Braves Acquire Aaron Bummer In Six-Player Deal

The White Sox have traded reliever Aaron Bummer to the Braves for pitchers Michael Soroka and Jared Shuster, infielders Nicky Lopez and Braden Shewmake and minor leaguer Riley Gowens.

Bummer, a 30-year-old southpaw, had spent his entire career with the ChiSox. He developed from an unheralded 19th-round selection into one of the game’s more quietly excellent setup men. Bummer broke through in 2019, when he turned in a 2.13 ERA over 67 2/3 innings on the back of an eye-popping 72.1% grounder percentage.

The following February, Chicago signed Bummer to a long-term extension. Various injuries impacted him between 2020-22, as he spent time on the shelf with biceps and lat issues in his throwing arm and a right knee strain. Bummer remained effective when healthy, turning in a 2.92 ERA over that stretch.

That strong run prevention mark collapsed this past season. Bummer was tagged for nearly seven earned runs per nine over 58 1/3 innings. Among pitchers with 50+ frames, only 12 had a higher ERA than his 6.79 mark. While that’ll make this a head-scratching move for many Atlanta fans, it’s clear the front office is placing a lot more stock in Bummer’s promising underlying indicators.

Bummer struck out an above-average 29.2% of batters faced this year. He has fanned just under 27% of opponents over the course of his career. He averaged 94.5 MPH on his sinker (a solid mark for a left-hander) and missed bats against hitters of either handedness. While he’s no longer posting ground-ball numbers reminiscent of peak Zach Britton, he kept the ball on the ground at a lofty 58.2% clip. That’s the 10th-highest rate among relievers who logged at least 50 innings.

Certainly, Bummer isn’t a flawless pitcher. While he tends to keep the ball down, he gives up a fair amount of hard contact. He has well below-average control and walked over 13% of opposing hitters this past season. While an elevated batting average on balls in play was a big reason for his disappointing ’23 campaign, he didn’t do himself many favors by handing out so many free passes.

The Braves clearly feel Bummer’s results will more closely match those he managed before this year. He joins A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek as potential high-leverage options from the left side. Pierce Johnson and Joe Jiménez are mid-late inning righties to help bridge the gap to closer Raisel Iglesias.

If Bummer returns to form, he could be a longer-term bullpen piece. He’ll make $5.5MM next season in the final guaranteed year of the aforementioned extension. He is guaranteed a $1.25MM buyout on a $7.25MM club option for 2025, while the deal also contains a $7.5MM team option (with a matching buyout) for the ’26 season.

It’s a consolidation trade for a win-now Atlanta team that can afford to target specific players they consider finishing touches to a championship-caliber roster. The White Sox are in the opposite position. Fresh off a 101-loss season, first-year general manager Chris Getz has set out to add depth to a team that has become far too top-heavy.

Trading a reliever for five players — four of whom are MLB options — is one way of doing so. While none of the four big leaguers is near the peak of their trade value, it’s easy to envision any of them playing a role on the 2024 White Sox from day one.

Soroka may be the most recognizable name. A former first-round pick and top prospect, he earned an All-Star nod and runner-up finish in NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2019. Soroka pitched to a 2.68 ERA over 29 starts in his age-21 season. He looked like one of the sport’s brightest young pitching talents before his career was sidetracked by horrible injury luck.

The right-hander sustained successive tears of his right Achilles tendon nine months apart in 2020 and ’21. The injuries cost him almost two full seasons. While he returned to the mound in 2023, he struggled to a 6.40 ERA over seven big league outings. Soroka had quite a bit more success in Triple-A. Over 17 starts with their top affiliate in Gwinnett, he pitched to a 3.41 ERA with an above-average 25.9% strikeout rate. Forearm inflammation ended his season in September but is not expected to require surgery.

Soroka accrued MLB service time throughout his injury rehab. As a result, he has over five years of service and will be a free agent next winter. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him for a $3MM salary in his final season of arbitration. That made him a non-tender candidate for Atlanta, particularly since he can no longer be optioned to the minors. The White Sox are apparently willing to commit something in that range to see if he can recapture something resembling mid-rotation or better form.

Chicago has almost nothing in the way of rotation locks beyond Dylan Cease. Soroka now seems likely to get that opportunity. He could be joined by Shuster, a former first-round pick out of Wake Forest. The left-hander secured an Opening Day rotation spot with Atlanta a season ago. He struggled in his first MLB look, allowing a 5.81 ERA with a well below-average 13% strikeout rate over 52 2/3 innings.

Shuster had similarly discouraging numbers in Gwinnett. He was tagged for a 5.01 ERA through 16 starts with the Stripers. He struck out only 17.9% of hitters in Triple-A while walking 12.6% of opponents. While there aren’t many positives in Shuster’s 2023 performance, he’s only a year removed from ranking as one of the top pitchers in the Atlanta system. He’d posted a 3.29 ERA with a strong 26.2% strikeout rate in the minors in 2022, drawing praise for a potential plus changeup along the way.

Still just 25, Shuster could battle for a spot at the back of the Chicago rotation in Spring Training. He still has two option years remaining and has less than one year of MLB service. The Sox will hope he can put his tough debut showing behind him and reach the back-of-the-rotation projection of many prospect evaluators.

More to come.

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Title: Braves Acquire Aaron Bummer In Six-Player Deal
Author: Anthony Franco

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