Kenley Jansen’s problems with irregular heartbeats have plagued him for over a decade, yet that familiarity has also made this serious issue seem oddly matter-of-fact for the Braves closer. With Jansen again on the injured list, he spoke with reporters (including MLB.com’s Mark Bowman) about his latest bout with atrial fibrillation. Jansen said he actually first had an irregular heartbeat on June 18, but after a visit with doctors, he pitched five more times before his symptoms continued to the point that some time off was necessary. However, after being placed on the IL on June 28, Jansen said he plans to miss only the minimum 15 days.
The Braves have activated two of the key figures from last year’s World Series run, outfielder Eddie Rosario and left-hander Tyler Matzek, from the injured list, the team announced today. To make room on the active roster, the club optioned infielder Mike Ford to Triple-A Gwinnett and designated right-hander Silvino Bracho for assignment.
While the Braves have been one of the hottest teams in baseball of late, Rosario’s and Matzek’s performances to open the season seemed to be emblematic of a bit of a championship hangover for an Atlanta squad that limped out of the gate. Both players’ issues proved the result of injuries, however: Rosario’s swelling in his right retina that required laser surgery and Matzek’s left shoulder inflammation that led to a significant drop in velocity.
Indeed, each will be looking to improve on rather unsightly lines, particularly by their recently elevated standards. In 49 trips to the plate in April, Rosario slashed an anemic .068/.163/.091 — good for a -24 wRC+ — before hitting the IL, while Matzek had seen his ERA climb from 2.57 last year to 5.06 through his first 10 2/3 innings this year that included an alarming dip in his strikeout rate (from 29.2% in 2021 to 21.3% in 2022) and an alarming spike in his walk rate (from 14% to 19.2%).
Should each return in top form, the already red-hot Braves — 23-7 since June 1st — could reach another gear in what figures to be a stellar race in the NL East. Matzek should slide back into a bullpen that leads the majors with 4.7 fWAR with little issue, but Rosario’s return could lead to something of a logjam in the outfield. When healthy, Ronald Acuña Jr. is the first name on Brian Snitker’s lineup card, and Michael Harris II has been a revelation in center field since a late-May call-up. Adam Duvall, who left Saturday’s game in Cincinnati after taking a pitch off the hand, has seen the bulk of the at-bats in left since Harris’ arrival, and Marcell Ozuna has primarily slotted in at DH, playing in left only on an as-needed basis.
Neither Duvall nor Ozuna has gotten off to a particularly hot start, however. Ozuna, who’s slashing .227/.280/.420, has hit for power and little else, while Duvall, who’s slashing a meager .205/.272/.376, has provided much-needed defensive versatility but has yet to show the level of power that’s been his calling card in the past. Too much talent vying for too few at-bats is a good problem to have, of course, but Snitker may have to get creative to get everyone in the lineup on a regular basis.
Ford, who logged only a walk in five trips to the plate since the Braves claimed him from the Mariners a few weeks ago, will return to the minors as organizational depth. If he clears waivers, Bracho, who covered a single scoreless inning in his stint with Atlanta, will likely do the same. Ford has logged a .194/.306/.395 career batting line in parts of four minor league seasons with the Yankees, Giants, Mariners, and Braves. Bracho, who had pitched in five prior seasons with the Diamondbacks, owns a career 4.76 ERA in 90 2/3 innings across 93 appearances.
The Braves had to make a move with Toussaint, whom they recently designated for assignment. Atlanta had high hopes for Toussaint, but things did not break his way and he’ll now have the opportunity for a fresh start with a perennially pitching-hungry Los Angeles organization.
The Angels will see if they can get Toussaint on the right track. He made Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list in 2015 (#71), 2016 (#90), and again in 2019 (#53). Despite the promise, Toussaint hasn’t been able to carve out a regular role on talented Braves’ teams.
The Braves announced that right-hander Jay Jackson has been reinstated from the 60-day injured list and optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. To make room on the 40-man roster fellow righty Touki Toussaint has been designated for assignment.
Toussaint, 26, was the 16th overall selection of the 2014 draft, taken by the Diamondbacks. He was traded to Atlanta in 2015 along with Bronson Arroyo for Phil Gosselin. In the years following that deal, Toussaint was viewed as one of the better prospects in Atlanta’s system and across the game as a whole. Baseball America had him on their list of Top 100 prospects in all of baseball in 2015, 2016 and 2019.
However, he has struggled with injuries and underperformance since then. He saw scattered major league action over the four seasons from 2018 to 2021, logging 145 total innings over those campaigns with a 5.46 ERA. His 23.6% strikeout rate is a bit above average, though it’s also come with an unfortunate 12.9% walk rate.
