.70 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 20 innings over four playoff starts. 

Smyly is a versatile pitcher capable of starting or coming out of the bullpen. He had a career-high 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings, along with a 3.42 ERA (2.01 FIP) in seven appearances (five starts) for the San Francisco Giants in 2020. 

Anderson and Fried are the present and future stars for the Braves. Anderson had a 1.95 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 32.1 innings after debuting on Aug. 26. Fried finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting last season thanks to a 2.25 ERA in 56 innings. 

After winning the NL East in each of the past three seasons, the Braves could be one of MLB's best teams again in 2021.