Braves Rumors: MLB insider misses mark with trade targets as deadline chatter heats up

It’s no secret the Atlanta Braves need reinforcements as the lineup and back of the rotation struggle. One MLB insider had suggestions for trade options that leave a bit to be desired.

Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos is working harder than usual to find players to reinforce the roster.
Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos is working harder than usual to find players to reinforce the roster. / Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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Braves fans are well aware of the carousel of pitchers who’ve tried unsuccessfully to lay claim to the fifth starter slot and the way the lineup’s recent inability to score runs compounded the team’s problems.

President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos told reporters that he’s responsible for the roster the Braves have and improving it. He went on to say he’s busier than usual, but aside from DFAs and released players, the market is quiet,

Braves Rumors: MLB insider misses mark with trade targets as deadline chatter heats up

Everybody needs somebody, well, not everybody, but every team that believes they have a shot at postseason play needs help. Right now, that’s over half the league, so the market's crowded, and the number of players available is limited.

Known sellers include the Athletics, Angels, Cardinals, Giants, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, and maybe the Rockies, but with their weird way of running the club, who knows?

The Diamondbacks, Cubs, Pirates, Reds, Rays, and Tigers are what I call selective sellers. They all have needs but aren’t having anything close to a fire sale. Although, a couple may move that way if things get really bad.

Houston and Toronto will eventually accept that they aren’t going to make it this year, and despite swearing they are buyers, will try to rebuild their system and dump excess salary without going into a see-you-in-three-to-five-years rebuild. Both teams have oversized payrolls, desirable players who are going to be expensive, and would return multiple high-level prospects.

Jim Bowden's trade suggestions for Braves are a bit underwhelming

Braves fans know the club needs another outfielder and a veteran starting pitcher.  Atlanta wants an upgrade, not a sideways or backward step, and isn’t necessarily looking for a long-term solution; if a player with control is available, it’s a plus, not a requirement. They’d prefer a left-handed hitting outfielder, but a righty who doesn’t need a platoon partner works too.

The starter only needs to throw six innings in most starts and post a league-average ERA – currently 4.05 in the NL.

The Braves are limited by having one of the weakest farm systems in the league. Their best prospects are currently in the rotation or on the injured list, and two of the team’s best pitchers leave after this year, which will make it harder to pry a top prospect for Alex Anthopoulos’ hands. In 2021, Atlanta turned nothing into a World Series win, but such an event is almost impossible to repeat.

In the past, Atlanta has taken on big contracts rather than give up prospects, but this year, taking on a contract is about more than paying the salary. The Braves are a second-time CBT payor and, depending on your source, are either $3.6M (Fangraphs) or $8M (Spotrac) below the second CBT surcharge threshold.

Crossing the second threshold increases the combined monetary penalty from 42% to 75% and drops the club's first draft pick in 2025 ten places. Comp Balance picks don’t count, so a drop of ten spots in 2023 would have moved their pick from 24 to 46.

In Thursday’s issue of The Athletic, former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden wrote about the needs of each team and potential targets to fill those needs. He selected three pitchers as potential Braves' targets including Erick Fedde, Paul Blackburn, and Trevor Williams. Two of those pitchers are currently injured.

Trevor Williams is a 32-year-old righty who had a 4.48 career ERA and 1.39 WHIP entering this season and led the league in home runs allowed in 2023. He was pitching to a 2.22 ERA for the Nationals when he went on the IL with a flexor tendon strain.  If he were just reaching his prime, I’d have more faith in his sudden ERA improvement, but his early numbers are a mirage, and his flexor tendon strain makes him an automatic noncontender.

Paul Blackburn is a 30-year-old righty currently on the IL with a stress reaction in his right foot. He had a 4.90 career ERA and a 1.43 WHIP before 2024 but pitched to a 4.11 before injury.  I believe his magical turnaround is related to the deadened baseball we’ve seen this year, and while anyone can sustain an injury, acquiring a pitcher whose foot injury is the result of landing on it - you know, like a pitcher does 150 times a game – is a bad idea.

Erick Fedde is the only one where I agree with Bowden. He had a horrible career ERA through 2022, but he went to Korea and changed how he pitches. He’s been very good for an awful team, pitching to a 3.15 ERA 81+ innings and a GB% just a smidge under 48%. He’s under team control through 2025 for $7.5M, so perhaps some creative accounting could reduce his 2024 hit on the Braves payroll, but I suspect the White Sox know they have a needed commodity and will price him that way.

