4 high-leverage arms the Braves should already be targeting before trade deadline

The Braves may look to bolster their ailing bullpen before the deadline. One of these impact arms might make a brilliant addition.

Houston Astros v Washington Nationals
Houston Astros v Washington Nationals / G Fiume/GettyImages
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There isn’t a hint of doubt that the Braves are a postseason team. As it stands today, the Braves are a lock to make it into October. But, for the past couple of years, the Braves relief corps has had its moments, both good and bad. They are currently 11th in bullpen ERA this year (12th overall in team ERA).

This inconsistency coming from the bullpen won’t keep them from going to the postseason but it can be very problematic when they get there. Most of the top names in relief pitching are either on postseason-bound teams or teams that figure they’re close enough, thus, giving up a valuable reliever is not in their best interests. So, let’s look at some relief arms from teams that would benefit from a good rebuild to find any potential matches for the Braves.

Disclaimer: All stats are current as of 04/24/2024

Mason Miller

Emmanuel Clase, Edwin Diaz, Josh Hader, Devin Williams… these four top-notch closers have one thing in common: name recognition that comes as a result of consistent relief corps excellence. By the end of the year, we will hear the name Mason Miller being used in this context. The Oakland A’s haven’t made too many headlines outside of moving to Las Vegas (first to Sacramento, then to Las Vegas). But there are a few reasons to pay attention to the A’s.

Mason Miller is one of them. Baseball Savant clocks his average fastball velocity at 100.7 mph, but he has shown he can consistently throw it around 103 with wicked movement. He uses it the most of his three-pitch mix: four-seamer, slider, and changeup. His fastball is paired with his high-eighties, wipeout slider that appears to be a fastball nearly letter-high before it drops almost to the dirt. His changeup has only been thrown twice this year. While rare, it is still a plus pitch in his arsenal. But what about the results?

Last year (his first in the majors), in 33.1 innings, Miller’s ERA was 3.78. This was throughout 10 games, six of which he started. But this year, he is a reliever only and has already seen much more success in his new role. As a former starter, Miller can go more than one inning per appearance. In 10 innings through eight games, Miller has a 1.80 ERA with 20 strikeouts.

That’s two strikeouts per inning. But don’t let these stellar numbers fool you, it gets even better. The only blotch on his record this year comes from his first appearance of the season where he gave up two runs in an inning of work. Since that day on March 31, he hasn’t given up a single run.

What would the Braves need to give up for Miller? The cost would likely be very hefty as Miller might be the MLB’s best reliever by the end of the year. His contract expires after the 2029 season. As with other flamethrowing relievers, Miller is prone to injury. However, this will likely have no impact on his overall value. The A’s are 4th in the AL West this season and have missed the postseason since 2020 after losing to Houston in the ALDS.

They will need to move a few players to be competitive. However, with several years of control, Miller might be one they want to keep. If this isn’t the case and should any team pay the price, they would gain a valuable arm under their control leading up to the 2030s, and that might be worth it.

Jason Adam

Adam might not have a triple-digit fastball like Miller but his four-pitch mix achieves a similar result. Currently a relief pitcher for the Rays, his four-seamer averages in the mid-90s. He offsets it with his sweeper, slider, and changeup. His best year was 2022 with 63.1 IP, a 1.56 ERA, and 75 K. With elite-level numbers like that, you’d think his name would be used more often. Last year’s numbers weren’t as stellar, but still very good.

Adam threw 54.1 innings with an ERA of 2.98. It is fair to mention that Adam was injured twice last year which could have affected his performance even though it was good. This year, Adam has a 1.50 ERA through 12 innings of work with 9 Ks. He owns a career 3.12 ERA which includes his abysmal numbers from his debut year in 2018. Before 2022, he hadn’t pitched 40 innings in a single season but, since 2018, he has been very dominant. For the past two years and so far this year, he has kept opponent's batting averages under .190 (under .150 in 2022 and this year).

The real questions here are if the Rays would trade him and for what. The Rays are currently a .500 team but are still last in the AL East. They have enough talent to repair their mediocre record, but returning to contention may prove an elusive goal.

