Atlanta Braves trade deadline report card: bullpen rebuild complete

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 14: Relief pitcher Shane Greene #61 of the Detroit Tigers throws in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on July 14, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 14: Relief pitcher Shane Greene #61 of the Detroit Tigers throws in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on July 14, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 22: The Atlanta Braves look forward to the return of Mike Foltynewicz to the starting rotation. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Foltynewicz #26 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park on June 22, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 22: The Atlanta Braves look forward to the return of Mike Foltynewicz to the starting rotation. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Foltynewicz #26 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park on June 22, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Braves entered the trade deadline shopping season with needs in the bullpen and rotation, but things changed quickly with injuries to two key players.

The Atlanta Braves knew early in the year that their bullpen needed help. The struggles of Mike Foltynewicz and a rough patch for both Mike Soroka and Max Fried combined with a bad start from Kyle Wright and two bad outings from Bryse Wilson, forced them to look for an experienced starter.

The role of rotation savior in that period fell to the Braves veteran Julio Teheran.  Teheran’s improved this season over last and he rose to the occasion in two big games over the last week.

Last week’s injury to Dansby Swanson’s heel looks temporary, but Nick Markakis’ broken wrist created a hole in the lineup and on the bench.

Adam Duvall moved up to fill that outfield spot and so far, looks like the player I wrote about when the Braves traded for him last year.

Ender Inciarte reentered the lineup as Austin Riley’s struggles got worse daily. He had a rough couple of games but hit homers on back-to-back nights, and hitting behind Duvall, he looks like second-half-hot-hitting Inciarte again.

Today Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos had to show his team and Braves fans that their leadership really wanted to win.

Deal #1 from Tuesday

Tuesday night the Braves acquired RHRP Chris Martin from the Rangers for under-performing starter Kolby Allard.

Some fans voiced surprise at Allard’s departure, but he failed to live up to his projections and pitched a lot like Matt Wisler. At the deadline, the trade seems a fair swap of players for both teams.

Martin saved four games for the Rangers this season and doesn’t walk batters. Those things made him a good fit for a Braves pen struggling of late and using Luke Jackson as a closer.

For those who asked, here are his no-hit innings pitched %, reliever ERA, reliever ERA+, shutdown, and meltdown inning ratios:

  • NHIP rate 36%
  • RERA    0.34
  • RERA+ 146
  • Shutdown  36.8%
  • Meltdown  10.5%

I wrote about what those stats mean a few days ago. I compared Martin’s RERA to all relievers, compared to closers it’s 94.

The Atlanta Braves added for Detroit closer Shane Greene on trade deadline day. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Braves added for Detroit closer Shane Greene on trade deadline day. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Deal #2:  A closer at last

At 3:20pm on Wednesday afternoon, Buster Olney reported that the Braves had agreed a deal for Tigers Closer Shane Greene. The Tigers received LHP Joey Wentz and outfielder Travis Demeritte.  Greene seems to like the idea.

MLB Pipeline ranked Wentz Atlanta Braves number 7 prospect. Demeritte dropped out of the top 30 after the draft reassessment.

According to Mark Bowman, Wentz’ inclusion became necessary when the competition grew more lively.

Greene’s having his best year as a closer for the Tigers and was arguably the best of the relievers that was actually dealt this week.

He’s had some periods of total dominance and in recent days hasn’t been quite as sharp, though is clearly a major step upward from the current bullpen.

Deal #3: Veteran setup-man

Shortly after that Jeff Passan reported that the Braves acquired Mark Melancon and cash from the Giants for Tristan Beck and Daniel Winkler.

Melancon closed for the Pirates until being traded to the Nationals in 2015. The Nats let him walk after that season the Giants gave him a four year, $62M contract that almost immediately went bad.

Related Story. Veteran setup man Melancon joins the Braves. light

He lost the closer job in 2017 but started to slowly recover his form last year while working as a setup man. He continued in that role this season. He’s stingy with runners on base, allowing only 27%  (4 of 15) to score.

He’s currently pitching to a 3.50 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 3.57 SIERA with 44 strikeouts and 16 walks in 46 1/3 IP.  Melancon had to waive his no-trade clause before the trade could go ahead.

The Braves clubhouse apparently liked the move.

The Atlanta Braves added catching depth today, acquiring John Ryan Murphy from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Braves added catching depth today, acquiring John Ryan Murphy from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Depth

The Atlanta Braves also added protection for the catching corps. With August trades no longer an option the Braves added catching protection now.

John Ryan Murphy started as a Yankee prospect. The Yanks traded him to the Twins for Aaron Hicks, and two years later he moved again, this time to Arizona for Gabriel Moya.

