Braves Rumors: 3 potential trade deadline targets not named Shohei Ohtani

In a time that can only be personified as Christmastime for baseball fans everywhere, the end of July brings with it a collective of misty-eyed, eager-hearted fans, filled with expectations and hope for their loyal teams as the trade deadline looms closer and closer.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Los Angeles Angels
Pittsburgh Pirates v Los Angeles Angels / Michael Owens/GettyImages
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The road to August 1st will be one paved with speculation, laden with rumors and breaking news posted along the mile markers. Despite how well the Atlanta Braves have performed in 2023, even they could use trades to improve the team.

As history has shown us, quite literally anything can happen during the trade deadline, seeing the biggest names in the sport suddenly donning new threads at a feverish pace that almost feels like it’s happening in the blink of an eye. 

The pseudo-holiday season for baseball fans everywhere has given us some of the biggest trades we’ve witnessed in the game. From CC Sabathia’s departure from Cleveland to Milwaukee to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo's departure from Chicago, from newly-minted Hall of Famer Fred McGriff’s exodus from California to Atlanta, to Mark McGwire’s arrival to St. Louis. The trade deadline has, at the very least, left all baseball fans vehemently entertained, year after year. 

Sitting exactly one week away from the climax of all the action, the Braves have already made some small splashes, adding veteran reliever Pierce Johnson from Colorado in exchange for Tanner Gordon and Victor Vodnik. The club also brought on Taylor Hearn, a southpaw out of Texas, in exchange for cash consideration from the Rangers, per Braves beat writer Mark Bowman. 

With two new relievers in tow, who both are expected to occupy tough spots as needed, the Braves enter the next week with plenty of options and a pitching staff ready to be re-bolstered. The 2023 trade block is one of the most loaded we’ve seen in years, as far as raw talent goes, with a proverbial white whale from Japan on the most prominent spot.

While the Braves can and should be seen as prominent buyers leading down the stretch, it should be noted that a mega-swap for two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani is unlikely. The price tag attached to the esteemed import may prove too high for the ever-frugal Anthopoulos, whose small-numbered approach and affinity for younger stars clashes with the potential asking price Anaheim would provide. 

That said, the Braves should still be seen as buyers, with one of the vastest trade markets available in recent memory. 

So, who should AA be targeting, and why?

San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game One
San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game One / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

Blake Snell

Leading the helm of one of the most potential-packed teams in baseball, Snell brings with him a loaded resume, a killer slider, and a reputation as a prominent lefty in any rotation he finds himself in. 

The genesis of Snell’s career in San Diego saw him struggling out of the gate, posting an ERA of 4.20 with a 7-6 record, A 1.200 WHIP,  a 7.1 H/9, and 170 K’s, to boot. As his stay extended from months to years in sunny Southern California, he found himself re-adjusting to his 2018 Cy Young form. 

Through the 2023 season, Snell is firing a league-best 2.67 ERA on a 6-8 record with an HR/9 of 0.9, 143 K’s, and a league-best 153 ERA+. Clearly, a couple of years of adjustment transformed Snell from a struggling former Cy Young winner to a proven starter instilling unease and intimidation into the eyes of those he faces. 

Over his last seven games started, Snell is 4-2 with a staggeringly low 0.69 ERA through 39 innings pitched, striking out 62 while only giving up three runs. All signs are pointing to a redemption season for Snell, who is likely looking to re-cement himself as a true force to be reckoned with on the mound. 

There’s just one problem, however. 

While the announcement via ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez is saying that Preller is unlikely to move Snell at the deadline, his performance this season may create more demand than anticipated, causing Preller to change his tune and cash in on his scintillating southpaw. 

Houston Astros v St. Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

Jordan Hicks

Sensing a theme? I thought so. After all, pitching wins pennants; just ask Tyler Matzek. 

Anyway, at first glance, a move for Jordan Hicks may prove unproductive, especially given his mixed-up stats from this season. As it stands, Hicks’ beginning of the season started on one of the sourest notes you can think of, seeing him post a 5.23 ERA through 10.1 innings pitched, with a WHIP of 2.03 and an 0-2 record. All signs pointed to a potential DFA, leaving St. Louis with more questions than answers about their back-end fireballer. 

As the season got older, we saw Hicks settle in more, maintaining a form of consistency that is sure to be catching the eye of executives across the league, finding life back in his fastball and command in his breaking stuff.

Following the abysmal start to the season, Hicks has maintained to keep his monthly ERA below 4, seeing his earned runs and his walk rate diminish. Through the short second half of the season, Hicks is sporting a 2.25 ERA, with a 1.75 WHIP, a K/9 rate of 6.8, and only one earned run. The control is slowly but surely improving and his velocity is back up to par. 

Hicks is getting comfortable on the mound and would be a golden addition to an esteemed bullpen such as Atlanta’s. Anthopoulos could gamble on the slightly unpredictable fireballer, potentially having him work as a setup man in crucial spots. 

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Guardians
Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Guardians / Ron Schwane/GettyImages

Aaron Civale

With two years left of control and a proven track record, Civale could serve as a solid addition to a pitching staff still trying to scramble given the status of their current starters. 

With Soroka’s struggles, Elder’s second-half decline, and Strider’s newfound pension for giving up runs, the Braves need a proven middle-of-the-rotation man to eat up innings, limit runs, and eliminate the need for consistent call-up and send-downs. 

Through 11 games this season, Civale is posting a comfortable 2.71 ERA on a 3-2 record in 63 innings pitched, with a 153 ERA+, an 0.7 HR/9, and a 1.079 WHIP. While his BB/9 is rising from, 2.0 to a 2.6, his H/9 is seeing a steady decline, falling from 8.6 in 2022 to 7.1 this season. 

While his post All-Star Break numbers seem to be climbing, seeing him post a 3.48 ERA through 10.1 innings of work, it should be taken with a grain of salt when looking at the larger picture. 

Civale’s consistent ability to limit baserunners may prove tempting to Anthopoulos, who, as we all know, loves to stock up on guys with proven consistency. Throw in the extra two years of control attached to Civale, and you’ve got a guy all but destined to play in Cobb County. 

All eyes will be on the front office over the next week, with expectations at an all-time high and a fierce, burning passion to make it back to the Fall Classic. While no one can correctly predict the future, we as Braves fans can sit back with an array of confidence, reciting the credo adopted following solid move after solid move: In AA We Trust.