Ranking the 5 best options for the Atlanta Braves final rotation spot

The Atlanta Braves' starting rotation is stacked, but it needs to be rounded out with a fifth starter.

Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves
Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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2. Reynaldo Lopez is being paid like he is a big-league starting pitcher

Reynaldo Lopez is going to make the Braves' Opening Day roster in one of two ways. He will either be the No. 5 starter, or he will be the long-arm in the bullpen to essentially replace Collin McHugh who retired this offseason. He began his big-league career as a starting pitcher, but has been put back in the bullpen. The idea behind acquiring him is to stretch him out to be a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Because the Braves are paying him handsomely on a three-year deal worth $30 million, Lopez is making the roster. Although it only looks like $4 million on paper this year, that becomes $11 million in 2025 and 2026 before his club option could kick in in 2027. Lopez may not hit free agency until his age-34 season in 2028. Basically, Lopez will be part of the Braves' plans for the foreseeable future.

To me, the Braves use him as the No. 5 starter only temporarily. This would be because Bryce Elder has either lost it or either AJ Smith-Shawver or Hurston Waldrep are not yet ripe. The best case scenario is for Elder to win the job out of spring training and for Lopez to be the long-arm in the bullpen. This will keep Smith-Shawver and Waldrep on schedule to be ready when they are needed.

The only person more likely to be a lock of this quintet to make the roster than Elder would be Lopez.