Braves bring back RHP Morton for $20 million, decline $9 million option for OF Rosario

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves exercised a $20 million option for pitcher Charlie Morton on Monday, bolstering a shaky rotation for the NL East champions, but they declined a $9 million option for outfielder Eddie Rosario.

The return of Morton, who went 14-12 with a 3.64 ERA, was expected even though he turns 40 on Sunday.

The Braves need starting depth after learning last month that Kyle Wright — a 21-game winner in 2022 — will miss another whole season because of a shoulder injury that kept him out most of this past year.

The decision to cut ties with Rosario, who got most of the starts in left field, was a bit of a surprise after he hit 21 homers with 74 RBIs while batting .255 as part of a potent order that tied the major league record with 307 homers as team.

It could be a signal that the Braves are considering a new position for prospect Vaughn Grissom, who had a big year offensively at Triple-A but doesn't appear to have a spot available on the infield.

The Braves also declined the options for two right-handed relievers.

Kirby Yates will receive a $1.25 million buyout after the Braves decided not to bring him back for $5.75 million. In addition, Atlanta paid a $1 million buyout for Collin McHugh, who had a $6 million option.

In his second stint with the Braves, Morton will return for a fourth season as part of a rotation led by Spencer Strider and Max Fried. Dealt a rash of injuries, the Braves struggled to nail down a stable rotation, using 16 pitchers as starters.

Morton missed the NL Division Series with a sprained finger, though he was expected to return if the 104-win Braves advanced. Instead, they were upset for in their opening series for the second year in a row by the Philadelphia Phillies.

The 32-year-old Rosario was a star of Atlanta's run to the 2021 World Series championship, batting .560 (14 of 35) with three homers and nine RBIs to win MVP honors in the six-game triumph over the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

Rosario had a walk-off hit in Game 2 and sparked the deciding win with a three-run homer off Walker Buehler.

The Braves cut ties with Yates and McHugh after reaching multi-year deals to bring back two other right-handed relievers — Joe Jiménez and Pierce Johnson — before they became free agents.

The 36-year-old Yates pitched a full season after missing nearly all of the three previous years with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He was a bit inconsistent, but still went 7-2 with five saves and a 3.28 ERA in 61 appearances.

McHugh, also 36, struggled in 2023 after pitching well out of the Atlanta bullpen the previous season. He appeared in 41 games, going 4-1 with a 4.30 ERA.

On Sunday, the Braves declined a $7 million option on left-handed reliever Brad Hand, who received a $500,000 buyout.

In other moves, Atlanta reinstated a host of pitchers from the 60-day disabled list to the 40-man roster: right-handers Wright, Michael Soroka, Nick Anderson, Yonny Chirinos and Huascar Ynoa, along with left-handers Tyler Matzek, Dylan Lee and Kolby Allard.

The Braves claimed left-hander Angel Perdomo off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and assigned right-hander Jackson Stephens outright to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Perdomo pitched in 30 games for the Pirates, going 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA. Most notably, he had 44 strikeouts in 29 innings.

The Braves have until Nov. 17 to decide whether to tender contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man roster. All eyes will be on Soroka, who had a stellar rookie season in 2019 but has appeared in only 10 big league games over the last four years after twice tearing his Achilles tendon.

Soroka had another injury setback late last season, raising further doubts about his future with a team that has paid him nearly $8.5 million over the last three years and may not be interested in going through arbitration again before he becomes eligible for free agency in 2025.