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. Below is our trade deadline preview of the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta Braves (52-42) - 2nd Place in the NL East (0.5 games back)
Many thought that the Atlanta Braves would be an improved team going into the 2018, but more in the “this team should hang around .500 and maybe be in the wild card race if everything fell right” and not in the “this team could be one of the best teams in the National League” sort of way.
Backed by All-Star level campaigns from Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, and Mike Foltynewicz, the Braves have used a prolific offense and pitching that has been, up until this point, good enough to be at the top of the National League East standings for the vast majority of the year. A recent swoon combined with a surge from the Philadelphia Phillies has the Braves in second place for the moment, but the Braves appear to be in the race for the NL East division crown for the long haul.
What moves have they made so far?
The biggest move made by the Braves in regards to 2018 was when they traded Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in what was, at the time anyways, a way for both teams to move monetary obligations around to their liking. Kemp has put up a great first half for the Dodgers, but on the Braves’ end it allowed them to get Kemp’s money off their books and should allow them to be big players in the free agent market this next offseason. The trade did glut their finances for this season, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been clear that taking on a biggish contract or two at the trade deadline is very possible assuming it is a deal to their liking.
Beyond that, the late spring signing of Anibal Sanchez has proven to be a godsend for a team that has been dealing with injuries in their rotation off and on. The Braves haven’t made any significant trades so far this trade season, although they have been connected to their fair share of names with varying degrees of interest.
Who could they sell at the deadline?
Going into the season, the easiest answer to this question was Nick Markakis as he was not overly productive and was in the last year of his contract, but had a strong reputation in the clubhouse and would have made sense for a team looking for a steady veteran. However, Markakis has put up one of the best seasons of his career and has benefited greatly from defensive analytics in right field at SunTrust Park. As a result, he isn’t going anywhere.
Brandon McCarthy is a possible move the Braves could make as they have a ton of young guys coming up from the minors and McCarthy has struggled in the rotation. He is on the Dl at the moment, though, which complicates moving him. Anibal Sanchez is another potential option, but again...he is pitching well enough that the Braves would likely be better served to hang on to him as they push towards a playoff birth.
Who could they buy at the deadline?
As good as they have been this year, this is not a perfect roster. The bullpen has been an adventure this season and while there are a few valuable pieces there, Arodys Vizcaino is battling shoulder issues and there are some...less valuable pieces in the bullpen right now. The Reds have a surplus of interesting bullpen arms that the Braves could look at and it is expected that the Braves will check in on the big names on market like Brad Hand and Zach Britton. The starting rotation is another place where some stability and production would be welcome and a move for J.A. Happ or Marcus Stroman seems like a fit. Chris Archer would be a headline type move, but the Rays seem to have little interest in maximizing his value on the trade market.
On offense, third base is the easiest place to point to. Johan Camargo has filled in ably there, but he may be best served as a super utility guy that gets a ton of at-bats based on matchups and giving guys days off. The Braves have been connected to Mike Moustakas which would be an interesting move with the presence of Camargo as they could platoon at third given Moustakas’ issues with lefties. Other third base options could be Josh Donaldson if one believes that his first half struggles and issues with injury won’t linger and Eduardo Escobar of the Twins is having a nice season and could be an under the radar option.
The Braves aren’t going to mortgage their entire future this season, however it doesn’t make much sense for them to stand pat. Expect at least one move to improve the bullpen and another that will fortify third base/the bench. That doesn’t mean these will be big time moves, but the team is good enough to invest some prospect capital to give the Braves’ a realistic shot to take down the Phillies and floundering Nationals.
Ultimately, it is more likely that the Braves will save the big time deals for this offseason when they have some roster spots open up and their wallets are more flush. This team could compete deep into the playoffs in 2018 if things fall right and with a bit of help, but after next offseason, assuming they can add some high profile talent, they could be the class of the National League for a while when you factor in the strength of their farm system.