The Rays have recently parted with some notable players over the past couple of years including Tyler Glasnow, so trading Adam isn’t out of the question. Adam will be a free agent after the 2026 season. The relatively short time horizon might mean the Rays’ are more willing to trade him. The price for Adam won’t likely be the price of a star reliever so, if the Rays are willing to make a deal, the Braves won’t need to part with an extensive package of talent.

Acquiring a potential star reliever without the premium price tag could give the Braves the added flexibility their bullpen may need in the postseason without draining their farm system. If they can score Adam, they will be in a very good position in October and the next few years.

Camilo Doval

You might find the name Camilo Doval quite familiar and rightfully so. He has garnered a reputation as the Giants’ flamethrower closer despite the fact he hasn’t even thrown a four-seamer since 2021 when he threw only three (topping out at 104.5 mph).  His main pitch is his slider which he mixes with a cutter and a sinker. Four-seamers are generally the pitch with the highest velocity, but Doval has shown he doesn’t need one.

His slider averages in the high 80s this year and imitates the movement of a fastball until it approaches the plate forcing hitters to swing over it or ground it. His slider, since it is used most often, makes his sinker and cutter all the more devastating. His cutter ranges from the high 90s into triple-digit velocity with stunning movement. His sinker is thrown with high 90s velocity. Doval’s secondary offerings are yet to give up a hit so far this year.

His 2024 results aren’t so compelling thus far. He has a 3.52 ERA over 7.2 innings pitched. However, most of the damage came in the 0.2 innings he pitched in his season debut when he gave up two runs. Since then, he has looked more like his usual self. Since his call-up in 2021, he has maintained a career 2.81 ERA. This is after posting a 2.93 ERA through 67.2 innings last season.

The Giants are two games under .500 and are tied for 3rd in the NL West. While they aren’t underwater yet, they are going to need help both with pitching (27th in team ERA this year despite having Hicks and Webb in their rotation) and offensively if they are going to be competitive. Doval is a free agent after the 2027 season.

Seeing as how Doval still has ample time under their control, the Giants may choose to keep him since they are in need of pitching. To gain Doval, any offer the Braves make would need the potential to significantly shore up at least one of the Giants’ weak spots.

Ryan Pressly

Ryan Pressly, like the Houston Astros, is not having a good year. His ERA so far through 9.2 innings in 2024 is 7.45. These numbers are uncharacteristically bad for him. His career ERA stands at a solid 3.31. A pitcher with his talent isn’t likely to stay this bad for long. He is a top bounce-back candidate. Last year, he finished the year with a 3.58 ERA having pitched 65.1 innings; definitely not one of his best seasons. Like Doval, his main pitch is his slider.

Unlike most relievers, Pressly has a wide repertoire. Last year, he threw six different pitches (though some were rarely used). His main three-pitch mix includes his high 80s to low 90s slider, a curveball that sits in the low 80s, and a low to mid 90s four-seamer. Having a pitcher who can mix speeds and pitch types as well as he has in the past is definitely an advantage. Pressly as an Astro since 2018, has extensive postseason experience posting a career postseason ERA of 2.22.

The annual postseason behemoth Houston Astros seem to be in a difficult spot this year. They currently are in last place (7-18) in an AL West division where the top team is at .500. Pressly’s contract carries through this season with a vesting option for 2025 (meaning he needs to throw a certain number of innings this year or management can choose to decline his option thus making him a free agent; in other words, he is under club control through the 2025 season).

For any team watching, the short time horizon, struggling team, and a bad start for the player add up to a green light if they want to acquire Pressly for their bullpen. The Braves might have what it takes to rejuvenate Pressly’s career and they likely won’t need to part with much giving them enough flexibility to work out a deal to their liking.

The Braves bullpen will need help if they are going to be successful in the postseason. It is still early in the season, so management has time to scrupulously survey the field before the trade deadline. But, for now, it doesn't look like you can go wrong with any four of these arms.

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