The Atlanta Braves still hold a sizable lead in the NL East and the best record in baseball heading into August. That's not going to stop General Manager Alex Anthopoulos from making moves that can take this team to even higher levels.
Atlanta's second half has gotten off to a sluggish start, winning just two series since returning from the All-Star break. Injuries have worn down the Braves slightly on the pitching front, still without names like Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Jesse Chavez, and Dylan Lee as we close in on the final 60 games of the year.
The next 48 or so hours is when teams will send a firm message to their fans and to the rest of baseball about what their goals are for the rest of the year. Either they'll make a push for the postseason or cash in the chips they have and make plans for 2024. One such team with a lot of eyes on it at this year's deadline is the St. Louis Cardinals. A team that usually isn't in this position during the summer, sitting more than 10 games below .500 with an NL central that has rapidly improved over the course of the year.
St. Louis has a few assets that could be on the move and some of those would fit the Braves needs to clinch a sixth straight NL East championship and make a return to the World Series. To dive a little deeper into the Redbirds as a trade partner, I spoke with KSDK Sports Anchor and Reporter, Corey Miller, on this year's team and who might stand out as a trade target for Atlanta.
CT: It's been a year to say the least for St. Louis. Now, heading into the week of the trade deadline, all signs point to John Mozeliak and Co. making some significant moves to position themselves for 2024. Is this shaping up to be a full or half-sell for STL?
CM: If they're smart, it will be the most significant sell certainly in my lifetime. There are a number of specific situations where it makes little to no sense to hold onto guys. Mozeliak definitively said they have to get pitching now and in the offseason if they want to correct what went so wrong this year. They won't just give guys away, but they should be active, and have a number of pieces contending clubs would like.
CT: The Braves will be buying and they need a little extra help with the pitching staff. The Cards have got some solid results from some of its pitching staff this year. What would Atlanta be getting out of someone like Jack Flaherty, Steven Matz, or Jordan Montgomery?
CM: Flaherty and Montgomery would likely just be rentals because of their expiring contracts, but especially with how they've pitched lately, they would be an upgrade for a number of teams. Flaherty is an intense competitor who wants another chance to pitch in the postseason and should command a decent return even if it would just be a rental. Steven Matz has pitched better as of late, but if someone came calling looking to get his contract off the books, I think the Cardinals would not hate to make that happen.
CT: Jordan Hicks has popped up in the news as well regarding his status as a trade chip, with reports saying he'll be traded if no extension comes to fruition with the team. Atlanta is down a few bullpen arms and is expected to target some relievers over the next day or so. Do you expect Hicks to be in St. Louis come Tuesday night?
CM: At this point, I would be surprised to see the Cardinals and Hicks come together on an extension. And if they can't, the team would be foolish not to trade him and capitalize on his value. He's had his ups and downs but in the reliever market, there's no doubt he's near the top of the list. I would expect he's wearing a different uniform come Tuesday night.
CT: As good as the Atlanta offense is, that has never stopped Alex Anthopoulos from picking up a bat at the deadline to improve the Braves' depth. St. Louis seems content to move anyone who can pick up a bat and hit. Who sticks out as some of the most likely targets?
CM: The Cardinals have a logjam in the outfield and it has been that way for some time. Jordan Walker and Lars Nootbaar aren't going anywhere, so Tyler O'Neill and/or Dylan Carlson have looked like the odd men out. O'Neill's value is probably pretty low right now due to injury and failure to perform as he did back in 2021 and I don't believe the team would just dump him for nothing. Carlson is a very interesting case.
A switch-hitter, he just hasn't figured out how to consistently hit righties in the majors. He's still just 24 and not costing them too much money but there's no doubt he has not performed to what the team was expecting him to be as a top prospect. Tommy Edman, who plays all over the diamond, is a trade candidate as well but is coming off an injury. Alec Burleson has had some moments as the team's fifth outfielder this season and brings a nice lefty bat off the bench, but I don't think moving him is a priority unless someone comes calling for him.
CT: If the Cardinals do sell, what sort of return are they searching for? Do you expect a prospect-heavy trade for the future, or guys who can play now?
CM: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The team's offense has not been the problem. While a bit inconsistent for a stretch or two, overall it has been a solid offensive team, with multiple positions spoken for, this year and next. The team went into this season with question marks all over the rotation and bullpen and did little to bolster either. They desperately need MLB-ready pitching because they've said they plan to be able to compete again next year.
CT: Unrelated to the Braves, but possibly related to the NL Playoff picture as the season winds to a close. What is the expectation around St. Louis when it comes to Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado?
CM: Nolan Arenado is not getting traded. It's fun for the national writers to try and will it into existence, but it's not happening. You don't trade a future Hall of Famer on a pretty team-friendly contract (all things considered) that your fanbase adores. Goldschmidt is a little more interesting but I'd be shocked if they let him go. He's a little older than Arenado and his contract only has one more year on it, so it makes more sense, but unless someone absolutely floors them, I think it's an almost sure bet Goldy stays in St. Louis.
The MLB Trade Deadline this year is on August 1 at 6 p.m. ET.