For Starters, The Braves Need Pitching Help In 2024

The big "Atlanta Braves" sign at the entrance to Truist Park

by John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

Going into the 2024 Major League Baseball Season, the Atlanta Braves had the best rated starting rotation, according to Sports Illustrated (and a host of other publications), and the second best odds to with the World Series. But in early April, a potential season-ending injury to fan-favorite Spencer Strider and a pair of bad outings by Max Fried (a potential free agent at the end of the year) put those chances of winning another title at risk. But how.

You don’t just go out and replace two top 5 Cy Young candidates easily. There are good arms in the minors, like Waldrep, Smith-Shawver, Schwellenbach, Vines) but they may need a little more seasoning, and rushing them up before they’re ready could make things worse, physically, and psychologically.

Former starting stars Ian Anderson could return from injury, but that’s going to happen later in the season at the earliest. And Bryce Elder needs work in the minors before he regains his All-Star form.

If the Braves are to repeat their 2021 World Series magic, they may have to do it the same way. G.M. extraordinaire Alex Anthopoulos found gems in the rough in the form of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Soler, as well as Adam Duvall. He’ll have to do the same for pitching in 2024 the way he handled hitting in 2021.

#1: Paul Blackburn. He’s thrown two quality starts for the lowly Oakland A’s, got a win, a WHIP (Walks Hits per Inning Pitched) of 0.54, 7 strikeouts for every walk, and a on base percentage against (OBPA) of only.149. Given how we’ve robbed the A’s of Sean Murphy and Matt Olson, Oakland may not want to deal. But given the emergence of Kyle Muller, they may give us another chance.

#2: Michael Wacha. We like dealing with KC. Wacha is a wiley veteran with good experience. With 6.5 strikeouts per walk, and a WHIP of 0.58, and an OBPA of .167 and a quality start, he could have Braves fans mimicking Fozzie Bear of the Muppets in the stadium.

#3: Max Meyer. When you win a game for the lackluster Miami Marlins, that’s something. He doesn’t have the same strikeout-to-walk rate as Blackburn or Wacha, but with a WHIP of only 0.73 and an OBPA of .195, he keeps runners off the bases.

#4: Zack Littell. Nobody trades away talent like the Tampa Bay Rays. And with a pitcher sporting 5.5 strikeouts per walk, a 1.00 WHIP and an OBPA of .262 and a quality start, he could be interested in playing for more than a handful of fans.

#5: Joe Ross. His numbers aren’t as good as the others, but he knows the NL East, has struck out 10 in 10 innings, has only a WHIP of .130. The .295 OBPA isn’t all that great, but Ross is expected to be replaced in Milwaukee when Wade Miley and Jacob Junis return to the Brewers rotation. In other words, the Braves could get him for cheaper than the others.

Trevor Williams of Washington might be an option, as could Martin Perez, once with the Texas Rangers and now with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I’d keep my eye on Ryan Feltner of Colorado, who’s not too bad but stuck in a bad ballpark and playing for a non-contender.

Julio Tehran is still out there (and was just released) but may need minor-league work, if his start against the Braves for the Mets is any indication. The price for Drew Smyly and Erick Fedde may be too high. There’s too much bad blood to get Jose Urena. Graham Ashcraft of the Reds lacks the numbers of the others, though he strikes out batters.

Whoever we get, we need innings, someone who can reduce the number of runs to give our offense a chance to outscore them, until the rookies and those rehabbing are ready.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at His Twitter account is JohnTures2.