Bleacher Report suggests Braves have most desperate trade deadline need

Anthopoulos MLB Trade Deadline

It’s April, and the MLB trade deadline is already being discussed, despite it being several months away, and the reason for that is Spencer Strider‘s UCL injury.

Earlier today, it was revealed that the Braves ace will miss the rest of the season after undergoing internal brace surgery, an alternative to the more common Tommy John surgery that has a shorter recovery time. The hope is that Strider can be 100% healthy by early next season. Had he gone the Tommy John route, it would have been after the All-Star break at the earliest.

Regardless, the Braves now must figure out how to replace the production of arguably the most irreplaceable pitcher in the game. The rotation has been a concern in Atlanta for as long as I can remember, and Alex Anthopoulos finally took some pretty extreme measures to add to it this offseason, trading for Chris Sale and signing Reynaldo Lopez. Both of them have looked fantastic through a couple of starts, but all of that improvement goes out the window without Spencer Strider.

It’s why Zachary D. Rymer believes the #1 most urgent need of any team ahead of the trade deadline is the Braves’ need for a frontline starting pitcher to replace Spencer Strider.

Speaking of contenders that are looking at going the rest of the year without their No. 1 starter, Atlanta is likely to end up in that boat as well.

There’s still no official word on what awaits Spencer Strider, but we know he has a damaged UCL in his right elbow. That typically means Tommy John surgery, and he’s already had one of those.

In the meantime, it’s not hyperbolic to say Atlanta’s rotation is already in trouble.

Its depth was on the thin side even with Strider. Without him, Atlanta would be putting a lot of faith on a struggling lefty (Max Fried), two older starters (Charlie Morton and Chris Sale) and a guy who spent the last two seasons as a full-time reliever (Reynaldo López). For a team with World Series aspirations, this is south of optimal.

This was written yesterday before Max Fried‘s brilliant start against the Marlins, but it’s absolutely comical to refer to Fried as a “struggling lefty.” This is a 30-year-old pitcher smack dab in the middle of his prime that hasn’t had an ERA north of 3.04 since 2019, and we’re going to refer to him as a “struggling lefty” after two bad starts to begin a six-month season. Seriously, do better.

From a national perspective, it’s easy to see one of the best pitchers in the game go down and immediately think the Braves must replace him to stay competitive, but this is exactly why they went out and got Chris Sale and Reynaldo Lopez this offseason. They realized injuries are inevitable and wanted insurance.

Of course, nobody expected Spencer Strider to be lost for the season after two starts. You can’t prepare for that, but the Braves rotation entered the season as one of the best in baseball, and they’re not exactly chopped liver without Strider. In fact, I would argue this is still one of, if not the best rotations the Braves have had since their run of division championships began in 2018.

Max Fried is still an ace. Chris Sale has looked nasty in a Braves uniform. Charlie Morton remains a workhorse, even at the age of 40, and Reynaldo Lopez has been splendid as he transitions back to being a starter.

I’ll admit, the margin for error is now razor thin. If any of those four go down with an injury, the need for another starting pitcher will rise drastically. But as of now, calling it the most urgent need of any team is extremely premature. Teams still need to catch up to the Braves, not the other way around.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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