Not much went right for the Atlanta Braves in the first half of the 2021 season, so let’s dream about a more pleasant second half.
Obviously, things won’t go perfectly the rest of the way, and that’s pretty much what it would take for this team to win the NL East and make a run in the postseason.
But let’s go through that perfect scenario and what it would look like in the second half.
The first and most obvious thing that needs to happen is health — specifically to their top players. Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, and Ozzie Albies can’t get banged up at any point for an extended period of time.
On the pitching side, Charlie Morton and Max Fried have to remain healthy. I’d add Ian Anderson to that list, but he’s already banged up.
And beyond that, the guys who aren’t currently healthy have to get healthy and perform at the top level — mainly Travis d’Arnaud as the catching situation is a mess.
Second, there has to be some help given to this team via trades. We can debate what those trades are and just how impactful they should be.
But we’re dreaming a bit, so let’s say they trade for Joey Gallo and Robbie Grossman. That’s two outfield bats who excel at getting on base and hitting homers — although both certainly come with some faults.
I don’t think either would be outrageously expensive — Gallo could probably get done with Drew Waters or William Contreras as a centerpiece. And both are under control through next season.
Then they just need to get a proven arm or two for the back of the bullpen and those are always available at the deadline for pretty cheap.
Third, Dansby Swanson has to step up. Assuming Freeman, Albies, and Riley continue to produce like they have been — even with the possible additions mentioned above — Swanson has to be more productive at the plate to give this lineup the length it needs from top-to-bottom.
Fourth, Cristian Pache has to come up and play Gold Glove defense in center and give this team something on offense.
It’s really what we wanted from Pache at the beginning of the season but never got. Part of that was because he just needs more development with the bat, and the other part is because he was banged up.
And it may not even be necessary in this perfect-case scenario I’m drawing up, but it would certainly be nice.
And finally, if all of that happens, this team just needs to win games, which has been a struggle. For whatever reason, this team — even when healthy — hasn’t been able to win close games that they should.
Most of that is because of the bullpen’s inability to hold onto close leads or keep the offense in striking distance. But it’s also because this offense isn’t capable of scoring more than 4 runs a game on a consistent basis and doesn’t have that late-inning juice they’ve had in the past.
They honestly just need some things to start going their way, and it’s about time that starts happening this season.