Braves GM talks club’s recent trade acquisitions

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The Braves have been among the most active teams leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Pierce Johnson from the Rockies in exchange for Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon as well as Taylor Hearn from the Rangers for cash considerations.

The expectations for each are wildly different. Hearn can be optioned and stashed in Triple-A when the relief core gets healthy but still isn’t expected to contribute in a significant way. His 5.47 ERA over the last two seasons isn’t encouraging, but his roster flexibility and live arm are desirable attributes to Alex Anthopoulos.

“He’s got a power arm, he’s got great stuff,” the Braves GM said about Hearn. “We really don’t have a lot of optionable bullpen guys right now, especially from the left side. We really don’t have any, to be candid with you. Luetge’s the only guy we’ve been carrying from the left side for the last little while, obviously.”

Hearn is a lottery ticket. He punches out a lot of batters but also gives up a ton of free passes. If the Braves can somehow hone in his control, the former Ranger could carve out a role down the stretch while the rest of the bullpen heals up.

“Again, having someone with great talent, great arm, we’ll see if we can get him in the strike zone a little bit more,” Anthopoulos said of Hearn. “But the fact that he’s got big stuff and he has some experience starting, it’s just a nice piece for us to take a shot on.”

However, expectations for Johnson are much different. Though he boasts an unsightly 6.00 ERA this season, digging deeper provides a lot of optimism that he will bounce back in Atlanta. He owns a 13.38 K/9, which is tied for fourth among all pitchers in baseball. Moreover, he’s also been much better as of late, recording a 3.27 ERA in his last 12 games. It’s the whole picture, including his track record that interested the Braves.

“I think it’s just a combination of things,” Anthopoulos said. “We look at the stuff; liked the stuff. We looked at his past; he had success in the past. Again, we’re looking for more swing-and-miss from the right side, and he provides that. We weigh all those things. We’re looking at everything that we can, and we’re optimistic and hopeful that we can get the reliever he was prior to the current year.”

Atlanta is betting a move away from Colorado will benefit him. Johnson owns a 2.31 FIP and 2.71 xFIP away from Coors Field this year. His track record also suggests positive regression is in line. From 2020-2022, he posted a combined 3.39 ERA, 3.19 FIP, and 12.1 K/9 with the Padres.

The Braves are betting on the track record and recent trends of Johnson, as well as the security and lottery ticket potential of Hearn.

Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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