Braves: Looking back at trade deadline candidates and their performance since

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Unlike regular seasons, MLB’s 2020 trade deadline came just a month after opening day, moving to August 31st due to the drastically shortened season schedule. Nevertheless, the particular issues that held back the Braves were obvious. From Day 1 and up to deadline day, the Braves ranked 26th in starting pitching WAR and 27th in third base WAR (via FanGraphs) — the two worst position groups on the team. In fact, though you may have thought the rotation was the real issue at that particular point in the season, the team had produced a minus-0.1 WAR from their third basemen, as they collectively slashed just .221/.266/.431 to go along with baseball’s highest strikeout-rate (30.3 K%).

With over half of the 2020 regular season completed, anyone paying attention to the Braves knew exactly what GM Alex Anthopoulos needed to obtain in order to reinforce the team for the second half.

But Anthopoulos evidently had other ideas…

On the Sunday morning before Monday’s deadline, Anthopoulos traded for Orioles’ lefty starter Tommy Milone in exchange for two PTBNLs (not included on the 60-man roster). If you thought that was just Anthopoulos getting warmed up, with plans for a busy Monday… you were wrong. Milone was it. The Braves made no other moves. And after Milone’s Braves debut — which featured eight hits and seven earned runs (2 HR) in a 2.1-inning start against the Phillies — it looked as if the second half of the season was set to be a long one.

So the criticism ensued. Braves Country erupted on Twitter as fans vented their frustrations regarding Anthopoulos’ conservatism. Sure, the shortened season — played during a global pandemic — didn’t bring a lot to the table in terms of viable talent at the deadline, but surely the Braves’ GM could’ve done something to improve the team’s starting rotation or the situation at the hot corner (though Austin Riley did wind up with a solid August, hitting .286 AVG with 5 HR last month — much better than he’s been in September).

However, despite fielding and initiating several discussions, Anthopoulos never found a deal worth making. Regardless, I’d say the Braves have faired rather well considering their shortcomings (Tuesday night, the team clinched their third consecutive NL East title and moved up to the no. 2 seed in the NL).

However, whether you agreed with the GM’s decision to sit out the deadline or not, it’s always interesting to see what could’ve been. Let’s check out how each potential trade candidate has performed since deadline day, using some of the players mentioned in our own Chase Irle’s Buy or Sell trade write-up from just days before the trade deadline in late August.

*Stats for all players span from September 1st through September 20th only


Kyle Seager, 3B

17 G, .135 AVG, 94 wRC+, 2 HR, 9 RBI

At just over $7.5 million this season (pre-COVID it was roughly $14.5MM), Seager has essentially performed as expected for the Mariners in 2020, even out-performing his ZiPS projections by about half a win (he’s at 1.3 WAR, compared to the predicted 0.8). However, a sub-.200 AVG with only two homers in 73 plate appearances since the deadline isn’t exactly ideal, especially from your third baseman. If you can recall, the trade talks regarding Seager were coming in droves this past offseason as everyone (including me) was freaking out about Riley’s terrible return to earth during the 2019 season. I don’t know how serious talks were a month ago, but it appears the Braves made the right call passing on the 32-year-old Seager.


Trevor Bauer, RHP

4 starts, 27 IP, 1-2, 1.33 ERA, 34 K, 5 BB, .184 AVG

Currently tied for sixth in WAR (2.0) among all MLB starting pitchers (as of Monday), Bauer would’ve been the perfect deadline addition for the Braves’ staff (I wrote as much last week, though admittedly, it was geared more towards 2021). This is the third season in a row that the 29-year-old has pitched like one of baseball’s best, and other than a… let’s say… unique personality, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about with Bauer when it comes to making a positive impact. 

Since September 1st of this season, the Reds’ starter is averaging 11.3 strikeouts per nine and just 1.7 walks, ranking ninth and tied for 14th in the majors for that particular stretch, respectively, to go along with the fourth-most WAR. If you read my piece above, the attraction regarding Bauer’s interest to pitch on one-year deals for the rest of his career makes for an interesting topic this coming offseason. However, trading for him last month would be looking pretty good right now, given the news we just received about Cole Hamels. Regardless, considering the team’s newfound interest in contending, I don’t even think the Reds were interested in trading Bauer anyways.


Lance Lynn, LHP

4 starts, 27 IP, 2-1, 3.67 ERA, 28 K, 6 BB, .220 AVG

After finishing fifth in 2019’s AL Cy Young voting, Lynn’s 2020 performance hasn’t come out of nowhere, but it is rather impressive that he’s been able to keep it up at the age of 33. Honestly, acquiring his rotation-mate, Mike Minor (who we’ll talk about in a minute), would’ve been sufficient, but a pitcher like Lynn could’ve essentially transformed the Braves’ rotation. 

