The Braves made one bold move this week by signing Josh Donaldson, but now it’s time for Atlanta to deal for an ace to anchor their rotation.
Braves fans are pretty happy with general manager Alex Anthopoulos at the moment. Signing Josh Donaldson was a clear signal from Atlanta’s front office that they have legitimate World Series aspirations. If they really want to make noise in October, they need to build on their big free agency move.
Specifically, it’s time for the Braves to cash in some of their chips and obtain a legitimate ace. If they fail to hit on a legitimate No. 1 starting pitcher this winter, all the money they’re spending on Donaldson might go to waste.
In fairness, starting pitching wasn’t a huge issue for Atlanta during the regular season in 2018. The acquisition of Kevin Gausman ahead of the trade deadline really stabilized the group down the stretch. However, the lack of a real ace showed up in their inability to get by the Dodgers in the NLDS. The Braves’ starters didn’t get shelled, but they couldn’t outduel Los Angeles’ stars.
The organization also happens to be blessed with a ton of minor league talent. Dealing a few prospects away for an established commodity certainly won’t leave the system bare. It’ll be important for Anthopoulos and his team to pick the right prospects to part with, but it’s time to make a move.
The Braves should set their sights really high. They don’t need another No. 2 or 3 option. The only guys who should be attracting their interest are unquestioned stars. That really should narrow their scope to one of three pitchers. Atlanta should be targeting Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner or Noah Syndergaard.
Jim Duquette of MLB.com has already identified the Braves as the ideal landing spot for Kluber. Making a deal with Cleveland would absolutely cost Atlanta multiple high level prospects, but that’s the going rate for an ace in today’s market. If Cleveland’s asking price is too high, Atlanta can simply move on to another target.
Bumgarner would be an excellent fit with the Braves current collection of talent. His velocity is starting to decline, but the incredible command and movement he has on his pitches still allows him to be very effective. He’s only got one year left on his current deal in San Francisco so he might be cheaper to acquire than Kluber.
The most interesting option for the Braves would be to take a big swing to steal Syndergaard away from their NL East rivals. The Mets might balk at helping out a team within their own division, but trading Thor to Atlanta is better than seeing him head to the Bronx. Adding a young talent like Syndergaard to the rotation could help the Braves contend for years to come.
The bottom line is that it’s time for the Braves to go all in. Signing Donaldson was step one to making them a legitimate contender, but the work can’t stop there. Atlanta needs to add an ace before the 2019 season begins.