Right-hander Mike Soroka has won his arbitration case with the Braves, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link). Soroka will receive $2.8MM for the 2021 season, as opposed to the $2.1MM that was offered by Atlanta.
Soroka pitched only 13 2/3 innings in 2020 before suffering a season-ending right Achilles tear, though his overall track record through his short career was enough to sway the arbiter in his favor. The 28th overall pick of the 2015 draft, Soroka has a 2.86 ERA and 50.9% grounder rate over 214 innings in the majors, despite a fairly middling-to-below average strikeout rate (19.6K%), a solid but unspectacular 6.3 walk rate, and a fastball that has averaged only 92.5mph at the MLB level.
What the 23-year-old does have, however, is a four-pitch arsenal that he frequently mixes up, and “the strategic means to circumvent opponents” in the words of Fangraphs’ Michael Augustine. Soroka doesn’t allow much hard contact and, especially in the homer-heavy modern game, he does a spectacular job of avoiding the long ball. Since the start of the 2018 season, Soroka has the second-lowest HR/9 (0.63) of any pitcher in baseball with at least 210 innings pitched.
Soroka also earned enough service time over his first three MLB seasons to count as a Super Two player, and so this winter marks the first of four (rather than the usual three) arbitration-eligible seasons for the Canadian right-hander. He just turned 23 last August, so he is on pace to hit free agency as a 27-year-old following the 2024 season. Surely Atlanta had some interest in locking Soroka up to a long-term extension already, so the arbiter’s decision will only increase that desire to get a bit of extra cost certainty since Soroka’s price tag will keep going up over his three remaining arb years. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected Soroka for a salary of roughly $1.8-$1.9MM in 2021.
The Braves still have another arbitration hearing to go, as they are awaiting a decision on their case with Dansby Swanson. Atlanta was looking to pay the shortstop $6MM in his second of three arbitration years, while Swanson countered with a $6.7MM figure.