The Braves announced they’ve designated veteran reliever Tyler Thornburg for assignment. The move clears an active roster spot for Dylan Lee, who has been recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. Atlanta’s 40-man roster now sits at 38.
Thornburg signed a $900K contract with Atlanta over the offseason. It was a bit surprising to see the righty command a guaranteed deal after he’d missed all of last season recovering from September 2020 Tommy John surgery. The Braves were confident enough in his ability to bounce back to devote him a big league roster spot, but he’ll lose that job after just nine appearances.
The 33-year-old worked 9 1/3 innings during his relatively brief stint, allowing six runs. He struck out ten batters against five walks, maintaining his pre-surgery fastball velocity but only generating whiffs on 8.5% of his offerings. It was far from a disastrous performance, but manager Brian Snitker had been deploying Thornburg in extremely low-leverage situations. After he threw 25 pitches in yesterday’s loss to the Marlins, Atlanta replaced him with a fresher arm in Lee.
Thornburg has more than five years of big league service, so he couldn’t be optioned to the minor leagues without his consent. Once the Braves determined to replace him on the active roster, they had to designate him for assignment even though Lee already occupies a spot on the 40-man roster. They’ll now have a week to trade Thornburg or place him on waivers.
That $900K guarantee isn’t much higher than this season’s $700K league minimum salary, so it’s not inconceivable another club could add Thornburg to the middle innings. If he goes unclaimed on waivers, he’d have the right to refuse an outright assignment in favor of free agency while still collecting the remainder of his guaranteed salary.