With trade season right around the corner, the Atlanta Braves will be looking to improve their team as they push for another World Series Championship. Let's explore some options that Atlanta could consider.
Position Player Additions?
From an early age in life, we are taught that there is always room for improvement. That even applies to the 60-29 Atlanta Braves. This team has been notorious for putting crooked numbers in the run column almost every night propelling them to the best record in the MLB. It's safe to say that the Braves feel comfortable making no changes among position players this season for a couple of different reasons.
The Braves have hit 169 home runs (1st in MLB), have a team batting average of .271 (2nd in MLB), 480 RBIs (3rd in MLB), and have scored a total of 499 runs (3rd in the MLB). Putting up these types of numbers, it would be easy to assume that the Braves were either striking out or hitting homers, but that is far from the truth. There are only six teams in the MLB that have struck out less than Atlanta in 2023 (Blue Jays, Mets, Astros, Diamondbacks, Guardians, and Nationals). The thought process here is "If it's not broken, don't fix it."
In addition to great production from all positions, the Braves have depth on the bench that is not talked about enough. Travis d'Arnuad or Sean Murphy is behind the dish every night, leaving the other on the bench and available for a pinch or emergency. Kevin Pillar and Sam Hilliard have made the most of their opportunities whether it be to give someone a day off, matchup preference, or filling in due to injury.
Utility man Charlie Culberson has yet to play an inning for the Braves this season, but he doesn't have to prove what he can do from 2018-2020. While Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, and Austin Riley have played in every game this season, it is a luxury to have the bench depth this team does if someone goes down with an injury.
Each day that gets marked off the calendar, means the Braves are closer to seeing Max Fried and Kyle Wright on the mound. Spencer Strider has been absolutely electric putting himself in Cy Young Award conversations. Bryce Elder has the fifth-best ERA in the National League at 2.97 and has been one of Atlanta's best this year. Charlie Morton has been a little inconsistent by his standards but still has a 9-6 record with a 3.43 ERA entering the second half of the season.
Morton is also a guy that will flip a switch when the playoffs roll around to give his team a chance to win each outing. Once everyone is healthy, the 5th spot in the rotation will still be up for grabs, as it seems no one has claimed it yet. Kolby Allard, Jared Shuster, Dylan Dodd, and AJ Smith-Shawver have all had good and not-so-good spot starts this season.
Michael Soroka has not been the "Maple Maddux" he was before his abundance of injuries carrying a 5.31 ERA in just 20.1 innings pitched. With the 5th spot in the rotation open and still no confirmed return date for Fried or Wright, starting pitching could be on Alex Anthopolus' radar.
The Chicago White Sox are a team that fits the criteria to be "sellers" at the trade deadline. Chicago is sitting at 38-54 with a team that seems to have no real direction moving forward. Two arms in their rotation that would fit in nicely with Atlanta would be Dylan Cease or Lucas Giolito.
Seeing Giolito in a Braves uniform would have a cool story to it as he would reunite with his high school teammate Max Fried. However, Dylan Cease is a more logical move, being that he is from Braves country (Milton, GA) and would most likely come at a lower cost. Atlanta will get to witness the right-hander's arsenal on Sunday when he makes his start at Truist Park.
This season Cease is 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA. While those numbers are not exactly astonishing, he has struck out 123 batters in 102.2 innings pitched and only walked 42. The White Sox needs include improvement of their middle infield which the Braves have to trade.
Orlando Arcia has officially proven himself to hold down the shortstop position at the major league level and while we think of him as a veteran, he is still 28 years old. It is realistic that either Vaughn Grissom or Braden Shewmake are dealt at the deadline in exchange for pitching as there seems to be a roadblock at the shortstop position in the Braves organization.
After Nick Anderson being placed on the 60-day IL yesterday and Tyler Matzek most likely not returning until the 2024 season, the Braves bullpen is not what they envisioned at the moment. This is a bullpen that has the 3rd-best ERA in all of baseball but still could use some help.
Going into the end of the regular season and pressing for a World Series Championship, pitching is something a team can never have enough of. Raisel Iglesias is holding down the back end of the bullpen for Atlanta, collecting 6 saves in his last 7 games and a 2.70 ERA during that stretch. Middle relief or setup positions could be on the Braves' wishlist before August 1st. The Colorado Rockies who are 34-57 could have exactly what the Braves are looking for in Daniel Bard.
Bard currently has a 1.76 ERA in 30.2 innings pitched at a ballpark that is labeled as arguably the best hitters park in the MLB. With numbers like this, the Rockies will most likely have a steeper asking price than most teams would for a relief pitcher. However, being that Bard becomes a free agent after the 2024 season, the Rockies may be open to moving him now to get something in return. This potential move will depend on how aggressive the Braves' front office wants to be and if they view enhancing the bullpen as a necessity.
Like every other GM, Alex Anthopolus will be a busy man over the next few weeks and these are some options we could expect him to at least consider, but pay close attention because AA seems to always have something up his sleeve.