Braves send Soroka, 4 others to White Sox for Bummer

November 18th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Instead of delaying the suspense leading up to Friday afternoon’s non-tender deadline, the Braves used a couple of their planned non-tenders to fortify their bullpen with a late-night trade.

Just before midnight ET on Thursday, the Braves announced they acquired left-handed reliever from the White Sox in exchange for right-handed pitcher Michael Soroka, infielder Nicky Lopez, left-handed pitcher Jared Shuster, shortstop Braden Shewmake and right-handed pitcher Riley Gowens.

Braves receive: LHP Aaron Bummer
White Sox receive: RHP Riley Gowens, INF Nicky Lopez, SS Braden Shewmake, LHP Jared Shuster, RHP Michael Soroka

Soroka was a longtime fan favorite, whose promising career was derailed when he twice tore his right Achilles tendon. He entered the offseason as an obvious non-tender candidate. Lopez is a talented defender, but the Braves decided they weren’t willing to pay him the approximately $4 million he would have received via arbitration had he been tendered a contract.

As for Shewmake and Shuster, they are a pair of former first-round Draft selections who saw their values diminish over the past year.

So the Braves used a bunch of expendable pieces to acquire Bummer, who posted a 6.79 ERA over 61 appearances (58 1/3 innings) this year. Those stats aren’t impressive. But the Braves view the 30-year-old southpaw like they did Pierce Johnson, who had a 6.00 ERA in the 39 innings he completed for the Rockies before being acquired by Atlanta in July. He posted a 0.76 ERA over 23 2/3 innings after the trade and earned the two-year, $14.25 million deal he signed in October.

Bummer produced a 3.14 ERA over 83 innings for the White Sox from 2021-22. He had a 29.3 percent strikeout rate and a 10.9 percent walk rate within that span. He had a 29.2 percent strikeout rate and 13.5 percent walk rate as he struggled with more regularity this past year.

Bummer relies on a power sinker, a pitch that helped him produce a 60.1 percent ground-ball rate this year. That was in the 97th percentile among pitchers. Command has been an issue. But he has consistently missed bats. His 2.7 barrel percentage was in the 99th percentile of pitchers this year.

Bummer could join A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Dylan Lee to give the Braves four solid left-handers in their bullpen next year. Closer Raisel Iglesias, Joe Jimenez and Johnson would be the top right-handed options.

Soroka beat the odds when he returned to the Majors near the end of May. But as he posted a 6.40 ERA over seven appearances (six starts) and missed most of September because of right forearm inflammation, it was obvious his injury-riddled days in Atlanta were nearing an end. The Braves paid him $2.8 million each of the past three years via arbitration with the hope he’d get back to where he was during his great 2019 rookie season. But the Canadian hurler is now out of options, so the club wasn’t willing to give him a valuable 40-man roster spot.

Lopez is a skilled defender who can provide Gold Glove-caliber defense at both middle infield spots. But the Braves weren’t willing to give him approximately double what starting shortstop Orlando Arcia will receive in 2024. They will now look for a more affordable backup infielder.

Shuster, the team’s first-round pick in 2020, is a former top prospect who was passed by AJ Smith-Shawver, Allan Winans, Darius Vines and Hurston Waldrep, this year’s first-round selection.

Shewmake came to Spring Training looking to battle for the starting shortstop job. But his extended offensive woes at Triple-A led to him being passed by Luke Waddell on the organization’s depth chart.

Gowens received a $47,500 signing bonus after the Braves took him out of the University of Illinois with their ninth-round selection this year.