The Braves made a move aimed at upgrading their bullpen on Tuesday evening, acquiring right-handed reliever Chris Martin from the Rangers in exchange for left-handed pitcher Kolby Allard. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal was the first to report the news, and the teams quickly confirmed the deal:
Martin, 33, has posted a 3.08 ERA (by far a career-best) with a 1.03 WHIP, 43 strikeouts, and four walks over 38 appearances (38 innings) this season. When he returned from Japan to the United States prior to last season, Martin received free-agent rights at the end of the season, so he’s a rental pickup despite the fact that he has just over a year of major-league service time.
Martin is an interesting addition to Atlanta’s relief mix, as he’s yet another guy who’s not exceptionally established, and he’ll join a group that has been surprisingly solid (they rank eighth in the majors with a 3.99 ERA) despite not having a veteran anchor. With Luke Jackson, the bullpen’s early-season star, struggling in July and surprisingly significant contributors like Grant Dayton and Jacob Webb currently on the injured list, Atlanta will hope that Martin can provide some relief (no pun intended) to the group.
Allard, the No. 14 overall pick in the 2015 draft, had seen his stock drop quite a bit over the last year; after being ranked as a top-100 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s list last year, he had fallen out of the top 100, and though it’s as much a sign of the organization’s depth as it is his struggle to take a step forward, he ended up ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Atlanta organization and the sixth-best pitching prospect
Allard, who made his major-league debut a year ago Wednesday, struggled mightily in the big leagues down the stretch in 2018, posting a 12.38 ERA with a 2.88 WHIP over eight innings. Whether it’s due to the big-league ball being used in Triple-A this year or his confidence having been damaged by his big-league cameo, Allard has been unable to replicate a banner 2018 season in Triple-A during which he posted a 2.72 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP, 89 strikeouts, and 34 walks over 112.1 innings. In 20 starts this season, the now-21-year-old Allard has posted a 4.17 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP, 98 strikeouts, and 34 free passes over 110 innings.
Despite his drop-off, Allard is still an unbelievably impressive return for a rental reliever who was having his first good season in the big leagues. It should be interesting to see if this move ends up being an aberration because of Atlanta’s unbelievable pitching depth (and 40-man roster crunch), or whether more teams are willing to pay up big-time in order to acquire upper-echelon bullpen talent.