The Braves continued the re-alignment of their bullpen on November 20, just days after Atlanta moved on from Michael Tonkin and Nick Anderson, and acquired left-hander Aaron Bummer from the White Sox. The Atlanta Braves signed reliever Reynaldo Lopez to a three-year, $30MM deal in what’s the first major relief pitcher free agent signing off the board. Here’s a look at Lopez, plus the Braves’ bullpen options for 2024.
A Look at Lopez
Reliever Reynaldo Lopez spent much of his career prior to 2022 as a starter. However, the White Sox permanently moved into a relief role in 2022, and the now-29-year-old has taken off.
In the 2022 season with the White Sox, Lopez struck out 63 batters over 65 innings and the righty owned a pristine 0.95 WHIP and 1.93 FIP. The latter two figures (3.91 FIP, 1.27 WHIP) went in the wrong direction in 2023 thanks to a spike in walks, but Lopez also struck out 83 over 66 innings between Chicago (AL), Los Angeles (AL), and Cleveland.
As a starter, Lopez relied heavily on a three-pitch mix — four-seamer, slider, and change — and a curve. However, he’s relied more on the heater and slider since his move to the bullpen.
Lopez’s fastball is a true power pitch, one that sits in the high-90s and a pitch he can pound up and blow right by hitters.
He’ll pair it with a high-80s slider, as well as that aforementioned changeup that’s not used as often but will be broken out against lefties.
Lopez also ranked in the top 20% of pitchers in Whiff% (30.5%) this past season.
As mentioned earlier, it’s a three-year deal for Lopez. It also comes with an $8MM club option for the 2027 campaign.
The Braves Bullpen for 2024
Here’s a look at what the Braves have at this point among bullpen options:
- LHP Aaron Bummer
- LHP Dylan Lee
- LHP Tyler Matzek
- LHP A.J. Minter
- RHP Daysbel Hernandez
- RHP Raisel Iglesias
- RHP Joe Jimenez
- RHP Pierce Johnson
- RHP Jackson Kowar
- RHP Reynaldo Lopez
It’s an eclectic mix of pitchers, between the fastball-curve combo of Johnson, the sinker-sweeper combo & the deception of new Braves lefty Aaron Bummer, and the fastball-split-change that Raisel Iglesias has leveraged into success as a closer.
Depth is key, and the Braves had problems with that last season thanks to a myriad of injuries. And while it’s hard to argue that the Braves lost in the NLDS yet again due to the bullpen, the reality is that Atlanta needs a stout group of relievers to keep up with the “Joneses” up in Philadelphia.
Atlanta saw what a deep, dominant pen can do firsthand in October, as Philadelphia relievers stymied the Braves and gave up just one run over 14.1 IP.
With the addition of Lopez, the Braves have another effective righty that’s been reliable over the past two seasons.