As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Atlanta Braves, 43-45, 2nd in NL East
What moves have they made so far?
On May 20, just two days after first baseman Freddie Freeman hit the disabled list with a wrist injury, the Braves acquired first baseman Matt Adams from St. Louis in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Yepez and cash. Adams, 28, has hit exceptionally well in Atlanta so far, compiling 13 HRs and 35 RBIs in 45 games with a career-best slash line of .291/.337/.600. In fact, Adams has been so impactful offensively for the Braves that they've moved franchise-star Freddie Freeman to third base to keep both bats in the lineup.
After a brutal start to 2017, fan-favorite Bartolo Colon was designated for assignment on June 29. Colon, at 44 years old, was 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA and an astronomical 1.778 WHIP. Atlanta recalled LHP Rex Brothers to fill the 25-man roster spot.
Are they buyers or sellers?
The Braves are one of the more peculiar teams to follow heading into the July 31 deadline, as they've been heavily rumored as pursuing cost-controlled starting pitchers, yet they also have pieces to move at the deadline should contending teams come calling. As David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, the Braves are looking to contend in a new ballpark as soon as possible and are not planning to shed the roster of all veterans.
The Braves will realistically be both buyers and sellers, if that makes any sense. For the Braves to be buyers, they'd be searching for cost-controllable pieces only. Sitting 9.5 games behind Washington in the East, acquiring rental pieces doesn't put the Braves any closer to a championship. Instead, General Manager John Coppolella has set his sights on controllable starting pitchers, rumored often with the likes of Rays' Chris Archer, and Athletics' Sonny Gray after falling short in the Jose Quintana sweepstakes.. With a top three farm system in all of baseball, the Braves certainly have the depth to deal for a starter without ravaging the system completely. With that being said....
Who could they trade?
The most-likely Brave to be dealt at the deadline is starting pitcher Jaime Garcia. Acquired from the Cardinals this offseason, Garcia has been a solid innings-eater in the rotation, despite his ERA rising significantly to 4.55 over his last few starts (at the end of May, Garcia's ERA was just 3.18). The left-hander could provide decent pitching depth for a contending team, even as a bullpen arm. The 31-year-old hits free agency after the season and would not command much prospect value in a potential deal. However, if the Braves are willing to eat some of the $6 million Garcia is still owed in 2017, they could increase their return.
Another player set to become a free agent after 2017 is second baseman Brandon Phillips, and with $13 million of his $14 million owed this season payed by the Reds, Phillips is a cheap trade candidate. Phillips, 36, has been serviceable in his first year in Atlanta, accruing 1.0 fWAR through 81 games with an OPS of .738. The numbers aren't pretty, but Phillips' athleticism makes him an interesting depth piece for a club looking to bolster their bench.
Every contending team loves bullpen depth, and Braves closer Jim Johnson, 34, could be on the move at the deadline to provide as such. Despite an ERA of 4.12, Johnson's FIP is a more-appealing 2.38, and he's only allowed two home runs this season while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. The right-hander is under contract for 2018 for $5 million, which isn't overwhelming for a late-inning reliever in today's age. Yet Johnson's team control makes him somewhat more expensive on the market, and teams may prefer to simply deal for rental pieces as they head into the playoffs.
Although Coppolella and the Braves have denied interest in trading starting pitcher Julio Teheran, he's one of the more prized arms on the market heading into the deadline. Signed through 2020, and owed just over $31 million over the next three seasons, Teheran is exactly what the Braves are looking for themselves: cost-controlled talent. Yet with the packages of prospects hauled in for Shelby Miller, Chris Sale, and now Quintana, the Braves are certainly listening to offers from competing clubs. Considering that Jose Quintana commanded two top-100 prospects, included #8 Eloy Jimenez according to MLB Pipeline, Teheran's rough 2017 should not drop his value significantly if a trade were to come to fruition.
Other trade candidates: OF Nick Markakis, C Kurt Suzuki
Considering that Garcia doesn't fit into the futures plans in Atlanta, it's conceivable to say that any decent offer will send him packing to a playoff-hopeful. In Suzuki's or Markakis' case, whether the Braves are willing to eat salary may be the biggest obstacle, for they aren't worth much more than organizational depth on the market this season. However as the Braves rapidly approach their championship window, a deal including Teheran seems increasingly less likely. Already touting one of the best cores of young minor-league talent, the Braves are closer to the end of their rebuild than the beginning.
With all the smoke surrounding the acquisition of a talented starting pitcher on a team-friendly deal, you'd have to believe Coppolella and the Braves make a serious push at the deadline. After a failed pursuit of Quintana, in which the Braves offered a packaged headlined by top prospect Ozzie Albies, the Braves proved they are to be taken seriously in trade talks. Whether they make the final push for Gray, Archer, or maybe even Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, only time will tell.