Braves Rumors: Atlanta connected to rival's outfielder who has been a Braves killer

In-division trades are always tough, but this Braves trade rumor actually has a lot of merit.

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies
Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

For the Atlanta Braves, replacing Ronald Acuna Jr. after he went down with a knee injury was always going to be next to impossible. When he is right, he is the most dynamic player in baseball when he is right and replacing a guy who put up one of the greatest seasons in baseball history last year just isn't feasible. However, the Braves' plan to survive without Acuna Jr. wasn't a bad one with an outfield alignment of Jarred Kelenic, Michael Harris II, and Adam Duvall.

However, that plan has since gone sideways. Kelenic has been perfectly respectable, but the Braves then lost Harris to a hamstring injury which necessitated calling up the surprisingly decent Ramon Laureano. The bigger issue has been Duvall's play as he has been a shadow of his former self with a .170/.247/.298 line in 190 plate appearances this year.

As a result, rumors that the Braves could go after an outfield bat have persisted throughout the early trade deadline rumor mill with ESPN's Jeff Passan recently connecting Atlanta to Lane Thomas has been an absolute terror against the Braves with the Nationals.

Could the Braves make an in-division trade for Lane Thomas?

In a vacuum, Atlanta trading for Thomas makes a lot of sense. Thomas was really good in 2021 and 2023 (in 2022, not so much) and he has played much better since returning from a knee injury earlier this season. The Braves are also acutely aware of how good Thomas can be as he has been a Braves killer for stretches in his career especially in recent years. He also comes with an extra year of team control and is only making around $5.5 million in 2024 which is most certainly a plus.

There are a couple issues with getting a trade done for Thomas, though. One, teams really don't like trading within their division if they can avoid it. Thomas is likely going to be a popular name at the deadline and Atlanta may be forced to pay a division rival premium if they really want him versus what the Nationals might take from any number of others teams.

The other problem is that the Nationals are kinda good this year. While they aren't likely to be a threat in the division race, they are only 2.5 games out of the NL wild card race right now and trading away one of their hottest hitters may be a tough sell. However, all-world outfield prospect James Wood is currently lurking in their farm system (while absolutely raking) and top draft pick Dylan Crews just got promoted to Triple-A as well. Moving Thomas could clear the way for Wood to make his debut and begin his quest for stardom.

The best bet is that the Braves make a more minor move for a bat (maybe a reunion with Eddie Rosario is in the cards if a deal with the Nationals is possible?) and add some pitching depth at the deadline while hoping that Michael Harris II comes back reasonably quickly. However, general manager Alex Anthopoulos is known for closing the deal at the trade deadline and a trade for Thomas certainly isn't a bad idea assuming Washington is reasonable.

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