Bowden’s Baffling Outfield Options - No Upgrade

Bowden's 12 outfield selections were eclectic, and most did come close to meeting the Braves' needs in the outfielder they decide to acquire To refresh your memory, Atlanta wants someone who’ll perform better than Brian Anderson or Forest Wall and won't cost more than we have to give.

  • Eddie Rosario – Been there, done that, thanks for the World Series, but not this year.
  • Mike Yastrzemski is 33 with roughly $4m remaining at the deadline and batting .216/.292/.398/.690.
  • Randy Arozarena is 29, batting .171/.278/.312/.590 with about $4M left on his contract at the deadline.
  • Jesús Sánchez is 26, a rookie, and batting.236/.286/.341/.626 for the Marlins.
  • Wenceel Pérez’s Major League career is 48 games old. I have no idea why the Tigers would trade him if he’s good, and I don’t want him if he’s not.
  • Jake Fraley is 29 with about $1M left at the deadline and under team control through 2026. He’s batting .283/.339/.362/.701, hasn’t shown any power this year and plays home games in The Great American Small Park. His Baseball Savant page shows a good arm and a lot of mediocre everywhere else
  • Gavin Sheets is 28, earns the league minimum, is under control through 2027, and currently batting .238/.345/.421/.765. He’s also a 6’-5 236lb first baseman playing the outfield because the Pale Hose has Andrew Vaughn at first. His outfield defense looks a lot like a first baseman playing the outfield and his offense suffers as a result. He’s batted .172/.274/.263/.537 as a right fielder in 113 PA.

In the too-expensive for too little return category, Bowden suggested Ian Happ and Michael Conforto as options for the Braves.

Happ’s $20.3M AAV contract runs through 2026, and he’s a power bat. Bowden’s post says the Cubs need an impact bat, so I don’t know why they’d move him, but if they did, they’d want more than I’d give up to get him.

Conforto’s a rental earning what’s left of his $18M contract for 2024. He’s batting .241/.294/.431/.725, with a reverse split - .224 with a .691 OPS against RHP and .302 with a .830 OPS against lefties. He’s too expensive and only managed 0.1 fWAR so far this year.

Do any of these names make sense for the Braves?

I swear Bowden threw darts at a list of names while looking the other way when he put Jake McCarthy and Heston Kjerstad on the list.

McCarthy is 27, pre-arb eligible, and plays right field most of the time for Arizona and a lefty who, in limited plate appearances, has a serious reverse split. He sort of almost fits, but why would Arizona trade McCarthy? He’s under team control through 2028 and costs virtually nothing, and they must like him because he plays every day. We don’t match up with anything Arizona needs that we’d trade for him, and if they’re moving an outfielder, Randall Grichuk is more likely to go and is a better fit for the Braves.

When I saw Heston Kjerstad, I nearly did a spit-take. Kjerstad is a stud outfield prospect for the Orioles and Baseball’s #32 prospect. I’d love to have him, but why would Baltimore trade him for anything less than a Major League-ready starting pitcher and a couple of Top-20 prospects? Bowden says the Orioles want a corner outfielder, you know, like that Heston Kjerstad guy so it doesn't make a lot of sense for them to trade him.

If you’re looking for a player to fit Atlanta’s outfield needs, it’s almost impossible to miss Tyler O’Neill and Randall Grichuk, but Bowden did it.

I mentioned Grichuk earlier. He’s a veteran who is currently Arizona’s fourth outfielder. He has what’s left of a one-year $2M contract, plays solid if not spectacular defense, and has splits that allow him to play both ways. He’s also known as a good clubhouse guy and teammate. I doubt he’d cost much and I believe he’d stabilize the bench and outfield.

I mentioned Tyler O’Neill on Twitter (I will continue to call it that) and was told he was traded for a ham sandwich (actually two minor league pitchers) because he was no good. A ham sandwich for a player hitting .256/.356/.512/.868 with 12 homers was a heck of a deal. O’Neill has had injury issues, but the batting section of his Savant page is flooded with red. I like that.

As usual for Bowden, his picks for the Atlanta Braves look like he’s never seen them play and has no idea what type of player they need. I’m not sure if he does this because he knows Alex Anthopoulos does things he can’t understand, he’s just plain lazy, or he likes to see his comments blow up.

Anthopoulos will hold on to the Braves' most desirable prospects because they are the future of the rotation. I expect Elder and others who’ve had some, but not enough, success to stay, to move. We can’t expect him to spin tin foil into gold at the deadline every year, but I’m positive he has the best chance of doing it.

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