Ronald Acuna Jr. left today’s game in the bottom of the fifth due to right pectoral tightness, but Braves manager Brian Snitker doesn’t believe the injury is too serious. Snitker told reporters (including The Athletic’s David O’Brien) that the current belief is that Acuna won’t miss any games at all, as the star outfielder will get a chance to rest and recuperate during Atlanta’s off-day on Monday.
JUNE 6: Arano has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Gwinnett, per David O’Brien of the Athletic (Twitter link). He doesn’t have the requisite service time to reject a minor league assignment, so he’ll remain with the Stripers and look to pitch his way back onto the 40-man roster.
JUNE 4: The Braves announced Friday that they’ve designated right-handed reliever Victor Arano for assignment. His spot on the 40-man roster will go to right-hander Ty Tice, whose previously reported acquisition from the Blue Jays has now been formally announced by the Braves.
The 26-year-old Arano has been excellent in the big leagues when healthy, pitching to a combined 2.65 ERA with a 26.3 percent strikeout rate and 7.6 percent walk rate in 74 2/3 innings for the Phillies from 2017-19. Unfortunately, healthy innings are far from a given with Arano. He missed the vast majority of the 2019 season due to elbow surgery, and he’s also missed time in the past due to a rotator cuff strain in his pitching shoulder. He spent last year in the Phillies’ 60-man player pool but wasn’t called to the Majors. The Braves claimed him off waivers back in February.
Arano was a starter early in his minor league career with the Phillies but moved to the ’pen on a full-time basis in 2016. He racked up 79 2/3 innings out of the ’pen across two levels that season, but he’s managed to throw just 126 1/3 innings combined since that season drew to a close. He’s appeared in eight games with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2021, during which time he’s yielded four runs (three earned) on seven hits, four walks and a hit batter through seven innings. He’s punched out five hitters along the way.
It seems as though the Braves weren’t enamored of what they saw in that brief stretch of games. They’ll now have a week to trade Arano or to attempt to pass him through outright waivers. He can still be optioned both this year and next, which could lead another club to take a chance on the talented but (at least recently) oft-injured righty.
The Braves announced this morning they’ve recalled reliever Shane Greene to make his first MLB appearance of 2021. Right-hander Jacob Webb was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett last night in a corresponding active roster move.
Greene pitched for Atlanta in the second half of 2019 and all of 2020. The 32-year-old worked to a solid 3.27 ERA/3.87 FIP in 52 1/3 innings over that time, albeit with just a 20.0% strikeout rate. After qualifying for free agency at the end of last season, Greene spent the entire offseason unsigned, with surprisingly little in the way of reported interest.
Despite the quiet free agency period, the righty maintained he planned to return to the field at some point. The Braves and Greene eventually found a mutual price, as he re-signed with Atlanta on a one-year, $1.5MM deal (prorated to between $1.1MM and $1.2MM) in early May. As part of the agreement, Greene consented to being optioned to Gwinnett to build himself into game shape.
He ultimately made four appearances with the Stripers, tossing 4 1/3 frames of one-run ball. Greene will now look to help an Atlanta bullpen that ranks just 27th in ERA (4.80) and 21st in SIERA (3.98) this season.
Tice was designated for assignment earlier this week when the Jays selected the contract of the recently-signed Carl Edwards Jr. In a sense, today’s transaction serves as a Tice-for-Edwards swap, as Edwards and the Braves parted ways after Atlanta DFA’ed him in early May, with Toronto then adding Edwards on another minors contract a few days later.
Tice was a 16th-round pick for the Jays in the 2017 draft, and the Arkansas native made his MLB debut this season with seven innings out of the Toronto bullpen (posting a 5.14 ERA). Over 143 1/3 career innings in the minors, Tice has an impressive 2.07 ERA and 25.75% strikeout rate, though his 10.96% walk rate is on the high side. He also has all of his minor league options remaining, giving the Braves some flexibility in shuttling him back and forth from Triple-A if necessary.
The Braves announced Wednesday that outfielder Cristian Pache has been reinstated from the 10-day injured list and optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. It’s the second time this year the top prospect has been sent to Gwinnett for further refinement, which isn’t a surprise given that the 22-year-old has batted just .111/.152/.206 in 68 plate appearances. Pache is considered an all-world defender with substantial upside at the plate, but his offensive game is nowhere near as polished as his defense at this point. With Pache down and Marcell Ozuna both injured and facing assault allegations, the Braves’ outfield mix is comprised by Ronald Acuna Jr., Ender Inciarte, Guillermo Heredia, Abraham Almonte and Ehire Adrianza. Top prospect Drew Waters is hitting reasonably well in Triple-A but is striking out at a rather unpalatable 28 percent clip there.
