4 Braves trade candidates from clubs already falling out of contention

Trade season is quickly approaching and the Braves need to start weighing their options, especially from ballclubs that have already fallen out of the playoff race.

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics
Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages
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The Braves are a fast-sinking team with no real explanation behind their rapid decline. Their offense without Acuna has all but diminished and their starting rotation without Strider has a gaping hole. Despite their recent woes, the Braves are still in the postseason picture, at least for now thanks to their hot start to the season.

However, if they want to stay in the picture, either the offense is going to need to kick it into high gear or Alex Anthopoulos is going to need to inject some life into their lineup.

Unfortunately, the Braves don’t have too many bargaining chips to trade with. They have two top 100 prospects in AJ Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep. Besides that, the Braves’ farm system is fairly shallow. This makes it unlikely that they can acquire some of the top names on the auctioning block like Luis Robert Jr. or Mason Miller if it came down to a bidding war.

While not impossible, going after some top names might mean draining what’s left of the farm system. Luckily, there are some underrated gems on some rather poor teams to choose from. Perhaps if managed with cunning prowess,

Alex Anthopoulos could acquire more than one game-changing player and engineer another 2021 comeback story. Let’s check out some of the names that fly in under the radar.

4 Braves trade candidates from clubs already falling out of contention

Disclaimer: All statistics reflect totals as of 6/13/2024

Paul DeJong

While top-tier teams raced to be the first to 50 wins, the White Sox safely reached 50 losses before that could happen. While it is a lost year in the south side of Chicago, there are a few attractive names on the market like Erick Fedde, Garrett Crochet, and Luis Robert Jr. But one stand-out having a breakout season thus far is shortstop Paul DeJong. DeJong is slashing .232/.284/.473.

If that doesn’t look too impressive, then it’s because we haven’t accounted for the 13 homers under his belt this season. What’s even more impressive is that this home run total comes in 207 at-bats this season. That’s an AB/HR ratio of 15.92. That means he hits a home run in just about every 16 at-bats. Compare that to Marcell Ozuna’s AB/HR ratio of 13.61. DeJong isn’t Ozuna, but his power isn’t bad this year.

Throughout his career, DeJong hasn’t found much success at the plate. His best year came in 2019 when he hit .233 with 30 home runs, his highest home run total of any year. It was also the only year he saw over 500 at-bat’s logging in 583. DeJong, who is turning 31 in August, is owed $1.75 million this year and is a free agent after the season.

Should the Braves trade for him, they likely won’t need to part with much given his few months of control and lack of a successful track record. In addition, the White Sox will likely eat a portion of his contract or send cash considerations with any trade.

He would be replacing Orlando Arcia if this deal was made and while Braves fans have fond memories of Arcia, he lags all qualifying shortstops in OPS this year, and in the slumping Braves lineup, they desperately need a bat to kickstart their run production.

Taylor Ward

The Angels have had tragic year after tragic year with no break from the constant injuries and underperformance. This year, after losing Mike Trout to the IL for another extensive go-around, left-fielder Taylor Ward seems to be the Angels’ ray of sunshine through a heavy pouring rainstorm. This year, through 244 at-bats

Ward is slashing .250/.327/.447 with 12 home runs. Ward’s best year came in 2022 when he hit .281 with 23 homers through 495 at-bats. It is also the only year he had more than 400 ABs. While he’s not Acuna, Ward could transform the Braves’ lulling lineup into a productive one.

This year, Ward, who is 30 years old, is owed $4.8 million. He will be eligible for arbitration in 2025 and 2026 before becoming a free agent. The Braves have already shown interest in Ward. Should they pull the trigger and trade for him, they will have gained a quality player they can control through 2026.

Luis Rengifo

Another interesting player from the Los Angeles Angels is Luis Rengifo. Rengifo might not be the flashiest hitter, but he brings quality at-bats whenever he steps up to the plate. This year, he is slashing .317/.366/.441 with 4 homers.

If the home run total seems a bit low, then it’s worth noting that he has only seen 188 at-bats this season. Still, Rengifo isn’t known for overwhelming power, but his bat has been on the uptrend since 2022. Last year, through 394 at-bats, Rengifo hit 16 homers to the tune of a .264 average.

Besides this year’s numbers, two things about Rengifo work well with any club: he is a switch-hitter and he has played every position besides first base, catcher, and pitcher during his Angels tenure.

This makes him a super-utility player with a plus bat and a highly respectable on-base percentage. If that isn’t enough, he also stole 17 bags this season so far proving he is no slouch on the bases. And if the Braves could nab Ward and Rengifo in the same deal, this could radically transform the Braves’ lineup.

The 27-year-old Luis Rengifo is owed $4.4 million this year. Next year, he is eligible for arbitration before he hits the open market after the 2025 season.

Brent Rooker

Last but certainly not least, there’s Brent Rooker. Rooker may not fly under the radar as well as others. As a matter of fact, he has been on the Braves’ radar already. Thus far, he is slashing .258/.340/.512 with 13 HR through 209 ABs this season for the Oakland A’s.

This comes after a 2023 campaign where he hit 30 HR with a .246 average through 463 at-bats. Rooker has the makings of a slugger. 2023 is also the first year we saw a decent sample size of Rooker’s ability. Since his debut in 2020, he scuffled in the majors and hadn’t seen many at-bats in a single season on the big-league level until last year.

Rooker, who turns 30 in November, is owed $740,000 this year and is eligible for arbitration every year through 2027 before hitting free agency.

Having control over Rooker through 2027 at a steep discount to his talent is a luxury any team would fight over. If the Braves are going to land Rooker, it may cost them more than what is ideal. However, if it does land them Rooker, it might be well worth it.

Rooker currently serves as the A’s primary designated hitter but occasionally plays in the corner outfield positions. Acquiring him would almost certainly have the effect of turning the Braves’ offense back into a force to reckon with.

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