As David O’Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the Braves are interested in trading for a frontline starter, with their top two targets being Rays right-hander Chris Archer and White Sox lefty Jose Quintana.
Despite the fact that the Braves would need to go on a remarkable run to get back in the playoff race—they’re currently 36-39, sitting 8.5 games out of first place in the NL East and 9.0 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot—they’re interested in remaining competitive for the remainder of the year and intend to make a major splash next season.
Braves GM John Coppolella has shown that he’s not afraid to trade for impactful veterans even when his team is out of the race. Last season, with the Braves sitting 32 games under .500 with the worst record in the majors, Coppolella acquired veteran outfielder Matt Kemp from the Padres. It proved to be a wise move, as Kemp has a .320/.361/.547 slash line with 12 homers this season, and the Braves could now look to make a similar move from a pitching standpoint with the focus on 2018.
The Braves’ chances of acquiring Archer before the trade deadline are probably minimal, seeing as the Rays are just one game out of an AL Wild Card spot and three games out of the AL East lead. If they’re going to acquire Archer, whose contract runs through 2019 with options for 2020-21, it will likely be during the offseason.
After an odd 2016 season during which Archer had 19 pitcher losses, tied for worst in the majors, and gave up a career-high 30 home runs, the 28-year-old right-hander has fully bounced back in 2017. Through 16 starts, he has a 3.88 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while striking out 126 batters and walking 33 over 104.1 innings. Since he’s one of the most consistent starters in the majors, is under 30 years old, and is under team control for up to four more seasons, the Rays will likely demand a few premium prospects in exchange for him.
Quintana, meanwhile, will also demand a massive return, but it’d be more reasonable for the White Sox to deal him before the deadline. With Chicago currently possessing the worst record in the AL at 32-43, they’re in a perfect position to sell, and while Quintana, 28, is young enough that he could still contribute as one of their top starters once their rebuilding project is complete, it’d be reasonable for them to deal him if they’re able to get multiple star prospects in return.
Atlanta is in position to make that type of deal, as they’ve got a surplus of talented middle infield prospects and more young starting pitchers than they could ever realistically make use of. And while Quintana, who has a career-worst 4.69 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP over 88.1 innings this year, probably will never be a legitimate ace, he’s got the talent to be a very good No. 2 starter.
If they acquire a front-of-the-rotation starter such as Archer or Quintana, it could make it easier for the Braves to deal one of their pending free agents, Jaime Garcia or R.A. Dickey, before the deadline. Both pitchers have struggled at various points this season and have ERAs over 4.00, but they could be of value to contending clubs looking to add rotation depth for the stretch run.