Braves should no longer target Zack Wheeler

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With the MLB Trade Deadline fast approaching, the Braves are looking for starters and relievers on the trading block.

One of those starters is Zack Wheeler, whom the Braves had shown interest in.

However, Wheeler has been placed on the 10-day IL with right-shoulder fatigue according to Tim Healey, which would allow him a maximum of two starts before the trade deadline – assuming he can return on July 23.

Because of this, Wheeler should no longer be considered by the Braves.

For a team that is looking to take down the Dodgers en route to the World Series, a pitcher battling shoulder fatigue is not one the Braves should be trading for. And it’s not like Zack Wheeler was pitching like an Ace prior to the injury. The metro-Atlanta native has a 4.69 ERA in 19 starts this season, but his strikeout numbers (130 in 119 innings) are noteworthy.

Where the starting pitching stands

With most teams employing only three or four pitchers to start games during the playoffs, the Braves can’t afford to have question marks on a starting pitcher. Mike Soroka and Dallas Keuchel are firmly implanted as starters for Games 1 and 2. However, there is no confidence in another pitcher being the Game 3 (and possibly 6) starter.

While he’s had good moments this year, Max Fried isn’t ready to step in that role, nor is Julio Teheran. Kevin Gausman has been a mess and can’t be trusted to start a playoff game, and Bryse Wilson lacks experience. The ideal answer (internally) is Mike Foltynewicz; if he could ever return to his 2018 form, but he is still struggling in Triple-A with a 4.08 ERA.

Where to from here?

For the Braves, it means the focus has to be on a starter that they can confidently put into a postseason starting role. While Wheeler could have fit that capacity, there are too many questions concerning his shoulder and his overall performance. He should no longer be seriously considered as a trade target unless the Mets are willing to give him away for low-level prospects. Even then, it may not be worth it for Atlanta.

Instead, the Braves should be focusing on trading for someone like Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman or Matthew Boyd. All three of those pitchers could be slotted into a Game 3. Of course, these arms will force the Braves to dig into their plethora of minor-league talent, especially with the lack of high-quality starting pitching on the trade market, but it is necessary if Atlanta wants to compete with Los Angeles come October.

Regardless of what happens, the next two-plus weeks will be exciting ones for Braves Country. Alex Anthopoulos will be extremely active, attempting to address both the rotation and the bullpen. But it won’t be Zack Wheeler coming to Atlanta.

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