Coming off a 2018 NL East division title, the Atlanta Braves received criticism after being relatively quiet this past off-season. Despite having money to spend, the only significant signings that were made by Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves front office was Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson — as well as Dallas Keuchel during the season. Although everyone doubted the Braves front office, these veterans have proven to be great mentors for the young stars that continue to lead the Braves to success. As a result, the Braves head into the second half of the season on a high note with a 54-37 record. However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and additions that need to be made by July 31st for this team to make a deep postseason run.
Atlanta Braves Top 5 Potential Trade Targets
Despite having the best ERA among relievers in MLB since May 15th, the Braves still need bullpen help. Relievers like Jacob Webb, Luke Jackson, and Chad Sobotka have helped fill the role in the pen, but lack experience. As a result, the Braves relievers have blown 16 save opportunities — which has resulted in a Save Percentage of 60.98%. Adding a closer like Will Smith could help Atlanta fix this problem. While the Braves have struggled to close out games, the San Francisco Giants closer has not. Smith has pitched to a 1.98 ERA in 36.1 innings and has been perfect in save opportunities this season — recording a save in all 23 chances. Even though Smith is a Free Agent after the season, don’t be surprised if the Braves give up what is necessary to acquire the reliever and attempt to fix their late-inning issues.
Before heading to Cleveland, All-Star Will Smith earned his 23rd save of the season yesterday. He is 23-for-23 in save opportunities, hasn’t allowed a run in 17 of his last 19 outings, posted a .96 ERA with 30 Ks and a .156 batting average against in that time. ?#SFGiants pic.twitter.com/VHsQt9gcp4
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) July 8, 2019
Even though the Braves added Keuchel to their rotation, they are still in the market for a starting pitcher. With the downfall of Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman, the inexperience of rookies Mike Soroka and Max Fried, and the Jekyll and Hyde season Julio Teheran is having, expect the Braves to be influential in the Madison Bumgarner sweepstakes. The three-time World Series champion has experienced struggles in 2019, compiling a 5-7 record along with a 4.03 ERA. But for Atlanta, adding the maturity of Bumgarner would be immense come October. However, one major issue regarding Bumgarner that may turn the Braves off is his lack of team control. Since Bumgarner would only be a two-month rental, expect the Braves to look for rotation help elsewhere if the Giants asking price is too high.
“I love the addition of Keuchel, but that’s just the appetizer. The main course is showing up July 31st.”
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) June 7, 2019
One pitcher on the trade market that is very intriguing is Marcus Stroman. Stroman, the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays staff, has recorded a 5-9 record with an impressive 3.18 ERA in 104.2 innings — as well as only having allowed 10 home runs and 32 walks. Arguably the most appealing factor for teams interested in Stroman is his extra year of control. Whoever picks up the Jays hurler will not only have him for a playoff push in 2019, but also the 2020 season. If the Braves decide that Bumgarner is not worth the asking price, expect them to be considerable players in the Stroman market.
Another pitcher that will draw plenty of interest from Atlanta is New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. But the question is, would the Mets consider trading a pitcher of Wheeler’s caliber to a division rival? Well, that depends. The Braves have the farm system to interest the Mets and possibly pull this off. However, would they want to give their division rival an abundance of talented prospects in return? It’s hard to tell. If they were to acquire Wheeler, they would be getting one of the best arms in the National League. Despite having a high ERA (4.69) in 2019, Wheeler continues to blow away hitters, recording 130 strikeouts in 119 innings. The main concern for Atlanta is whether Wheeler can stay healthy. The hurler has experienced elbow issues in the past, which caused him to miss the entire 2015-16 seasons. This trade is a possibility for the Braves, but it gets a little tricky considering both teams are competing in the NL East.
If the Braves are still in the reliever market by the deadline, they might turn to Shane Greene. Greene has proved to be a dominant force out of the Detroit Tigers bullpen in 2019 — posting a remarkable 1.09 ERA while also picking up 22 saves in 24 save situations. This season hasn’t been a fluke for Greene either, as he holds a career save percentage of 83.3%. If the Braves don’t pull the trigger on Smith or another capable reliever, expect Atlanta to be checking in on Greene at the deadline.
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