The Atlanta Braves offseason has just begun. Thus far, Alex Anthopoulos has focused on the bullpen, extending the likes of Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez. Charlie Morton opted into the final year of his contract, and should return to the Atlanta rotation as well. Eddie Rosario's option was declined, so the team needs a new left fielder.
Atlanta has been linked to any number of free-agent starting pitchers this offseason, if only because of the injury to Kyle Wright and uncertainty surrounding Morton's situation up until a week ago. No bigger name (minus Shohei Ohtani ever so briefly) has been linked to Atlanta than Aaron Nola, a former rival with the Phillies who is expected to be one of the highest-paid pitchers on the free-agent market. Surely, Nola would be out of the Braves price range under normal circumstances, but these are not normal times.
The Braves won 104 games last season yet lost their first playoff series against these same Phillies. Dealing them a blow by signing Nola is appetizing, and recent rumors suggest they may have more money on their hands than expected if Vaughn Grissom can fill that left field void. If that's the case, then perhaps Nola is in their price range after all, though he'd likely become the highest-paid member of the team immediately.
Let's live in this alternate reality together, if only for one article. Here's what the Braves rotation could look like IF they're actually willing to spend the money.
Braves No. 5 starter: Cal Quantrill, RHP
Aaron Nola or not, a cheaper rotation upgrade could be available in the form of Cal Quantrill, who the Cleveland Guardians surprisingly DFA'd on Tuesday. Quantrill was thought to be available in trade talks, via FanSided's Robert Murray, though Cleveland could not find a partner in time for the 40-man roster deadline.
Quantrill had an off year in 2023, posting an ERA over five. It was his worst season since his rookie year in San Diego. However, in 2021 and 2022, Quantrill looked like he could be ace-caliber with the Guardians. He flirted with AL All-Star contention at times, and were he not in a smaller market may have received the accolade he deserved.
Now available to any and all teams in what's considered a weak free agent market, the Braves are just one of several teams expected to be interested in his services. I wrote about how he fits into Atlanta's rotation upon his release:
"Another potential option would be the Atlanta Braves, if Alex Anthopoulos is willing to make the move...If AA chooses to upgrade his starting rotation, Quantrill makes sense as a buy-low candidate. If he returns to 2022 form, the Braves pitching staff will be much improved as a result."
Now, that's a lot of ifs, but he'd immediately become one of the most accomplished back-end starters in baseball on a prove-it deal.