Braves named potential fit for under-the-radar trade candidate

Braves roster moves

Mike Petriello of recently went through five under-the-radar trade targets as the deadline approaches. He also included potential suitors for each player on the list, and the Braves were named a fit for Chicago White Sox starting pitcher, Lance Lynn.

Lance Lynn, SP, White Sox

Look, if you’re going to be considered “under the radar,” then there’s got to be something that puts you down there, right? In Lynn’s case, it’s not the track record that’s the problem, because he’s been an above-average pitcher for more than decade now. Instead, it’s all the flashing red flags — like the fact that he’s 36, and has a 6.08 ERA, and that his four-seam velocity is down two full ticks from what it was in 2019 to a near career low.

But if you’re willing to look a little more deeply, you might be interested to note two factors here:

1) He’s just as effective as he’s ever been against right-handed hitters.They’re hitting just .200/.276/.338 against him this year, which is essentially the same as his career average. Whatever his problem is, it’s mostly not this.

2) His strikeout rate is up. Lynn is striking out nearly 28% of batters he’s faced, which is well above the Major League average and would be his highest since 2019.

So what’s the issue here? It’s lefties, and it’s homers, though it’s nearly impossible for fly balls to continue reaching the seats as often as they have — his HR/FB rate of 20.3% is nearly double the league average of 12%. There are signs of life here, anyway; in his last five starts, he’s got a stellar 47/9 K/BB.

Potential fits: Dodgers, Braves, Rangers, Orioles, Rays

Lynn is someone I’ve talked about in regard to the Braves for about a month now. The White Sox have every reason to sell, and Lynn is in the last year of his contract, assuming no club picks up his option for 2024. Acquiring him shouldn’t cost too much, given his struggles this season. Lynn has surrendered a league-leading 28 homers this season before August; that also happens to be a career-high in a single season.

Whoever trades for Lynn is banking on his track record in hopes that a change of scenery will do him wonders. The Braves have had a lot of success with reclamation projects, and they could use some starting pitching depth. Lynn might pique their interest, but he’s been far too inconsistent this season to trade any worthwhile prospects for.

The name on Petriello’s list that actually interests me the most is Joe Kelly, Lynn’s teammate in Chicago. Kelly hasn’t worked out with the White Sox, posting a 6.08 ERA last season and a 4.82 ERA in 2023, but as Petriello notes, all of Kelly’s advanced metrics point towards severe positive regression.

But that ERA is inflated by a few bad games — name your advanced ERA estimator, they all think he’s been better than that, whether it’s FIP (3.21) or xERA (3.00) or DRA (3.35) — and his 31% strikeout rate is ever so close to last year’s career high. He’s throwing essentially as hard as he ever has, averaging 99 mph on his four-seamer, and the slider he’s used on and off over the years is now coming in at 91.6 mph, having allowed a mere .133 average against this year.

Kelly’s stuff, postseason experience, and competitive drive should all interest the Braves. He hums it at 99 MPH with movement and features a wipeout slider in the low-90s that is incredibly effective. That’s a stark contrast to almost everyone in the Braves bullpen right now. Kelly has also appeared in 40 postseason games, posting a 3.55 ERA and winning two World Series. He’s one of my top targets for the Braves at the trade deadline.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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