Atlanta Braves Way Too Early Trade Candidates: Richard Rodriguez

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It is no secret; the Atlanta Braves could use some help in the bullpen

While it is easy to blame the bullpen itself, many variables have played a factor in the less than desirable results — injuries, overuse due to the starting rotation’s transgressions, and just plain poor bullpen management.

Excuses aside, the bullpen has been giving up runs at an unacceptable rate, sporting an ERA of 4.58. Some of these runs were given up by players no longer on the 26-man roster, and Shane Greene will be arriving soon. However, this is a group that has clearly regressed from last season, and reinforcements are much-needed.

Who should the Atlanta Braves target at the trade deadline?

Remember, we’re looking at realistic trades here, and we’re only considering players who could be traded for one of three reasons.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 would be a perfect trade partner

The Atlanta Braves have won four of five, looking more and more like buyers as the trade deadline approaches, trailing the Mets by just two games in the division. If they are intrigued about adding an arm to the bullpen, the Pirates will make for a good trade partner. Pittsburgh will not be competitive any time soon, and added prospect capital could potentially speed up their rebuild process.

Enter Richard Rodriguez

Atlanta Braves fans saw how excellent Richard Rodriguez is in their series against the Pirates, and he’s been just as effective all season long. In only 20 innings, he has already accumulated 1.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He currently carries an insane 0.45 ERA and very low 0.400 WHIP. His FIP is eye-popping as well at 1.69, suggesting that he isn’t benefiting from good favor.

Even if Rodriguez regresses to his career numbers (3.09 ERA), it is still 36% better than the league average. If you take out his rookie year in 2017, where he only pitched five games in relief, he has only had one year with an ERA over 2.70. And in 2019, when he had a 3.72 ERA, 5.22 FIP, and 1.347 WHIP, Rodriguez was clearly overused, pitching in 72 games.

What do the underlying metrics say?

As we know, there are a lot of variables that can factor into a pitcher’s on-field results. The defense behind him, the ballpark he pitches in, and even hitters having a high BABIP can result in stats like ERA being a bit deceiving when trying to determine how a pitcher will perform in the future. In the Braves’ situation, the future would be all they care about if they were to acquire Rodriguez.

Obviously, odds are that an ERA+ of 906 (806% better than average) is not sustainable, but the metrics show that if Rodriguez continues to pitch like he has, based on his performance itself, and not the variables around him, he is still going to be extremely successful.

His MLB percentile rankings, according to Baseball Savant, are insane:

  • Expected Weighted OBA Against (xwOBA) – .186 (Top 100% of MLB)
  • Expected Slugging Percentage Against (xSLG) – .269 (Top 94%)
  • Walk Percentage – 1.5% (Top 100%)
  • Expected ERA (xERA) –1.38 (Top 100%)
  • Expected Batting Average Against (xBA) –.152 (Top 97%)

Can the Atlanta Braves pull off the trade?

With the Pirates set to be sellers at the trade deadline, and many teams looking to be fringe buyers, there could potentially be an impressive bidding war for Rodriguez’s services. He is arguably the top reliever in the league this year and is under team control through 2023.

The Braves have the pieces to make this deal happen if they want. Relievers are historically volatile, meaning that giving up a ton of prospect capital for one could come back to haunt an organization. Ultimately, it will come down to the asking price, which should rightfully be high. The Braves seem to be turning things around, and if they want to take their performance to the next level and win a World Series, they will have to take some risks. Richard Rodriguez could be a key piece who will not only help the Braves this year, but in the future as well.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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