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The Braves entered the offseason with pitching being a top priority for their 104-win team, while the 101-loss White Sox needed to add depth to a club that lacked it under new General Manager Chris Getz.
To that end, The Braves acquired lefthanded reliever Aaron Bummer from the White Sox in exchange for a five-player package that includes depth-type big leaguers in righthander Mike Soroka, infielder Nicky Lopez, lefthander Jared Shuster and minor leaguers Braden Shewmake and Riley Gowens.
The trade frees up three 40-man roster spots for the Braves, which will certainly be a factor as the team continues to pursue upgrades to the big league club this winter.
The Braves acquired Bummer without parting with any of their 10 best prospects. See the new list, including updated scouting reports for every player.
Aaron Bummer, LHP
Bummer’s 6.79 ERA in 2023 is unsightly upon first glance, but a look under the hood confirms the Braves acquired another high-powered arm to slot in near the back of their bullpen. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings in 2023, the gap between Bummer’s 6.79 ERA and 3.58 FIP was the largest in baseball (3.21), which indicates he had quite a bit of bad luck and could be a solid regression candidate.
Originally selected in the 19th round out of Nebraska in 2014, Bummer has been a steady bullpen presence since the 2018 season. For the last six seasons, Bummer has posted a FIP between 2.40 and 3.58 with solid strikeout and ground ball rates. He mostly pitches off of a 94-95 mph sinker and low-80s sweeper slider, and in 2023 finished in the 87th percentile for whiff and strikeout rate, the 97th percentile in ground ball rate and the 99th percentile in barrel percentage. The entirety of his big league track record and pure stuff should indicate a solid bet on him hitting the under on his 2023 ERA in 2024, when he will also be upgrading from one of the worst defenses in the league to a solid one.
WHITE SOX RECEIVE
Mike Soroka, RHP
Perhaps the biggest name in this deal, Soroka is one of three former first-round picks heading to Chicago. Like most of the names here, he’s a player the White Sox are buying low on and hoping to regain some form. After being selected with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Soroka blitzed to the major leagues as a 20-year-old in 2018 and then broke out in a tremendous 2019 season, where he was named an All-Star, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and sixth in the Cy Young. His career has been derailed with injuries thanks to back-to-back right Achilles tendon tears and he also missed time down the stretch in 2023 with forearm inflammation.
Since his tremendous 2019 season, Soroka has missed two complete seasons and thrown just 46 big league innings—without the same dominance he showed before getting injured. Soroka did pitch well with Triple-A Gwinnett this season, where he posted a 3.41 ERA over 17 starts and 87 innings along with a 25.9% strikeout rate and 7.9% walk rate, and his big league peripherals were a bit better than his ERA suggests. The Braves were burned by pitcher health in the postseason in 2023 and Soroka will be a free agent after the 2024 season, but the White Sox could take a shot on the righthander finally getting back to full health where he might have mid or back-of-the-rotation upside still in the tank.
Nicky Lopez, INF
Lopez is now on his third team in less than a calendar year. He spent the bulk of his big league career in Kansas City, including a two-year stretch as a full-time player in 2021 and 2022, but settled into a bench role after Atlanta acquired him at the deadline this July. Lopez has always been a sound, versatile infielder defender dating back to his time as a Royals prospect, where he topped out as the No. 5 player in their system in 2019.
Most of his value is tied to his glove work and running ability, although he did .300 with a 104 wRC+ in 151 games in an outlier 2021 campaign. Lopez has good contact ability but he’s rather BABIP dependent, as his exit velocities typically rank near the bottom of the big leagues. Lopez can be a dependable option at shortstop for the White Sox until they’re ready to hand the reins to top prospect Colson Montgomery, and he has the ability to play other positions if needed.
Jared Shuster, LHP
Shuster could have the highest upside of any player going to Chicago in this package considering his age and big league experience. That upside is tempered to a back-of-the-rotation starter, however, and he’ll need to find a way to miss more bats and/or sharpen his command to get there. Shuster was a first-round pick in the shortened 2020 draft after showing an uptick in velocity in a brief spring season with Wake Forest, but since entering pro ball, velocity has been more of a dream than an actualization for the lefthander.
He pitches in the low 90s and has always had a reliable changeup, which grades as plus offering, but he has tried to add more velocity to improve his slider and add to the weapons at his disposal beyond that. It was a down year for Shuster on all fronts in 2023. He posted a 5.81 ERA in 11 starts and 52.1 big league innings and didn’t do much better with Triple-A Gwinnett, where he posted a 5.01 ERA over 16 starts and 79 innings.
Braden Shewmake, SS
Shewmake is the top prospect heading to Chicago in this deal, though his prospect cache has faded since being selected No. 21 overall in the first round of the 2019 draft. Shewmake was in competition with Vaughn Grissom last spring to make the team’s opening day roster and assume the shortstop void left by Dansby Swanson. After Orlando Arcia took the job and ran away with it, Shewmake played in just two big league games in 2023 and had the worst offensive year of his minor league career in his second campaign with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Shewmake hit .234/.299/.407 with 16 home runs and 27 stolen bases while splitting time at shortstop and second base. He is a plus runner who can play both infield positions, though scouts thought his fielding took a step back this season and his offensive ceiling has always been a question mark. He’s blocked for playing time in Atlanta, but perhaps a change of scenery could give him more big league opportunities and a chance to rediscover his first round pedigree as he enters his age-26 season.
Riley Gowens, RHP
Not a candidate to rank on the updated Braves top 30 list, Gowens was a ninth-round senior sign for the Braves in the 2023 draft who signed for $47,500 and ranked as the No. 336 player on the BA 500. He posted a 6.30 ERA with Illinois during the spring season, but his peripherals were better than his results, and analysts liked the riding traits on his low-90s fastball that gets into the mid 90s at peak velocity. Gowens had a strong pro debut between the complex league and Low-A Augusta, where he posted a 1.15 ERA over 15.2 innings with 22 strikeouts and six walks. He spent time as a starter and reliever, and was a starter in college, but projects best as a bullpen arm moving forward.