3 blockbuster trades that could bolster the Braves bullpen

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I’m not sure who the Braves are going to target, but for a couple of reasons, I expect them to make at least one significant trade this offseason. Most importantly, it allows them to add cost-controlled talent. Their payroll is already very high, and they still need to find a starting shortstop, which could prove to be costly. If the Braves want to fill any of their other holes with high-quality talent that doesn’t cost a fortune, Alex Anthopoulos could turn to his options on the trade market. Another reason Atlanta may look to trade is to clear the logjam they currently have at the AAA and major league levels when it comes to starting pitchers.

I’ve talked about trading for a potential starting shortstop and several frontline rotation pieces, but what about the bullpen? Here are some relief arms that could be on the move this offseason.

David Bednar

Bednar is a right-handed reliever that will garner interest from the entire league because of the amount of team control he has left on his contract. He doesn’t become a free agent until 2027 and enters his first year of arbitration in 2024. Bednar has turned in back-to-back fantastic seasons for the Pirates, boasting a 2.40 ERA over his last 106 appearances. That kind of production and control will cost in terms of prospect capital.

Braves get: David Bednar

Pirates get: Kyle Muller and Bryce Elder 

Elder might have lost his prospect status last year, but he’s still viewed as a prospect. These are two of the top Braves arms, which is a lot for a reliever. However, it’s probably what it would take for four years of Bednar. Given Atlanta’s depth when it comes to starting pitchers, it is something I would consider.

Scott Barlow

The Royals thought they had a chance of competing this year. They didn’t come close, which led to tons of organizational changes. I’m not sure what their mindset is going into 2023, but they have to at least consider trading away pieces that might not be around when they finally are competitive. Enter Scott Barlow, one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. He finished last season with 2.8 bWAR and a 2.18 ERA over 74.1 innings. Barlow also comes with two more seasons of control, so like Bednar, he’s going to cost some of Atlanta’s top prospects.

Braves get: Scott Barlow

Royals get: Jesse Franklin, Bryce Elder, Brandol Mezquita

Barlow is the best reliever on this list, but because he’s only under control for two more years compared to Bednar’s four, he should cost slightly less prospect-wise. I think this is a good deal for the Royals, who are trying to compete sooner rather than later. Elder can slot in their rotation next season, and Franklin — if he can stay healthy — is a powerful prospect that isn’t too far behind.

Gregory Soto

Like the Royals, the Tigers underachieved considerably this year, and their outlook doesn’t look brighter for 2023. Ken Rosenthal recently mentioned them as a team that could be willing to wheel and deal their marquee relief pitches, such as Gregory Soto, who served as Detroit’s closer last season. He accumulated 30 saves and ended the campaign with a 3.28 ERA over 60.1 innings. Soto also doesn’t become a free agent until 2026.

Braves get: Gregory Soto

Tigers get: Kyle Muller 

I actually don’t like this deal at all for the Braves. I’m perfectly fine with Alex Anthopoulos parting ways with Kyle Muller for the right piece, but Soto is not the right piece. He’s coming off back-to-back All-Star campaigns, but he walked over five batters per nine innings and is in the 1st (!) percentile when it comes to average exit velocity allowed. That’s not a recipe for long-term success. If I’m the Tigers, I’m trying to sell high on Soto this offseason. Hopefully, the Braves won’t be interested.

Photo: Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire

 

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