Admittedly, he hasn’t been as sharp these last several outings and has even had one bad outing since the deadline, coming on September 3rd versus the Astros (in which he allowed six runs); but save for that one start, Lynn hasn’t surrendured more than three runs in an outing all season, and not once all year has he struck out less than six batters. The fact that he’s one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers AND slated to earn just $8 million in 2021, trading for Lynn would’ve been an excellent move by Anthopoulos. However, the cost in prospects would’ve been quite high.


Mike Clevinger, RHP

3 starts, 18 IP, 2-1, 3.00 ERA, 17 K, 3 BB, .222 AVG

Everyone’s favorite team this season, the Padres wound up landing Clevinger in a nine-player deal that will probably take a decade to honestly grade. One has to presume the Braves could’ve just offered prospect Drew Waters and some other up-and-coming pitcher and got the trade done with far fewer players involved. However, perhaps holding on to Waters and several of their young arms will wind up appearing as the better play for the Braves, especially given how well Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa, and Bryse Wilson have looked of late. 

One thing is for sure, though, Clevinger would’ve been a very nice addition to this season’s troubled rotation, and given he’s under team control for two more years after this one is just icing on the cake. The 29-year-old righty has been super consistent in 2020, posting a 3.18 ERA with a .247 AVG-against in his first four starts to begin the year, while even improving upon those numbers since September 1st by maintaining a 3.00 ERA / .222 AVG in his previous three outings. Clevinger missed roughly three weeks in August, so he’s 20-30 innings behind most of MLB’s top-starters, but he’d still finish 2020 as a top-15 arm in the NL, in terms of ERA (when lowering the qualifying threshold for innings-pitched).


Mike Minor, LHP

3 starts, 1 app., 16.1 IP, 1-1, 6.61 ERA, 20 K, 7 BB, .193 AVG

Since his five-year tenure with the Braves from 2010-14, in which he finished 38-36 with a 4.10 ERA as an occasionally dominant lefty in the starting rotation, Minor has had success as both a reliever (with the Royals) and starter (with the Rangers) over the last several years. 

However, 2020 has been a bit of a rough season for the Braves’ former seventh-overall pick as he’s allowed four or more runs in six of his ten starts thus far this season, and since his first outing of the year, his ERA has failed to drop below 5.40. The Athletics sent two non-prospect minor leaguers to Texas for Minor at the deadline in what constituted as a buy-low rental for Oakland, given the soon-to-be 33-year-old will hit the free-agent market this coming offseason. Perhaps Minor would’ve pitched better this season with a more familiar team like the Braves, but so far, it appears Anthopolous made the right choice by passing on him.


Robbie Ray, LHP

3 starts, 1 app., 16.2 IP, 1-1, 5.94 ERA, 20 K, 10 BB, .279 AVG

The Braves have been “in” on Ray since this past winter, given he was a rather attractive 2020 rental at the prime age of 28-years-old and coming off a 33-start 2019 campaign that featured a 12-8 record and 4.34 ERA. But evidently, Ray’s regression has intensified this season (his ERA has risen in each of his last three seasons), as he’s now up to a 7.17 ERA in 2020, across ten combined starts between the D’Backs and Blue Jays (the latter of which acquired him at the deadline this season in exchange for a below-average lefty reliever and $300,000 in cash). 

Obviously, Ray’s performance this season shouldn’t render any regrets by the Braves, but with roughly $1.42 million remaining on his 2020 salary as of August 31st, taking a chance on a 1.5-WAR starting pitcher at that kind of cost could’ve been a decent play for Anthopolous. 


Kevin Gausman, RHP

3 starts, 17 IP, 2-1, 2.12 ERA, 20 K, 7 BB, .089 AVG

We’ll conclude this exercise with Gausman since I think it’s quite interesting that he’s been able to turn his career around in the Bay Area this season. Chase was absolutely right when he wrote that Gausman wouldn’t move the needle much for the Braves as a deadline addition this season, given at the time (August 31st), the righty was sporting a 4.54 ERA and had only made it to the sixth inning in one out of six starts. But everything began to change in Gausman’s final outing of August, and as you can see above, since September 1st, he’s been a totally different pitcher, allowing a sub-.100 AVG and reaching the sixth in two of his three starts during that stretch.

I always liked Gausman, and his 2018 second-half performance with the Braves led many of us to believe that he could become a mainstay in the starting rotation. Still, you certainly can’t fault Anthopolous for deciding to DFA the guy last August after posting a 6.19 ERA across his first 16 starts of the 2019 season. However, a reunion would’ve been nice, especially with the way Gausman is pitching currently. 


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