“It’s about damn time,” Braves Country studdered as David O’Brien of the Athletic officially broke the news that the Braves had reached an agreement with Dallas Keuchel on a one-year deal. For a while, a contract between Atlanta and the former Cy Young Award winner seemed like a longshot, but Alex Anthopoulos’ hand was forced a bit after the continuous struggles of Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman. It was a move the Braves needed – one that much more appropriately equips them to take on the Phillies in the NL East race. But one acquisition often isn’t enough, especially for a Braves fanbase that has been starved of them for seemingly an eternity. The front office has opened Pandora’s Box, and they are left with no other choice but to go for it.
It would have been one thing if Alex Anthopoulos had traded for a cost controlled young arm that would be around for a couple of years, or spent pennies on another reliever from the bargain bin. But no – he aggressively pursued the only notable starting pitcher on the market, reached into Liberty Media’s frugal pockets, and paid Dallas Keuchel $20 million for one year (a prorated amount of $13 million). If that’s not the definition of going for it in June (at least for the Braves); I’m not sure what is.
Let’s be candid for a second: It would have been a miracle if Atlanta had won the World Series last season. The lineup had holes, the rotation had even more of them, and don’t get me started on the bullpen. But after keeping the core intact and adding Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Austin Riley, and Josh Donaldson – the idea of competing in the World Series is no longer far-fetched.
The addition of Keuchel brings the Braves that much closer to their ultimate goal this season, but one glaring hole remains. The bullpen has been Atlanta’s Achillies’ Heel. Anthopoulos completely neglected to add to it in the offseason, and it has come back to bite the Braves on way too many occasions. Some quality mid-season maneuvering has the pen in the best shape it has been all year, but at least one if not two arms must be added.
Anthopoulos will see to that, and most likely in a substantial way. I don’t want to speculate on names (Shane Greene is a cost-controlled closer I like), but sometime before now and the trade deadline, the Braves will add a significant piece to their bullpen. If they spent $13 million for half a season of Dallas Keuchel, they will at least add some relief help to round out their squad. But I don’t think they stop there.
Keuchel is a “go for it this year” kind of acquisition. The front office believes the lineup is explosive as any in the National League, they know they can patch up their bullpen before the trade deadline, and the rotation is looking better by the day. But if Atlanta wants to push for it in 2019, they have more than enough trade chips to acquire another frontline starter.
Dr. DeRo of the MLB Network gave his bold prediction for the rest of the season: The Dallas Keuchel signing was only the “appetizer” for the Braves. He believes Atlanta will be extremely active at the trade deadline and land Madison Bumgarner to start Game 1 of a potential playoff series.
"I love the addition of Keuchel, but that's just the appetizer. The main course is showing up July 31st."
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) June 7, 2019
That’s a hot take I can get on board with it, and at its core, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. The Braves still lack that dominant postseason starter that every World Series team seems to have. Madison Bumgarner fills that role. Atlanta has yet to unload any of their talented prospects in a trade, which is eventually going to have to happen. The Braves farm system is loaded with pitching; the Giants need young arms. It gives Atlanta a wicked trio of Madison Bumgarner, Mike Soroka, and Dallas Keuchel for a playoff rotation, allowing either Max Fried or Mike Foltynewicz to serve in a bullpen role, strengthening the weakest part of their team.
Maybe it’s not Madison Bumgarner; perhaps it is Corey Kluber or Max Stroman, but Alex Anthopoulos is not done yet. The only thing the Dallas Keuchel signing told us is that the Braves are trying to win now – expect a few more moves between now and July 31st.