The Atlanta Braves’ best trade deadline pickup might actually be just getting a bit healthier.
It is still very early, but the Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat in the National League East once again.
Heading into Memorial Day, the Braves have the best record in the National League at 32-21 by 1.1 percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers. More importantly, the Braves hold a 4.5-game lead over the Miami Marlins for first place in the division, the largest lead by any team in MLB. Factor in how badly the roster has been bitten by the injury bug, and Atlanta could get even better.
While general manager Alex Anthopoulos will almost certainly be active in the lead-up to the trade deadline, what if I told you the best addition the Braves could make is not by way of a trade, but by getting a tad healthier? This has everything to do with Michael Soroka making his team debut on Monday, Max Fried coming off IL in a few weeks and Kyle Wright rejoining the rotation in August.
If their starting pitching gets healthier, it only hones the focus on addressing the bullpen more.
Atlanta Braves’ best trade deadline pickup might actually be getting healthier
Upon first glance, you may have reservations about the team’s pitching staff heading into the dog days of summer and into October. I too subscribe to that. However, I think if the Braves can get anything good out of Soroka going forward, the Braves will be in far, far better shape than I even anticipated. Anything the Braves get out of Fried, Soroka and Wright should be viewed as a bonus.
For now, Atlanta must continue to lean on the likes of Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder to anchor the rotation. Strider has pitched like a Cy Young candidate throughout. Morton is a notable big-game pitcher. Elder has flourished enough to the point that he is not going back to Triple-A anytime soon. Of course, we know what Fried, Soroka and Wright are all capable of, too.
Do I anticipate for Anthopoulos to take a good, hard look at the starting rotation market over the next month or so? Most definitely, but I think Atlanta’s biggest trade deadline need has to be in the bullpen. Against the better teams in baseball, it continues to come up painfully short. Atlanta can beat most of the bad teams it plays, but it won’t be facing bad teams when it matters in October.
Addressing the bullpen over the rotation is important for three reasons. One, it won’t cost as much to trade for a relief pitcher as it would a starter. Atlanta’s farm system is fine, but not a particularly deep one. Two, nothing ruins a promising season like a leaky bullpen can. Keep throwing arms out there until the leaking stops. And three, Atlanta won the 2021 World Series because of its bullpen.
Surely, another need will present itself over the course of the next few weeks, but Anthopoulos being able to channel most of his focus on relief pitchers will probably end up serving the Braves more than anything. While he doesn’t hit on all relievers he has brought into the fray, Anthopoulos’ track record shows he hits on more than he misses in that department. He knows what he’s doing.
As long as a fourth starting pitcher emerges for the Braves down the stretch, they could win it all.