**NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BEFORE MARCELL OZUNA’S ARREST. THERE WILL BE A SEPARATE TRADE ARTICLE FOR CANDIDATES TO REPLACE HIM**
It’s no secret the Braves need help all over the diamond. After losing Mark Melancon and Darren O’Day this offseason, Alex Anthopoulos attempted to right his previous wrongs by bringing Shane Greene back on a very team-friendly one year contract. However, with so many injuries to the starting rotation and so many guys in the bullpen struggling, Greene isn’t guaranteed to fix any of these issues. He missed Spring Training and it’s a month into the season, so Atlanta can’t bank on him coming in and dominating immediately. While it’s a little early for trade talks, I’ll be focusing on versatile hitters and arms that can immediately improve Atlanta’s rotation, bullpen, or both right now. If you missed the American League edition of this two-part series, you can find that here.
Chicago Cubs: RHP Craig Kimbrel and OF Jake Marisnick
The Cubs are still in the thick of the NL Central, but they have shown commitment to shedding salary this offseason. They also have Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and others hitting free agency this offseason. They could be headed for a rebuild without Theo Epstein. I already talked about the Braves possibly bringing Kimbrel back to Atlanta here:
Everyone misses the days of Craig Kimbrel walking out to Welcome to the Jungle with flames lighting up the outfield walls because we knew the game was all but over at that point. Kimbrel led the league in saves from 2011-2014, notching a total of 185, which is downright incredible. Kimbrel won NL Rookie of the Year in 2011, edging out his teammate Freddie Freeman. There were points when Kimbrel was even getting serious Cy Young consideration. When the Braves signed Dallas Keuchel a few weeks into the 2019 seasons, fans were clamoring for the Braves to make another splash move and bring back Kimbrel, who was also unsigned at the time. Kimbrel signed with the Cubs, and it was a great decision not to ink him to the three-year, $43 million contract he got from Chicago.
So far in 2021, Kimbrel has a microscopic 0.82 ERA to go along with 12 saves, tied for fourth in the majors. He would immediately provide Atlanta with an elite closer and help move Will Smith to a role with a little less leverage.
Jake Marisnick has been fantastic as a reserve outfielder, putting up a .973 OPS in 27 games. He would immediately bring some pop to the Braves starting lineup.
Cincinnati Reds: RHP Luis Castillo, RHP Tejay Antone, and OF Tyler Naquin
Luis Castillo has had an awful 2021 season, easily the worst of his career. His 7.22 ERA is hardly appetizing. However, I think the Braves would be smart to buy low on Castillo — his 4.76 FIP indicates he has not been as bad as his ERA. His changeup is still incredible, and he’s a year removed from a 3.21 ERA and 11.4 K/9. I think adding Castillo, potentially at a low cost, would be an incredible move — especially considering he isn’t an unrestricted free agent until 2024.
Tejay Antone has been a nice surprise for the Reds, only allowing five runs over 28 IP while striking out 11.9 batters per nine innings. He would immediately help solidify Atlanta’s bullpen, and with three saves under his belt, he has upside as a closer.
I wanted Tyler Naquin in Atlanta when he was playing in Cleveland, but after a few down years, he has found his groove in the Great American Smallpark. His .805 OPS will play — either off the bench or as a starter.
Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Richard Rodriguez, RHP Kyle Crick or RHP David Bednar, and UTIL Adam Frazier
Braves fans may be hesitant to acquire any Pirates pitching after Atlanta thumped them at Truist Park, but hear me out.
Sam Peebles already did a breakdown for us on Richard Rodriguez, so check that out here. He has a smooth 1.61 ERA over 22.1 innings and would solidify the bullpen overnight.
Kyle Crick and David Bednar have posted 1.93 and 2.70 ERAs respectively, so they would make solid additions to slot in the middle of the ‘pen.
Braves fans got a taste of, as Chip Caray likes to call him, “Athens Native Adam Frazier.” I love Frazier’s game; I used to always pick him up in MLB the Show. He can play all over the diamond, and his .862 OPS would provide some immediate juice for the Braves. He has 113 career games in left field, so he could easily make an impact for the Braves with Marcell Ozuna absent.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Zac Gallen and RHP Taylor Widener or LHP Caleb Smith
The Diamondbacks are coming off of a nine game losing streak, so they may be willing to sell fairly soon. I’m a huge Zac Gallen fan, and I praised him a lot before Arizona came to town and wiped the floor with the Braves. I’m very glad the Marlins traded him. Gallen tossed a one-hit shutout in a seven-inning doubleheader before Madison Bumgarner no-hit the Braves, and his 3.04 ERA over 26.2 innings shows that his performance wasn’t a fluke. Gallen is striking out almost 11 batters per nine innings, and he would immediately fill the void that may be left by Mike Soroka for the entire season.
The Braves could choose between relievers, both have been pretty solid in 2021. Widener has posted a 2.63 ERA over 24 innings, and another former Marlin, Caleb Smith, has been equally as good this season. He has joined Arizona’s rotation but can come out of the bullpen as well, good for a 3.27 ERA over 33 IP.
Milwaukee Brewers: LHP Josh Hader and RHP Brandon Woodruff or RHP Corbin Burnes
This is the real blockbuster on this list, and the Braves better be ready to open their prospect wallets if this happens. Not only would Josh Hader and his incredible 0.83 ERA be coming to Atlanta, but Burnes and Woodruff have also been elite in 2021. Hader would immediately take over for Will Smith as the team’s closer, and on top of adding an elite lefty to the ‘pen, you get a bona fide stud that you can trust in any situation. Hader has only allowed two runs in 21.2 innings and is striking out an absurd 15.4 batters per nine innings. You can’t ask much more out of a guy coming out in the 9th inning.
Brandon Woodruff is arguably the clubhouse leader for the NL Cy Young; he has only given up ten runs over 71 innings, and he’s striking out 10.4 hitters per nine innings. Woodruff leads the majors in WHIP (0.69) and hits allowed per nine innings (4.2) along with many other categories, including home runs allowed per nine innings (0.4). The Braves could really use an ace with Mike Soroka unlikely to return in 2021, and Woodruff is under team control until 2025. He won’t be cheap, and I doubt Milwaukee would even be willing to part with him. However, even past 2021, I don’t know a team in baseball that wants to face Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Brandon Woodruff, and whoever else in a playoff series.
Corbin Burnes has been a bit overshadowed by his teammate Woodruff, but he has been on fire lately. In 2021, Burnes has only allowed 13 runs over 52.1 innings. He’s probably a bit easier to acquire than Woodruff, but I don’t anticipate Milwaukee giving up either for less than a king’s ransom — before you even consider Hader in the deal.
The Brewers are still in the thick of things, but a move like this would turn Atlanta around in an instant. It’s unlikely that they would sell right now, but if they’re floundering around the trade deadline, this is a move that would be worth unloading a ton of prospect capital for. It would cost Atlanta most of their top prospects if Milwaukee would even answer the phone, but it would instantly make them a World Series favorite for multiple seasons.