Brian Matusz Traded to Braves

At 12-31, the Atlanta Braves are off to a horrible start to the 2016 season, and need to try anything to get better. Last week, that meant firing manager Fredi Gonzalez. This week, it means making trades. On Monday, the team announced that it had acquired left-handed relief pitcher Brian Matusz from the Baltimore Orioles. In return, the Braves sent minor league pitchers Trevor Belicek and Brandon Barker to Baltimore. Atlanta also received competitive balance draft pick no. 76 from the Orioles.

Brian Matusz Traded to Braves

Matusz broke into the big leagues with Baltimore in 2009. Originally a starting pitcher, he transitioned to the bullpen full time in 2013. Much like his new team, Matusz has not gotten off to a great start this year. He’s pitched just six innings, and has given up eight earned runs, including three home runs, while walking seven batters.

However, Matusz has been an effective reliever in the past. Last season, he pitched forty-nine innings out of the bullpen and ended the campaign with a 2.94 ERA. He racked up fifty-six strikeouts while issuing twenty walks. From the start of the 2013 season through the end of the 2014 season, he totaled 103 punchouts against just thirty-three walks.

Though Atlanta’s beleaguered bullpen, which has already pitched 145.1 innings this year, the tenth most in the majors, could use reinforcements, it appears the Braves will be content to simply eat Matusz’s salary and take the draft pick. Matusz is expected to be designated for assignment.

On the other side of the trade, Baltimore received two intriguing prospects. Belicek, a lefty, has only pitched three innings above the Single-A level. In two seasons of minor league ball, he owns a 2.43 ERA, with thirteen walks and seventy-three strikeouts. At 23-years-old, he is still very young and remains in the opening stages of his career.

Barker, the righty, is also just 23. While he has seen action at the Triple-A level, it amounts to just 9.1 innings. Across three seasons in the minors, Barker has collected 183 strikeouts and sixty-five walks to compliment his 3.08 ERA. He has seemingly taken a leap forward in his development in 2016. Across nine games (eight starts) with Double-A Mississippi, he is 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA, forty strikeouts, and twelve walks. However, because of their youth and relative lack of experience, it is too soon to say if either Barker or Belicek will help the Orioles in the near future.

UPDATE: Matusz has indeed been designated for assignment.

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