Braves trade deadline: Breaking down potential fits, needs, best targets, trade chips
The Braves could use some pitching if they are to reach the postseason
The Atlanta Braves have been one of baseball's most pleasant surprises this season. With the trade deadline nearing, the Braves have the chance to notch both their first winning season and first playoff appearance since 2013.
How will first-year general manager Alex Anthopoulos proceed? Will he make a bold move, as he was wont to do during his time running the Toronto Blue Jays? Or will he exercise discipline and patience and wait for the winter or next summer to make a real push?
There's no telling, but it's clear that Anthopoulos has a chance to make the Braves into his own in the coming weeks.
The Braves' most-days lineup features just two hitters who have an OPS+ below 100 (shortstop Dansby Swanson and center fielder Ender Inciarte), and it's hard to see the Braves finding much in the way of an upgrade on either. Perhaps the Braves will spring for a right-handed outfielder who can spare Inciarte against tough lefties. That's a small role, however, and one that could be filled in theory by someone like Austin Jackson (who could be available as a free agent soon) or Cameron Maybin (who would come cheap).
Anthopoulos, then, can focus his energy on adding arms. Though Atlanta has been blessed by the emergence of Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb and the resurrection of Anibal Sanchez, they could still use another starter -- especially with Brandon McCarthy and Mike Soroka both injured. Much like every other contender, the Braves figure pursue bullpen help, too.
Nathan Eovaldi has pitched well in eight starts with the Rays, compiling a 3.35 ERA and 7.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's been homer-prone, however, and his durability will continue to be questioned until he puts together a couple seasons without a trip to the disabled list. He'll be a free agent at season's end.
Anthopoulos has acquired J.A. Happ once before, back during his time as the Blue Jays' general manager. Despite some recent turbulence, Happ figures to be the top short-term starter traded. In 19 starts this season, he's posted a 4.29 ERA (98 ERA+) and 3.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He'd give the Braves a second southpaw to pair with Newcomb.
Matt Harvey has put himself back on the map with a successful stint with the Cincinnati Reds. He's tightened his slider, giving him a viable secondary offering to pair with his heater. Harvey will be a free agent after the season, and his recent past dictates he shouldn't cost much to acquire. Still, kudos to the Reds for helping him right the ship.
If Anthopoulos wants an innings sponge, then James Shields is his guy. Prior to a disastrous outing against the Houston Astros, Shields had managed a 3.42 ERA and averaged 6.5 innings per pop over his previous 13 starts. His contract includes a club option for next season, but realistically the Braves would be on the hook for a $2 million buyout.
Every team wants cost-controlled relievers, and Kyle Barraclough is the best of the bunch. He won't be a free agent until after the 2021 season. He's wild, having issued at least five walks per nine since debuting in 2015, but he strikes out a ton of batters and does a great job of limiting the quality of contact. He could slot into a seventh- or eighth-inning role immediately.
Compared to Barraclough, Drew Steckenrider doesn't get the credit he deserves. Still, he's of a similar mold: lots of walks, more strikeouts, and a pain to square up. He won't be a free agent until after the 2023 season.
Kirby Yates has bounced around the league, having pitched for four different organizations. He's having a phenomenal season, complete with a 1.51 ERA and 4.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Add in how he has two additional years of team control remaining, and he could provide value now and later. The question is whether any team will meet what the San Diego Padres want in return.
Craig Stammen is in a similar boat, right down to having past durability concerns. He's guaranteed to make just $2.25 million next year, which looks like a big-time value.
How about a wild card? Ryan Tepera is currently on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, and the Blue Jays have no real incentive to move him. But if Anthopoulos wants to grab one of his old players, then he would make sense. Tepera has a 2.97 ERA this season with a 3.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He won't hit the open market until after 2021.
The Braves system has seen some of its top prospects graduate in recent years, most notably Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies. There's still a significant amount of talent remaining -- particularly in the form of young pitching.
Anthopoulos could in theory move a piece or two from his glut of young arms if he desires to make a splash. Mike Soroka (currently on the disabled list) and Kyle Wright, the No. 5 pick in last year's draft, are unlikely to go anywhere. The Braves could offer the likes of Luiz Gohara, Ian Anderson, Kolby Allard, and Max Fried up for the taking, but probably not for a rental.
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