Welcome back to this week’s Atlanta Braves “way too early trade candidates” column.
The Atlanta Braves bullpen has been abysmal in 2021; we all know that. It’s been one step forward and three steps back for this unit all season long. After Will Smith, A.J. Minter, and Chris Martin showed signs of progression against the Dodgers, they completely blew it against the Phillies.
This group needs reinforcements badly. Shane Greene came back but instantly gave up two runs to the Phillies upon his return. His presence is encouraging and will get better once he gets back into his groove, but he is not the savior that some have made him out to be. After all, his underlying metrics paint a murky picture.
Who should the Atlanta Braves Target?
Remember, we’re looking at realistic trades here, and we’re only considering players who could be traded for one of three reasons.
- Rebuilding: Teams that know they won’t compete may trade their desirable players for prospects to expedite the rebuild process. We’ll be looking for veteran players who can help the Braves win now from these teams.
- Contending: Teams that feel they will compete will trade their prospects for players to help the club now to a rebuilding team. The Braves fall into this category.
- Salary Dump: Baseball is a business, and a team in a tight spot financially may be willing to trade a contract they no longer want for financial flexibility. Depending on the scenario, a team could part with a prospect or Major League players for cash considerations.
The Pirates, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Rockies are virtual locks to be sellers. Of course, they are all in different phases of rebuilds, resulting in different strategies for approaching the trade deadline.
The Rockies line up well with the Braves
The Rockies will not be competing anytime soon. They also have a terrible farm system — ranked 27th by MLB.com in the 2021 pre-season rankings. The Rockies already traded arguably their best player in Nolan Arenado, and Trevor Story looks to have no intentions of returning next year.
We also know that playing at Coors Field, the Rockies always want pitchers. Historically, they have difficulty signing top-of-the-line pitchers in free agency, so the best way to acquire good pitching is through a trade. It just so happens that the Braves have 13 pitchers in their top 30 prospects, but Atlanta needs some pitching they can use right now.
Enter Daniel Bard
Daniel Bard is not a name that has popped up in a lot of forums as a candidate. This is most likely because he is not as flashy of a name as Josh Hader or Richard Rodriguez. But, when he’s on the field, he’s excellent.
Not only that, but Bard is also cheap financially, which is something the Braves will be looking for while they wait for the Ozuna fiasco to be straightened out. Bard will only be owed the pro-rated amount of $2.93 million this year and is under team control next year.
Bard’s comeback attempt could not have gone better
Another reason why the 2006 1st round draft pick may not be floating around many forums is that from 2013-2019 he only pitched in two MLB games. This was not because he signed a massive contract overseas either; he struggled to find a spot on a major league club and ultimately retired in 2017.
However, Bard made a comeback attempt that has gone very well. The Rockies took a chance on him in 2020, and he posted a 3.65 ERA, which was right on par with his 3.64 FIP over 24.2 innings pitched. His ERA+ was 144 (44 percent better than league average), and he also struck out 9.9 per nine innings.
This year, Bard has been equally effective, pitching to a 3.75 ERA and an insane 12.8 strikeouts per 9 innings with seven saves. In fact, he has actually been a bit unlucky in the earned run department, given his expected FIP (xFIP) is 2.77.
What about his underlying metrics?
Bard’s peripherals aren’t groundbreaking like Richard Rodriguez, but he could still provide quality bullpen depth and wouldn’t cost nearly as much prospect-wise.
- Fastball Velocity – Top 98% of the MLB
- Fastball Spin – Top 100%
- Strikeout Rate (K%) – Top 85%
- Whiff Rate (Whiff %, which is swings and misses) – Top 82%
- Expected Slugging Percentage Against (xSLG) – Top 58%
Bard is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to metrics like expected batting average against (xBA), expected ERA (xERA), and expected on base average against (xwOBA). Still, if you mix his metrics with his actual on-field results while accounting for the fact that he’s pitching half his games in an extremely hitter-friendly park, Bard would be a solid pickup.
Given that Bard has a murky history, the Braves should not have to mortgage the future to get him. There is a legitimate chance both teams could find a trade package that works for each side.