The Braves announced the signings of relievers Penn Murfee and Jackson Stephens to one-year split deals. A split contract means the player would be paid at differing rates for time spent in the majors versus Triple-A. Both pitchers rejoin Atlanta’s 40-man roster. The team still has seven openings on the 40-man on the heels of an active non-tender deadline.
Murfee and Stephens were each dropped from the roster within the past couple weeks. Atlanta had cut Murfee loose at the non-tender deadline. Stephens hit the open market not long before that after going unclaimed on outright waivers.
The Braves had just snagged Murfee off waivers a few days before cutting him loose. The 29-year-old righty has 80 games of major league experience, all of which have come with the Mariners over the past two seasons. Leaning heavily on a sweeping slider, Murfee has posted strong results. He owns a 2.70 ERA in 83 1/3 innings, striking out nearly 28% of batters faced. He has found success against hitters of either handedness.
Murfee’s season was unfortunately cut short in June. The 29-year-old underwent surgery to repair a UCL tear in his elbow. He’ll miss a good portion of next season as a result. There’s no injured list during the offseason, explaining Seattle’s decision to move on despite his strong body of work. The Braves have enough roster space to give Murfee a spot, at least for the time being. If he sticks on the roster for the rest of the offseason, they could place him on the 60-day injured list whenever they need a 40-man spot from the start of Spring Training onward.
Stephens, 29, has spent the past two seasons in the Atlanta organization. The righty logged more big league action in 2022, when he turned in a 3.69 ERA through 53 2/3 frames. He didn’t see as much time this past season, tallying only 12 MLB innings over five appearances in September. Stephens worked to a 3.28 ERA with a strong 26% strikeout rate across 24 2/3 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Since he is out of minor league options, he’d have to open next season on the active roster or again be exposed to waivers. Stephens would have the right to elect free agency if the Braves successfully passed him through waivers unclaimed. Since he has less than five years of service time, he’d have to forfeit his guaranteed salary to become a free agent. By signing him to a split deal that locks in an undisclosed amount of money for whatever time he spends in Triple-A, the Braves increase their chance of retaining Stephens as non-roster depth in the event they try to run him through waivers at some point.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that Murfee was returning to the Braves on a major league deal shortly before the club announcement.