Some more news and notes out of Atlanta…
- Braves icon (and current assistant hitting coach) Chipper Jones weighed in on Freddie Freeman’s contractual situation in a chat with The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz. Jones stresses that he’s only offering his own opinion but wonders whether the Liberty Media-owned Braves are waiting to see what 2021 attendance numbers look like before making a market-value offer to Freeman. The Hall of Famer also calls Liberty Media an “absentee owner” that is “rooted in trying to make money off the franchise” more so than conventional ownership structures. Atlanta fans will want to check out the column for Jones’ full, lengthy quotes on the matter. Freeman, 31, didn’t start the 2021 season particularly well, but he’s hitting a much more characteristic .284/.411/.527 over his past 20 games (90 plate appearances). He’s scheduled to become a free agent for the first time this winter after the $135MM contract extension he signed eight years ago draws to a close.
- Right-hander Shane Greene’s most recent schedule appearance in Gwinnett was pushed a couple of days due to soreness in his back, manager Brian Snitker told reporters Monday (link via MLB.com’s Mark Bowman). The veteran reliever was able to take the mound yesterday for his third appearance since re-signing with Atlanta, however. Thus far, Greene has rattled off 3 1/3 shutout innings with five strikeouts and one walk allowed. Snitker noted Monday that there’s still no timetable for when Greene is expected to join the Major League bullpen. After sitting out until early May, Greene is effectively going through a makeshift Spring Training in Gwinnett right now.
June 1: Michael Seiden of WSB-TV Channel 2 News in Atlanta obtained an arrest affidavit, providing additional details on the highly troubling incident. Of note, the court filings indicate that “the strangulation was witnessed by an officer” upon arrival at the scene.
Ozuna has been released on a $20,000 bond for the time being and is under court order to avoid contact with his wife, according to the Associated Press. The couple was in the process of divorcing at the time of Ozuna’s arrest, per the AP. Ken Rosenthal and David O’Brien of The Athletic lay out the reasons that it’s unlikely the Braves will be able to simply void Ozuna’s contract.
May 29, 8:52pm: The Braves released a statement: “We learned of Marcell Ozuna’s arrest earlier this evening and immediately informed the Commissioner’s Office. The Braves fully support Major League Baseball’s policy on domestic violence which stresses to the fullest that our society cannot and will not tolerate domestic violence in any form. Until the investigation is completed, we will have no further comment and all inquiries into the matter should be referred to the Office of the Commissioner.”
8:27pm: Marcell Ozuna was arrested today in Sandy Springs, Georgia on charges of aggravated assault strangulation and misdemeanor battery – family violence, according to WSB-TV’s Miles Garrett and ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan (Twitter links). Passan provides a transcript of the police report detailing the allegations (on Twitter). Ozuna is expected to be investigated by the league under the provisions of the MLB/MLBPA’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.
Under the provisions of the joint policy, the league has the authority to issue discipline regardless of the outcome of the criminal charges leveled against Ozuna, though Ozuna could challenge any discipline to an arbitration panel. Since the policy was instituted in 2015, suspensions have ranged from anywhere from 15 games to a full season, as per the discretion of the Commissioner’s Office.
Ozuna was placed on the 10-day injured list yesterday due to two dislocated fingers on his left hand, and he was expected to miss at least six weeks. Should Ozuna be suspended, he would forfeit any salary owed to him during the missed games. Ozuna re-signed with the Braves on a four-year, $65MM deal this past offseason, and he has roughly $8.12MM remaining on his $12MM salary for the 2021 season.
The Braves have selected the contract of outfielder Abraham Almonte from Triple-A Gwinnett. In corresponding moves, right-hander Jay Flaa was optioned to Triple-A, and a 40-man roster spot was opened when Huascar Ynoa was moved to the 60-day injured list.
A veteran of eight MLB seasons, Almonte now looks to add a ninth campaign to his record after signing with the Braves last October. While Almonte technically signed a Major League contract, it wasn’t a guaranteed deal, and Atlanta already outrighted him off its 40-man roster near the end of Spring Training and Almonte chose to remain in the organization.
