After getting swept by the Chicago Cubs, the Braves will travel to Los Angeles to meet the scorching-hot Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won 10 straight and 30 of their last 34 games. That series will most likely decide what the Braves decide to do at the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline.
It’s unclear what path the Braves will take, as they’ve been rumored to big-name targets like Sonny Gray and Justin Verlander, but also been rumored to be shopping Julio Teheran and Brandon Phillips. Here are the three different roads the Braves could take at the deadline.
In the last two weeks, the Braves have been linked to Sonny Gray, Michael Fulmer, and Justin Verlander. The Braves aren’t looking to blow the farm system on a guy who will pitch for the Braves for 2 or 3 months, but all of these guys are locked up long term. Even after getting swept, the Braves are 8.5 games back of the inconsistent Colorado Rockies.
Sonny Gray might not blow fans away with his 3.72 ERA and his 5-4 record, but the A’s lead the league with 80 errors (White Sox are second with 73) and are 23rd in runs scored. Gray simply does not get any help from his team. Back when the A’s were solid in 2014 and 2015, Gray posted 14 wins both years and pitched to 3.08 and 2.73 ERA’s.
Gray is not an Unrestricted Free Agent until 2020, so combined with other teams strongly pursuing him, Gray will cost a lot for the Braves to acquire. But, the Braves have the best farm system in the MLB (per Bleacher Report) and could bring back Gray to Braves Country, which is where he was raised.
Fulmer is intruiging because he’s only 24 years old. The Tigers are clear sellers after trading J.D. Martinez, but Fulmer is under team control until 2023 and would be a head-scratcher if he was traded.
After winning ROY and pitching to a 3.06 ERA, he is having an identical season this year, pitching to a 3,06 ERA also. Since this is Fulmer’s second season and he’s projecting to be an ace, it would take a haul to trade for Fulmer. It would probably mean that Ozzie Albies would be involved.
Justin Verlander is a complicated story. He is under contract through the 2020 season (age 37) and is owed 78 million dollars from 2018-2020. With that money and his decline, teams shouldn’t have to give up too much depending on how much of his contract the Tigers are willing to eat. Although Verlander is not his old self, he’s still a solid pitcher who finished 2nd in the Cy Young after posting a 3.04 ERA in 2016. This season, he’s pitching to a 4.66 ERA, but his ERA has been blown out of proportion by some bad starts.
Verlander can still pitch and would provide a great veteran presence for all of the Braves’ young arms. Between Gray, Fulmer, and Verlander, Verlander would cost the least amount of prospects.
If the Braves decide to buy, they should look into some relief help. The Braves bullpen has been rapidly declining since the month of June, and they could use some veterans in the bullpen. They don’t have to go big, as anything right now would be an upgrade.
The Braves have many names intriguing to other teams that they could choose to sell at the deadline.
Julio Teheran has had a mixed year, as he’s pitched amazing on the road, but awful at SunTrust Park. He has a 2.53 ERA on the road, but a 7.05 ERA at home. Teheran’s ERA on the road serves as optimism for a lot of teams in the hunt, and the Braves could receive a lot for him. If the Braves flipped Teheran, they could use the acquired prospects to make a run at Gray or Fulmer. Plus, it’s unsure how Teheran plays into the Braves’ future.
Now that Freddie Freeman has returned, Matt Adams’ playing time has diminished. After going on a month-long tear while Freddie was gone, he should be receiving interest from other teams. Also, Adams is under contract through next season. But after seeing the poor returns for J.D. Martinez and Todd Frazier, the Braves might want to look to trade him in the winter or next season.
Brandon Phillips has shown that he still has a lot left in the tank. A recent surge has raised Phillips’ batting average to .293. With Ozzie Albies knocking on the door to the big leagues, Phillips could be gone sooner or later.
R.A. Dickey has really improved his stock in the month of July. Before his 7 inning performance (4ER) vs Chicago today, Dickey had a 1.09 ERA in his last 5 starts. He can eat innings and has a 8m team option for next season. He could serve as a #4 or #5 for a contender.
Jaime Garçia seems the most likely to be traded. Being a left-handed pitcher, he is a huge need and will get a hefty return. He has been pitching well as of late, and John Coppolella will most likely be able to snag a great prospect for him.
Staying put might be the most logical strategy for the Braves. Guys like Brandon Phillips, Nick Markakis, and Jim Johnson are likely to have little value and might be better off serving as a veteran presence in the locker room. With September call-ups near, these guys could serve as mentors to the young guys like Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, and A.J. Minter.
With the returns of J.D. Martinez and Todd Frazier, there clearly isn’t a huge market for hitters, so it might be wise just holding onto the many veteran bats that the Braves have. The Braves have been rebuilding and might not want to jump ship now, but they’ve also got a good team that they might not want to trade away.
This next four game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers will play a big part in what the Braves do. John Coppolella’s last big move was trading for Matt Adams in May, so don’t be surprised if the Braves make a big move soon.