MLB News

Jackson Stephens Elects Free Agency

Jackson Stephens Elects Free Agency

March 27: Stephens rejected the outright assignment in favor of free agency, tweets Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

March 26: The Braves have sent right-hander Jackson Stephens outright to Triple-A Gwinnett, with Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution among those to relay the news. Both Toscano and Mark Bowman of suggest that the opened roster spot will go to right-hander Jesse Chavez.

Stephens, 30 in May, has been on and off Atlanta’s roster over the past two years. Since he’s out of options, he can’t be easily sent down to the minors, which has resulted in him being frequently getting bumped off the roster but always coming back.

He was signed by Atlanta to a minor league deal prior to the 2022 season and had his contract selected that year. He was non-tendered after that campaign but was re-signed in December, only to be outrighted in March. He had his contract selected in September of last year but was outrighted again in November. He signed another major league deal a week later and has lasted on the club’s roster until now.

Amid all of those transactions, he has tossed 65 2/3 innings for Atlanta over the past two years with a 3.56 earned run average. His 20.2% strikeout rate and 9.8% walk rate are both a bit worse than league average, but he has kept 45.4% of batted balls on the ground while also doing a good job of limiting hard contact and missing barrels. In 2022, when he pitched a far larger sample of innings compared to last year, he was in at least the 82nd percentile in terms of average exit velocity, hard hit rate and barrel rate.

Despite that generally solid performance, he continues to pass through waivers unclaimed. A player with a previous career outright has the right to reject another outright assignment and elect free agency, though it seems Stephens is comfortable with Atlanta and might either accept his assignment or quickly re-sign a new deal of some kind.

The club doesn’t need 40-man roster spots, as they are now down to just 36 guys in that department, but they do need an active roster spot if they want to add Chavez. The only guy in their projected bullpen who can be optioned is Dylan Lee, but it seems Atlanta preferred to keep him up with the big league club and remove Stephens from the 40-man. Lee has a 2.95 ERA in his career and keeping him in the majors gives them an even four-four split of righties and lefties.

Chavez, 40, has bounced around the league in recent years but…

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