Welcome back to the Atlanta Braves “way too early” trade candidate column.
Time is flying, and we are getting closer to trade season. It is time to get more serious about zeroing in on potential trade candidates now that the buyer and seller picture is starting to get clearer.
Who should the Atlanta Braves Target?
Let’s review. We’re only looking at realistic trades here. There are endless possibilities, but there are typically three reasons why teams make trades.
- 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 currently 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, and Rockies are virtual locks to be sellers. However, their farm systems are in different places, and the phases of their rebuild are different.
It is important to realize that teams closer to being competitive are less likely to trade the long-term pieces that they think will be part of their competitive core. An example would be how the Braves held onto Freddie Freeman back when they had no chance to win a World Series.
The Atlanta Braves have some serious holes, even after scoring 20 runs for the second time this season. Their run differential is deceiving. They finally have a positive run differential, but they have scored 17% of their runs in just four games. If you take those four games out of consideration, their run differential would be -42.
Who do the Atlanta Braves lineup with?
Needless to say, the Braves could use some offensive help, particularly in the outfield. It just so happens that a team that is sure to be sellers at the deadline, not being anywhere close to competing, has a very intriguing corner outfielder — the Pirates.
Not only would Bryan Reynolds be an instant upgrade, but he is also under team control till 2025. He would take a significant haul in a trade package, but it could be worth it.
This year he is playing at another level with a slash of .316/.405/.542, an OPS+ of 160 (60% better than league average), and 3.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). For reference, Ronald Acuña Jr. has a 2.9 WAR
Reynolds did seem to have a tough time in the COVID-19 shortened season with a very bad OPS+ of 70 in 55 games. However, that seems to have been an anomaly because even factoring in that year; he still has a career slash of .290/.366/.486 and an OPS+ of 126 in 265 games.
What about his underlying metrics? Is he getting lucky?
In short, Reynolds is not getting lucky based on his underlying metrics — given how he is doing against the rest of the league, according to Baseball Savant:
- Expected weighted on base average (xwOBA) – Top 88% of MLB
- Expected batting average (xBA) – Top 87%
- Expected slugging percentage (xSLG) – Top 86%
- Walk percentage (BB%) – Top 79%
If these numbers aren’t enticing enough, he is actually trending up in these percentages over his last 50 plate appearances. Is that due to the MLB’s foreign substance crackdown on pitchers, just him getting better, or a combination of both? Time will tell.
It is easy to see that the Pirates do not need to trade Reynolds. He is the type of guy that any team would love to have. With that being said, the Pirates can essentially set the asking price very high since they would probably be just fine keeping him around. The biggest deciding factor will be how soon the Pirates front office thinks they can finally compete for a playoff spot.
Do the Atlanta Braves make a splash this year and bring in a long-term piece? Do the Pirates speed up their rebuild by trading Reynolds? These 2 questions will be answered this month. Stay tuned!
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