The Atlanta Braves made a groundbreaking announcement on Monday, revealing that they have inked a three-year deal with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, guaranteeing him a whopping $30 million. According to the terms of the agreement, Lopez will earn $4 million in 2024, followed by $11 million in both 2025 and 2026. There’s also a potential $8 million club option for the 2027 season, with a $4 million buyout.
Lopez’s signing marks the fifth addition to the Braves’ bullpen mix following the conclusion of their season. This news comes alongside the re-signing of righties Joe Jimenez (three years, $26MM) and Pierce Johnson (two years, $14.25MM), as well as trade acquisitions Aaron Bummer and Jackson Kowar. Interestingly, the Braves have expressed their intention to have Lopez prepare as a starting pitcher during the offseason, as reported by Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a recent tweet.
While Lopez’s role with the team for the 2024 season has yet to be solidified, the Braves are confident in his ability to succeed in either position. However, transitioning him from starting to relieving is considered a more feasible option. Lopez’s specific role may remain undecided until the spring, but the potential for him to receive another opportunity as a starter with his new team is certainly worth noting.
Approaching his 30th birthday in January, Lopez boasts extensive experience in both roles, although his success as a starting pitcher has been limited. After being part of a high-profile trade from the Nationals to the White Sox in 2016, Lopez struggled to find his footing as a starter, carrying a lifetime 3.01 ERA out of the bullpen, as opposed to a much rockier 4.73 mark as a starter.
Despite his early struggles, Lopez’s career saw a significant upturn when he transitioned to a full-time bullpen role. Over the past two seasons, he has excelled in this capacity, demonstrating exceptional performance with his fastball and slider, both in speed and effectiveness. Yet, the possibility of Lopez returning to a starting role with his new club is an intriguing one, raising the question of whether he can deliver more consistent results with his diverse collection of pitches.
With Lopez’s future role dependent on the remainder of Atlanta’s offseason and competition within the team’s rotation, it remains uncertain whether he will continue as a starter or contribute to the Braves’ already formidable bullpen. Should he move back to the bullpen, Lopez will be part of a talented group alongside Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, and Tyler Matzek.
From a financial standpoint, Lopez’s $4 million salary for the 2024 season will push the Braves’ payroll to around $207 million, according to Roster Resource. However, the backloaded nature of his contract will impact the team’s luxury-tax circumstances, ultimately contributing to an increased level of tax and potential penalties in the coming seasons.
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