Murphy’s a glove-first catcher and at 28-years-old, considered one of the best young defenders. He caught roughly half of Arizona’s games in 2017 and ranked #46 on Baseball Prospectus board based on their catcher defense adjustment.

Related Story. John Ryan Murphy. light

The Diamondbacks needed a better bat and outrighted him off their roster.  He’ll be assigned to Gwinnett and won’t be seen in Atlanta unless Brian McCann or Tyler Flowers are injured.

The Braves also brought back old friend Lane Adams on a minor league deal, adding an experienced major leaguer to the fold.

How did the Braves do?

Overall the Braves get an A-. Before you start screaming at me, read why.

GM Alex Anthopoulos focused on the bullpen with good reason, and his results there get an A. These acquisitions should stabilize the back of the bullpen and prevent the meltdowns we’ve seen occurring more often since the All-Star break.

He acquired the pitchers without sacrificing one of his top prospects or significantly depleting the farm system.  Wentz looks like a useful left-handed, middle of the rotation arm and Beck a middle rotation or back of the bullpen reliever.

The Braves exposed Demeritte to the Rule 5 draft last season and no one claimed him. He tore up AAA pitching this year but had no place on the Braves 40-man roster and become a minor league free agent after the season. Murphy cost only a few dollars.

Starting pitcher: Incomplete

Anthopoulos wanted a starter but found the prices too high. Once the Mets added Marcus Stroman, they thinned the market significantly and raised their price for Zack Wheeler.

The Giants withdrew Madison Bumgarner’s name from consideration and Matthew Boyd never came up in any serious talks,  leaving Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke as desirable additions.

The Diamondbacks asked for Clint Frasier and three more prospects from the Yankees who said no thanks.

The Snakes make a deal for two years of Greinke with the Astros, but it cost Houston their number 3, 4, 5 and 22 prospects (MLBPipeline’s  #93 and #99 overall prospects, baseball’s number 10 catching prospect and a depth outfielder).

These guys were blocked in Houston anyway, and Arizona sent along money, so Houston won this deal for now.

Both landed outside of the  Braves comfort zone, and they passed, choosing to go all-in on the bullpen.

That means he expects Foltynewicz to return from AAA close to last season’s form, hopes Mike Soroka – who pitched brilliantly on Wednesday– remains strong , Max Fried can return to his early form, and Julio Teheran can continue his Jedi mind trick on opponents.

Lineup depth: Incomplete

Anthopoulos looked for but couldn’t find an outfielder at a price he liked, even though the Phillies got Corey Dickerson for nothing.

This means he hopes Austin Riley figures out in a month what took Dansby Swanson a year to get right, Duvall keeps raking, or Nick Markakis can return from a broken wrist and be able to swing a bat with enough authority by the playoffs.

The only everyday player on the 40-man roster not currently with the Atlanta Braves is Alex Jackson.  Oddly, the new bullpen mitigates this issue.

The Atlanta Braves added veteran reliever Mark Melancon to their bullpen at the deadline.  (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Braves added veteran reliever Mark Melancon to their bullpen at the deadline.  (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

What this means for the bullpen

Everyone wants to know what the Atlanta Braves bullpen looks like after the new arms arrive – that’s probably tomorrow.

There’s no official announcement yet, but some things are easy to see.

The quality of the pen increased enough to return to a seven-man relief corps and give manager Brian Snitker a 5-man bench.

This means Anthony Swarzak goes on the IL, – he hasn’t been good since returning from his shoulder injury – A.J. Minter, Jacob Webb, Jeremy Walker get optioned to AAA, and Jerry Blevins is DFA.

One of these things has already happened:

That leaves the bullpen with only one lefty reliever, a disadvantage when facing a lefty-heavy lineup like that of the Dodgers… so enter Chris Martin.

Martin features a significant reverse split that makes him useful against lefties:

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Melancon’s cutter is back to its best again giving him good splits as well:

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

If this doesn’t appear to work the Braves can recall Minter or add Kyle Muller to the roster.

Speaking of the roster, the Braves needed to make room for the additions and designated Luiz Gohara for assignment.

That’s a wrap

Considering everything that happened and the way prices escalated, Alex Anthopoulos did very well to protect the system and fill needs.  An A+ required four years of Felipe Vazquez, a controllable starter and an experienced bat.

I don’t think Riley figures it our or Nick comes back strong enough, quick enough, to fill that void.  I hope I’m wrong.

Next. Bye Bye Luiz. dark

All-in-all, the Atlanta Braves had the second-best deadline day in the league.  The Astros snuck in at the wire to grab the brass ring, but the Braves definitely got more for their money.

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