The Braves have been among the most active teams in baseball as the trade deadline approaches, but Alex Anthopoulos has indicated more moves could be on the horizon.
What could those moves be? To Chase, the biggest holes remaining are the starting rotation, bullpen, and left field, in that order. Braves Country knows all too well what a lack of starters can do to a club’s chances in October. Hell, just last year we saw how Max Fried and Spencer Strider at less than 100% worked out.
Left field is also a rather obvious upgradable facet of the team. Eddie Rosario‘s defense leaves a lot to be desired, and the same could be said for Kevin Pillar‘s bat. Still, I’m hung up on the bullpen.
Even though the Braves’ relief core boasts the second-best fWAR and ERA in all of baseball, I don’t trust the current makeup. A.J. Minter, Dylan Lee, and Jesse Chavez will mitigate some of that, but there’s no guarantee Lee will be the pitcher he was at the beginning of the year, and the club just moved Chavez to the 60-day IL.
Obviously, someone like Josh Hader would be ideal. He’d enable everyone to bump down and give the Braves the best three-headed monster at the end of games. Realistically, he’ll cost an arm and a leg and doesn’t fit AA’s M.O. Someone that fits the Pierce Johnson mold makes a lot more sense, which is what The Athletic has the Braves doing in their latest hypothetical.
Braves get: RH reliever Michael Fulmer
Cubs get: RH reliever Dereck Rodríguez and C prospect Drake Baldwin
Fulmer is an impending free agent who’s on a one-year, $4 million contract. After posting a 7.84 ERA in 23 appearances through May 27, Fulmer has a 1.50 ERA in his past 21 outings, holding opponents to a .169 average and .568 OPS with 24 strikeouts, 13 walks and two homers in 24 innings.
Rodríguez could be attractive to the Cubs because of the contractual control, and the Braves could sweeten the pot with another mid-level prospect if the Cubs aren’t interested in Baldwin, or possibly in addition to Baldwin.
Like Pierce Johnson, Michael Fulmer has been much better as of late, which is something the Braves will certainly factor into their analysis. Betting on the trends moving forward is the name of the game when searching for diamonds in the rough.
Fulmer began his career as a starter in Detroit, where he actually found success, but eventually production caused him to make a move to the bullpen. He still boasts a five-pitch mix, mainly using a four-seam fastball, sweeper, and cutter with a sinker and changeup trickled in.
His 4.40 ERA isn’t attractive, but as O’Brien notes, he owns a 1.50 ERA over his last 21 outings while nearly punching out two batters to every one free pass. Fulmer knows how to induce soft contact — 93rd percentile in average exit velocity and 95th percentile in HardHit%.
If he can continue to limit his walks, Fulmer could be another weapon out of the bullpen. Despite not having an overpowering fastball, it has a ton of movement, leading to a lot of whiffs on his off-speed pitches.
Though fans would love a blockbuster-type deal, Braves trade hypotheticals like Michael Fulmer are much more realistic.