Atlanta Braves: 3 Trade Targets To Replace Ian Anderson

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 11: Starting pitcher Brad Keller #56 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the 1st inning of game one of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on July 11, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JULY 11: Starting pitcher Brad Keller #56 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the 1st inning of game one of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on July 11, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The MLB trade deadline is coming up, and the Atlanta Braves have a tough decision to make with their rotation

Ian Anderson has had a tough year in 2022 for the Atlanta Braves. It was mentioned in his player preview that his peripherals show that he could regress, and unfortunately, he has.

Anderson currently has a 5.31 ERA (which is 20% below average in terms of ERA+), 4.48 FIP, 1.579 WHIP, and 1.69 strikeout/walk ratio in 19 starts.

Since June 4th, it has gotten even worse. In his last 6 starts, Anderson has an 8.03 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 2.108 WHIP, and a 1.375 strikeout/walk ratio.

The Atlanta Braves have some decisions to make about Anderson

Because of this decline, the Braves have some decisions to make on how to approach Anderson’s role for the remainder of the year. They can continue to roll with him and hope he figures it out, or they can send him down to AAA since he has 3 option years remaining.

If they do send him down, they can either bring up Kyle Muller, who in 16 starts in AAA has a 2.96 ERA, 1.081 WHIP, and 4.50 strikeout/walk ratio or they can make a trade at the deadline.

Now, to be clear, making a trade at the deadline is not giving up on Anderson. He has 3 option years left and can use the time down to reset and work on his tremendous talent.

The Braves can potentially upgrade on Anderson this year and fill another rotation spot in the future if they play their cards right. It all depends on if they can trade for the right arm with the pieces that are available to move. Having the 30th-ranked farm system may prove difficult.

Who can the Atlanta Braves trade for to upgrade Anderson’s spot?

The pickings at the trade deadline this year are slim, but there are 3 options that stick out. It needs to be pointed out that the Atlanta Braves cannot take on much salary, so guys like Noah Syndergaard are probably out.

With the farm system being what it is, guys like Luis Castillo might be out as well.

Tyler Mahle

Tyler Mahle just came off the IL, and is on a team that is in desperate need of an accelerated rebuild in the Reds.

At first glance, we see a 4.48 ERA this year and may not be excited about it. However, other than 2 bad starts, he has not given up more than 4 earned runs this season.

His peripherals, according to Statcast, also look excellent:

  • Expected ERA (xERA) – Top 26% in the league
  • Expected weighted on base average against (xwOBA) – Top 26%
  • Expected batting average against (xBA) – Top 16%
  • Expected slugging% against (xSLG) – Top 23%

Mahle is also under contract through 2024, so he could not only help this year, but can also help fill a rotation spot next year as well if Charlie Morton’s option is not picked up, or he retires.

With Mahle’s ERA being as high as it is, it may also make Mahle affordable to a team like the Braves who do not have much prospect capital.

Mahle is also only owed the pro-rated amount of $5.3 million this year, and whatever he will be paid in his final year of arbitration next year.

This seems like a perfect low risk/high reward type move that Alex Anthopoulos likes to make.

Brad Keller

Brad Keller of the Royals may not be a name that has come up a lot in trade rumor mills, but he is a solid rotation piece that has decent upside that fits the mold of a guy that could help the Atlanta Braves, while also being affordable.

Keller is under team control through the 2023 season, so could help the Atlanta Braves not only this year, but next as well. He also will only cost the pro-rated amount of $4.83 million this year and whatever his arbitration raise will be in 2023.

Looking at his full season of work, he has not been elite by any means, even if he has been better than Ian Anderson. He currently has an ERA of 4.16 (99 ERA+), 4.35 FIP, 1.308 WHIP, and a 1.84 SO/W ratio.

However, in his last 6 starts, he has been pitching at an elite level. Since June 18th, he holds a 2.97 ERA, 3.52 FIP, and hitters batting .203/.305/.285 against him.

His peripherals also show a decent story:

  • xwOBA – Top 51%
  • xERA – Top 51 %
  • xSLG – Top 43%
  • Barrel% (solid contact) – Top 17%

What is even better is in the last 50 plate appearances against him, his xwOBA has gotten to the point to where it is in the top 20%.

If Kansas City is willing to move Keller now, the Braves may be able to get a good deal on a player who could be a solid number 4 or 5 rotation arm for them for the next 15 months.

Frankie Montas

If we are being honest here, Frankie Montas would easily be the most expensive, and hardest to land in a trade of the 3 players listed. He, like the other 2, is a free agent after the 2023 season.

He also will not cost much financially being owed the pro-rated amount of $5.03 million this year, plus his arbitration raise next year.

The Braves do have a working relationship with the Athletics, so that may help some, but odds are that other competing teams will be looking to acquire Montas’ services as well, driving up the price in a deal.

If the Braves can pull it off, it would be easily worth it. Montas may be the best pitcher some fans have never heard of. An obvious All-Star snub may have kept his name out of the national media, but he is pitching like an ace.

Currently, Montas has a 3.16 ERA (118 ERA+), 3.24 FIP, 1.084 WHIP, and a 4.20 SO/W ratio, with batters hitting .225/.274/.358 against him.

His peripherals back up his surface numbers too:

  • xwOBA – Top 35%
  • xERA – Top 35%
  • xBA – Top 41%
  • xSLG – Top 51%
  • Strikeout Rate – Top 28%
  • Walk Rate Top 28%

It will ultimately depend on the bidding war that happens, and if the Atlanta Braves want to participate in this bidding war. However, if they do, it could be worth it.

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There is no guarantee that the Atlanta Braves will trade for a starter, but with the way that Ian Anderson is pitching, it makes sense to at least explore the idea.