The Braves trade deadline this year shows they won’t need much outfield help. They will need assistance to get over the hump as April and May were months when the Atlanta Braves were stuck in their own mire. An inept offense and rotation problems were the main issue. It was a team bent on hitting the ball a million miles or accepting the doom of a strikeout. Add a disappointing overall pitching performance, creating a magnified recipe for disaster.
Then…something happened. The team, quite simply, clicked. A loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks and a team meeting pushed them to perfection. Atlanta reeled off 14 consecutive wins as they are half a game back of first in the NL East. The question of whether or not this will wind up in a second straight World Series win remains. However, as the team enters the second half, they are in a terrific position. Considering general manager Alex Anthopolous’ shrewd dealings of last year, another title is not out of the question. All it will take is one more excellent deadline. Let’s dive in and see how that might happen.
Braves Trade Deadline
In terms of absolute weaknesses, the Braves don’t have many. Currently, they rank second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in overall team WAR (8.8). Yes, they are actively outpacing the New York Mets in this department. They lead the National League in WAR among overall pitchers (7.0), relief pitchers (2.3), and shortstops (2.6). Their issues lie at two primary positions: second base and left field. They have the fifth lowest WAR among second basemen (-0.4) and the lowest among left fielders (-2.2). In short, if Anthopolous is looking to shore anything up, these are the spots he needs to focus on. There are contenders, to be sure.
We’ll begin at second base, a spot normally occupied by fan-favourite Ozzie Albies, who is nursing a broken foot. Currently, the position consists of a platoon between Robinson Cano and Orlando Arcia. While this may not be the worst combination, it could still use some fixing. Anthopolous might choose to kill two birds with one stone and pick up a talented utility player. Atlanta will need help here, at least until Albies returns in mid-August.
In terms of candidacy, the market is somewhat wide open. However, two players stick out a hair’s breadth more than the others. One of these is César Hernández of the Washington Nationals. His bat has fallen on hard times as of late, though he’s garnered over 1,000 career hits. After this season, he is a free agent, and his contract is only a one-year deak worth $4 million. It could be the type of low-risk, good-to-great reward move Anthopolous has done in the past.
Another potential target is Adam Frazier of the Seattle Mariners. Again, it’s not a deal to set the world on fire, but it has some potential. Much as with Hernandez, Frazier’s statistics have taken a tumble. However, he is coming off of a year in which he slashed .305/.368/.411 with a .779 OPS. He was also an All-Star. So, it’s yet another of the bargain bin variety deals that could pay off for the Atlanta Braves. The question is whether or not Anthopolous is willing to deal with prospects for either of these. Only time will tell.
Weakness #2: Left Field
The second position we have to examine is that of left field. It is staffed by a rotating door that includes Adam Duvall, Marcell Ozuna, and Guillermo Heredia. It has been a comedy of errors at times. Considering Duvall and Ozuna’s propensity for striking out, things haven’t gone well. When it comes to Heredia, the simple fact is that he is a career bench player who is not experienced in consistent starting. It’s a known position that the Braves must address.
If the Atlanta Braves go after anyone at the deadline, Andrew Benintendi seems like the ultimate prize. He’s having something of a resurgence with the Kansas City Royals. His slash line of .318/.389/.400 is one of his best. Couple that with a staunch .789 OPS and a 125 OPS+, and you have one of the most consistent players in the game. He’s an All-Star with a 2.4 WAR on a team that’s rapidly disintegrating. Anthopolous and Royals general manager J.J. Picollo should have some interesting conversations in the coming days.
There are a couple of intriguing names residing in the Colorado Rockies. One of them is Charlie Blackmon. Aside from the Georgia reunion, Blackmon makes sense from a veteran standpoint. He’s also having a very good season, hitting .278 with 15 homers and 95 hits in 85 games. A small deal for him might give the outfield an extra boon. The other Rockies outfielder worth scouting is Randal Grichuk. He’s having a modest season, hitting .247 with nine home runs and 42 RBI, but depth is everything. Platooning him with someone like Adam Duvall could work nicely for the team. He could also follow in Eddie Rosario’s footsteps and become an unexpected postseason hero.
Braves Trade Deadline Summary
Whatever happens, these are the two positions that Anthopolous needs to focus on. While another bullpen arm wouldn’t hurt, left field and second base seem to be problems. Until Albies returns, the middle part of the infield has a massive hole. The good news is that Albies’s foot injury is not season-ending, so shopping there may not be as urgent. Left field, on the other hand, needs to be addressed promptly. The idea of repeating as World Champions is a nice one. It will not happen unless the front office is willing to do something about this weak outfield position. We’ve seen Anthopolous do great things at the deadline in the past.