In complete contrast to the first half of the season, the Atlanta Braves have dropped 7 of their last 10 games. A bullpen that took pride in having the 3rd best ERA in the MLB has given up 20 earned runs since the All-Star break (10 games).
There is no way that Alex Anthopoulos will sit back and just assume things will get better. Let's not sugarcoat it, to make a push at another World Series championship, pitching has to improve.
Who might the Braves inquire about?
1. Josh Hader
We have said this before, but Hader would be a great addition to the Braves bullpen. Nothing against Rasiel Iglesias, who would still be an important piece in the pen, but Josh Hader would be a much better option to close games. The Brewers have stated they don't intend to move Hader but the right deal could change their mind.
2. Joe Kelly
The Chicago White Sox have already shown that they will be sellers during this busy trade season. They have already dealt one of their front-line starters in Lucas Giolito to the Angels. Joe Kelly is a veteran that has proven himself to be consistently effective and a real weapon during the postseason. With him becoming a free agent this offseason, the Braves almost assuredly could acquire Kelly.
3. Brennan Bernardino
The Braves could potentially kill two birds with one stone in a deal with the Boston Red Sox. Several sources have reported that Atlanta may be interested in a reunion with their old pal Adam Duvall. Why not go ahead and acquire him along with a great left-handed reliever? Brennan Bernardino has appeared in 30 games this year and has an ERA of 2.34 while striking out 38 in 34.2 innings pitched.
4. Justin Topa
The Seattle Mariners are a team to keep an eye on over the next few days. They are 7.5 games out of first place in the AL West and 4.5 out of a second wild-card spot. Seattle is straddling the fence of buying or selling. If their front office feels like they might not be able to make a push this season, Justin Topa could be a great fit for Atlanta.
He is on a 1-year/$720,000 contract but pitching like he should be earning millions. Through 44 appearances this season (40 innings pitched), he has an ERA of 2.70 and struck out 37. He has also been trusted in a couple of save situations.
5. Daniel Bard
Sitting in last place in their division, there is no doubt the Colorado Rockies will be willing to part ways with a veteran or two in exchange for some younger player. Daniel Bard could be at the top of that list. With his ability and experience, he could turn out to be a well-trusted arm out of the bullpen for Brian Snitker if he is dealt to Atlanta. The Braves did already make a deal for Pierce Johnson who was with Colorado but it would be wild to not consider adding Bard as well.
Bard does issue quite a few free passes and has a WHIP over 1.40. However, with an ERA below 3.00, he seems to work out of his own mess more often than not. It also can't go unnoticed that Bard is putting up numbers like this in a ballpark where the ball carries like no other.
Why These Trades Won't Be Easy
Of all the potential trade candidates that Alex Anthopoulos has his eyes on, there may be one slight problem. What do the Braves have to offer?
After years and years of developing young players while maintaining the best farm system in baseball, the Braves no longer have that luxury. They are now reaping their rewards of that farm system as they have the best record in the MLB. According to Bleacher Report, the Braves now rank 24th out of 30 in farm system rankings.
As good as the Braves MLB team is, there may not be too many players that Anthopoulos would be willing to depart with. Veterans like Kirby Yates and Collin McHugh who Atlanta could be willing to deal will most likely not be enough to acquire anyone on this list.
This will be a very interesting trade deadline for Alex Anthopoulos and the Atlanta Braves. AA will have to put together an intriguing enough package with limited options on prospects and players currently in the majors.
The good news is if there is a GM that can get what the team needs under these circumstances, it is Anthopoulos.