This season, his final option year, he’s gotten all his action with Triple-A Gwinnett thus far. (He was briefly recalled to the big league club in April but was optioned again before getting into a game.) He’s made eight starts for the Stripers and five relief appearances, throwing 41 2/3 frames in total. Despite a robust 27.5% strikeout rate, control has again been an issue, with his 13% walk rate helping his ERA balloon up to 6.26 on the year. It seems that the club has finally run out of patience with hoping he can right the ship and make good on his potential.
Despite those unfortunate results so far this year, Toussaint is still just 26 years old and only a few years removed from being considered one of the best young pitchers in the sport. He’s sure to garner interest for teams in need of pitching depth, especially considering he can be stashed in Triple-A for the remainder of the year. He will be out of options next year, however, meaning he will need to stick on a team’s active roster all season or else be sent into DFA limbo yet again. He currently has between two and three years of MLB service time and isn’t likely to reach the three-year plateau this season. Atlanta will have one week to work out a trade or put him through waivers.
The Red Sox have traded reliever Silvino Bracho to the Braves for cash considerations, according to announcements from both teams. Atlanta has a vacancy on the 40-man roster, so no further move was necessary.
Boston had just designated Bracho for assignment this afternoon. He finds another landing spot fairly quickly, and he’ll presumably get an opportunity to make his season debut at some point shortly. The Red Sox had selected Bracho onto the major league roster on Tuesday, but they designated him for assignment without his appearing in an MLB game. The 29-year-old is seeking his first big league outing since 2020 after spending the past year and a half in Triple-A.
Despite his lack of recent MLB experience, Bracho was an appealing target for the Atlanta front office based on the strength of his minor league performance. He’s worked 31 1/3 innings over 18 outings with the Sox’s top affiliate in Worcester, posting a 3.16 ERA. The righty has punched out an excellent 29.3% of opponents while walking only four of the 123 hitters he’s faced. He’ll add a multi-inning possibility to the middle frames for skipper Brian Snitker.
Bracho owns a 4.82 ERA in 89 2/3 career big league innings. Most of that time was compiled with the 2015-18 Diamondbacks. He’s made just one MLB appearance in the past three years, owing in part to a Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2019. Bracho is out of minor league option years, so he’ll have to stick on the active roster or be designated for assignment again.
Many both within and outside the baseball industry were surprised when Freddie Freeman signed with the Dodgers last offseason. The general expectation had been that he’d re-sign with the Braves, continuing his career-long stint in the organization. Yet that was foreclosed when Atlanta acquired Matt Olson from the A’s shortly after the lockout, and Freeman landed in L.A. a few days later.
The course of events over the final few days of negotiations has been a subject of controversy, one that resurfaced over the weekend when a visibly emotional Freeman made his return to Atlanta. The 2020 NL MVP received his World Series ring and caught up with many former teammates and coaches, and he understandably struggled to put into words how much his time in the Braves organization had meant to himself and his family.
On Tuesday, Buster Olney of ESPN reported that Freeman had dismissed his longtime agency, Excel Sports Management, out of frustration with how his free agent process played out. Freeman himself characterized the matter differently, conceding his representation was a “fluid situation” but leaving open the possibility of mending fences with Excel and expressing a desire to move forward with the Dodgers.
The controversy was reignited yesterday when Fox Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb tweeted that Excel’s lead negotiator Casey Close never informed Freeman about a final offer from the Braves. Gottlieb alleges Close “knew (Freeman) would have taken the Atlanta deal” but made the unilateral decision to withhold it from his client, ostensibly because he felt he could top the offer elsewhere. Close forcefully denied that notion last night, releasing a statement (on Twitter) that reads “Doug Gottlieb tweeted a wholly inaccurate characterization of our negotiations with the Atlanta Braves on behalf of Freddie Freeman. We are immediately evaluating all legal options to address the reckless publication of inaccurate information.”
This afternoon, Close put out another statement taking aim at the Braves themselves. In a release first tweeted by Jeff Passan of ESPN, Close alleged “the Braves have fostered a narrative about the negotiations which, stated plainly, is false. Part of that false narrative is the suggestion that I did not communicate a contract offer to the Freemans. To be clear, we communicated every offer that was made, as well as every communication Excel had with the Braves organization throughout the entire process.”
Close didn’t take aim at anyone specific in his statement. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that Freeman acknowledged in late March that he had a three-hour conversation with Atlanta president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos “to hear his side of things” after initially implying that Anthopoulos and his staff hadn’t been especially forthcoming during the free agent process (link via Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Freeman made more general reference to communications with Braves personnel this week, telling reporters (including Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times) he’d “learned a lot” about his free agency “because I talked to the other side.”