Almonte has played for five different teams over his career, hitting .237/.298/.370 over 1151 plate appearances. A part-timer and platoon outfielder for much of his tenure, Almonte hasn’t seen much action over the last two seasons, appearing in 24 total games with the Diamondbacks and Padres since the start of the 2019 season. However, Almonte’s ability to play all three outfield positions will add some depth to an Atlanta bench that is short on true outfielders.
1:10 pm: Despite Snitker’s assertion that Soroka is “down for the year,” the Braves haven’t yet officially ruled out Soroka this season, O’Brien hears. He’ll be reevaluated in two weeks to define a potential timetable for his recovery.
12:46 pm: Braves manager Brian Snitker confirmed this afternoon during an interview on the MLB Network that right-hander Mike Soroka is out for the remainder of the season (h/t to David O’Brien of the Athletic). Soroka underwent exploratory surgery on his right Achilles a couple weeks ago.
It’ll go down as a completely lost season for Soroka, his second consecutive injury-wrecked year. The 23-year-old originally tore his Achilles last August, just three starts into the abbreviated campaign. While there had been hope Soroka would return to the rotation relatively early in 2021, further health woes prevented that from happening. He was shut down from his rehab process in early April due to shoulder inflammation before renewed trouble with the Achilles resulted in the aforementioned surgery.
That series of injuries has stalled a brilliant start to Soroka’s MLB career. The former top prospect held his own in his first seven MLB starts in 2018 before an All-Star 2019 effort. Soroka tossed 174 2/3 innings of 2.68 ERA/4.28 SIERA ball as a 21-year-old that year, finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting and sixth in NL Cy Young award voting. He’ll now unfortunately miss nearly two full seasons of action, although he’s certainly still young enough to regain his prior form if he returns to full strength in 2022.
Soroka had already been placed on the 60-day injured list. Players on the MLB injured list accumulate service time, so he’ll be credited with a full year of service for the 2021 season. Soroka will reach arbitration eligibility for the first time this winter and is under team control through 2024.
MAY 28: The Braves have placed Ozuna on the IL. Utilityman Johan Camargo is up from Triple-A Gwinnett to take his place on the active roster.
MAY 26: Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna revealed in his Instagram story today that he’ll likely be sidelined for at least six weeks after dislocating two fingers on his left hand during yesterday’s win over the Red Sox (hat tip: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, on Twitter). The Braves have yet to formally provide their own timeline, though manager Brian Snitker will surely have more details when he meets with the media today.
It’s an unwelcome development for a Braves club that has lost several key players to injury in the season’s first two months. Mike Soroka required exploratory surgery after experiencing a setback in his recovery from last year’s Achilles tear, while Travis d’Arnaud underwent surgery to repair a thumb ligament and breakout righty Huascar Ynoa is sidelined with a broken pitching hand.
The 30-year-old Ozuna was one of baseball’s best hitters in the shortened 2020 season, pacing the NL in home runs, RBIs, total bases and plate appearances while hitting .338/.431/.636. His decision to sign with Atlanta on a one-year, $18MM deal rather than take a lesser multi-year offer elsewhere last winter paid off, as the “Big Bear” wound up securing a four-year, $65MM deal to return to the Braves this past winter.
Unfortunately, the first year of that season couldn’t have gotten out to a much worse start. Ozuna was hitting just .213/.288/.356 through 208 plate appearances. He’s still connected on seven homers and six doubles, but Ozuna’s .144 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) is less than half last season’s career-high .298. His walk rate, exit velocity and hard-hit rate have all tumbled thus far in 2021 as well.
With Ozuna now sidelined, the Braves can lean on a combination of Ronald Acuna Jr., Cristian Pache, Ender Inciarte, Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza in the outfield, though the Braves also have toop outfield prospect Drew Waters looming in the upper minors. The 22-year-old Wates is out to a .250/.342/.453 start through 73 plate appearances in Gwinnett.
Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna dislocated two fingers on his left hand during the team’s win over the Red Sox on Tuesday, according to Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. The Braves aren’t sure whether they’ll have to place Ozuna on the injured list. Ozuna was one of the game’s premier hitters a season ago, leading the Braves to re-sign him to a four-year, $65MM guarantee in free agency, but he has been slow out of the gates in 2021. The 30-year-old has hit a disappointing .213/.288/.356 with seven home runs in 208 plate appearances.