Throughout the winter, the holdup between the Braves and Freeman seemed to be on the issue of a sixth guaranteed year. Atlanta was reluctant to go beyond five years for the 32-year-old. Justin Toscano of the Journal-Constitution hears from a source who suggests Freeman’s camp had offered the Braves a choice between two offers: $165MM over five years or $175MM over six years. Atlanta declined to meet those numbers and, according to Toscano, the sides mutually agreed to move on. (Olney wrote this week that the Braves had nudged their final offer to around five years and $140MM). The Braves acquired Olson two days later; Freeman wound up signing a six-year, $162MM offer with the Dodgers, although deferrals reduced the contract’s net present value to around $149MM.
Whatever caused talks between the Braves and Freeman to hit a stumbling block, the fallout has involved an ugly spat between his former team and one of the game’s most influential agents. Excel Sports Management represents dozens of players, including stars like Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Paul Goldschmidt, Kyle Tucker and high-profile impending free agents Andrew Benintendi and Dansby Swanson. Swanson has already stated the Freeman saga wouldn’t have any effect on his choice of representation, as he has no plans to leave Excel before his first trip to the open market.
There’s obviously some level of tension between the agency and the Atlanta organization, but it’s worth noting neither Close nor anyone with the Braves has suggested there’ll be adverse effects on negotiations between the team and other Excel clients. It stands to reason the Braves will have some interest in re-signing Swanson, a Georgia native and six-year starting shortstop who’s amidst the best season of his career.
In the wake of a still-stunning departure from the Braves in free agency, former NL MVP Freddie Freeman has dismissed his longtime agents at Excel Sports Management, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. Freeman is currently listed as self-represented within MLB’s central database, and, according to the New York Post’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link), the MLBPA sent an email to agents requesting that they not contact Freeman — a common occurrence when a player is in the process of changing representation.
Freeman, however, isn’t characterizing things quite so definitively. The Dodger slugger issued a statement to Mark Bowman of MLB.com suggesting that he has not yet fully committed to parting ways with his reps (Twitter link):
Last weekend in Atlanta was a very emotional time for me and my family. I am working through some issues with my longtime agents at Excel. My representation remains a fluid situation and I will update if needed.
That’s hardly a firm denial of the report but at least leaves open the window for the relationship to be repaired and remain in place. Freeman largely deferred to his statement when addressing the topic with L.A. beat reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times). The five-time All-Star said he “learned a lot” about the free agent process after speaking with “the other side” — presumably a reference to his post-signing chat with Atlanta president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos — but called it “time to move on and focus on winning championships with the Dodgers.”
Olney reports that the timing of negotiations coming out of the league’s lockout were particularly frustrating for Freeman, who had a standing offer of five years and $135MM from the Braves once the transaction freeze was listed. Multiple counteroffers from Freeman’s camp failed to produce a deal, and the Braves pivoted to acquire/extend Matt Olson — a sequence that is said to have shocked Freeman. Olney’s piece goes into more detail on the purported sequence of negotiations for those curious about the ostensible specifics.
The reports and Freeman’s statement come on the heels of an emotional weekend series that saw Freeman return to Atlanta for the first time since signing a deferral-laden six-year, $162MM contract with the Dodgers. Freeman was set to address the media at a press conference there but, upon entering the room, had to step out and attempt to collect himself. An outwardly emotional Freeman fought back tears while professing a lifelong love for the Braves organization despite signing elsewhere in free agency. He was emotional upon receiving his World Series ring from manager Brian Snitker as well, and was understandably choked up when the Atlanta faithful showered him with a standing ovation as he stepped to the plate in his first at-bat of the series.
Whether Freeman remains with Excel or indeed hires new representation has little bearing for most fans moving forward — though it’s obviously of keen interest to those working within the industry. Excel has represented Freeman throughout his career, negotiating an eight-year, $135MM contract extension that still stands as the largest contract ever signed by a player with between three and four years of Major League service time despite being signed back in 2014.
Excel represents dozens of big leaguers, including Freeman’s now-former teammate and free-agent-to-be, Dansby Swanson. Asked by Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution whether the Freeman saga might make him think twice about his agency, Swanson replied that he would never leave Excel nor let any decision made by Freeman impact his own representation choices (Twitter link).
The Braves announced Tuesday that closer Kenley Jansen has been placed on the 15-day injured list due to an irregular heartbeat. The move is retroactive to June 27. Right-hander Jesus Cruz has been recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to take his spot on the active roster.
It’s a worrisome ailment for Jansen, though this is far from the first time the 34-year-old has dealt with the issue. Jansen has thrice been placed on the injured list due to irregular heartbeats — once in 2011 and again in both 2017 and 2018. He’s had a pair of cardiac ablation procedures during his big league career in hopes of corralling the issue, though it seems he’s not yet entirely out of the woods in that regard.
The Braves’ announcement didn’t include a timetable for Jansen’s return, although his most recent IL placement for this issue, back in 2018, resulted in a minimal 10-day absence. The Braves are surely hopeful for a similarly quick return this time around, although the obvious broader hope is that, regardless of Jansen’s availability on the baseball field, he can remain in overall good health and eventually move beyond episodes of this nature entirely.
Jansen, in his first year with any organization other than the Dodgers, has been quite good. The three-time All-Star carries a 3.58 ERA through 32 2/3 innings, and secondary metrics like FIP (2.18), SIERA (2.07) and xERA (2.12) feel he’s been considerably better than that earned run average would indicate. That’s due largely to Jansen’s brilliant 36.4% strikeout rate, his strong 6.2% walk rate and his continued ability to limit hard contact better than nearly any pitcher in the league (86.5 mph average exit velocity, 28.4% hard-hit rate).
Taking Jansen’s place on the roster in the short term will be the 27-year-old Cruz, who pitched six innings of one-run ball for the Braves earlier this season. The former Cardinals minor leaguer has been similarly sharp in Gwinnett, where he’s notched a tidy 2.45 ERA with a sensational 24-to-1 K/BB ratio through 14 2/3 innings of relief.
The Mets have claimed infielder Kramer Robertson off waivers from the Braves, tweets Tim Healey of Newsday. He’s been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. That’s also true of reliever Colin Holderman, who was reinstated from the 15-day injured list and sent to the minors. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Robertson, the Mets transferred Tylor Megill from the 15-day to the 60-day IL.
A former fourth-round pick of the Cardinals, Robertson made it to the big leagues last month. He appeared in two games, picking up his first plate appearance, before being optioned back out. St. Louis designated the 27-year-old for assignment not too long thereafter, and the Braves grabbed him off waivers.
Robertson has spent 13 games with Atlanta’s top affiliate in Gwinnett. Despite playing quite well over that stretch, he apparently landed on waivers over the weekend. (The club didn’t announce his removal from the 40-man roster at the time). The Braves’ attempt to slip Robertson through waivers and keep him in the organization as a non-roster player was thwarted by their division rivals.
In parts of three Triple-A seasons, the LSU product owns a .246/.369/.398 slash line. He’s walked in a stellar 14.3% of his plate appearances at the minors’ highest level and can cover anywhere on the infield. Robertson is in his first of three minor league option years, so the Mets will add a flexible upper level depth option if they keep him on the 40-man roster.
Megill’s IL transfer backdates to June 17, when he first landed on the shelf. The right-hander suffered a shoulder strain and won’t begin a throwing program until around the All-Star Break, and he’ll certainly need weeks to build up arm strength even in a best-case scenario. It never seemed likely he’d be back before mid-August given that initial timeline, and today’s move makes that official.
Ronald Acuna Jr. fouled a ball off his left foot during Saturday’s game, and the injury eventually forced the Braves star to leave the lineup. While x-rays were negative, Acuna told reporters (including ESPN’s Marly Rivera) today that a trip to the 10-day injured list is a possibility “because I can’t put any weight on my foot.” To this end, Acuna had to use a scooter to get around the clubhouse today, though he wasn’t wearing a protective boot.
The Braves don’t play on Monday, so the team might take an extra 48 hours to evaluate Acuna to see if an IL stint is indeed necessary. However, it is probably likely that the Braves play it safe and put Acuna on the injured list, given his health history and his import to Atlanta’s lineup.
It has been almost two full months since Acuna was activated from the injured list, after his right ACL tear prematurely ended his 2021 season last July. Acuna has hit .281/.372/.455 with seven home runs over 196 plate appearances in 2022 — well above-average numbers, though actually a step behind the MVP-level production Acuna generated in 2018-21. The Braves eased Acuna back into action with some DH days early in his return, though he has played his last 20 games in right field.
If Acuna does have to visit the IL, it will further hamper an Atlanta club that is already missing Ozzie Albies due to foot surgery. On the plus side, the Braves have been able to get by just fine without Albies, as they are baseball’s hottest team in June — Atlanta is 19-4 this month, heading into tonight’s game with the Dodgers. With Acuna out, the Braves could give Guillermo Heredia more playing time, or use Marcell Ozuna more as a corner outfielder than as a designated hitter.