Braves

Braves: Starting Pitching a Bigger Need Than the Bullpen

dfu19033004 braves at phillies

With the MLB Trade Deadline now less than a month away, playoff teams are positioning themselves to make a run at players that will improve their roster. The Braves are no different with starting pitching and the bullpen being the main focuses. However, one of those is proving to be much more essential than the other. 

The bullpen has been superb of late

The bullpen has actually been good this year, ranking third (via ESPN’s MLB Rank) in ERA (3.71), eighth in opponents’ batting average (.238) and 10th in strikeouts (347).

Where critics will say the Braves struggle (and rightly so) is in the number of walks they’ve given up (150), which is seventh worst in MLB.

With that said, if you look at the last 30 days, the bullpen has been lights out, sans Touki Toussaint. Without his numbers, the pen has allowed 22 runs in 109 innings (As of July 5th). That’s good enough for a 1.81 ERA. Add in Toussaint, and it’s a 2.32 ERA, still pretty damn effective.

Obviously, I wouldn’t say no to acquiring a player like Will Smith, Brad Hand or Ken Giles, but the stats show Atlanta’s bullpen is actually among the tops in baseball. Additions like Sean Newcomb and Jacob Webb, along with the emergence of Luke Jackson, have made all the difference. And when Anthony Swarzak returns after the All-Star break, it’ll be in an even better place once again.

Starters worth trading for

The Braves have been connected to multiple starting pitchers. Most readers have seen the names before, but the cost will be different, depending on who it is.

Atlanta is going to have to give up some equity to get one of these starters, which is why I like the extended look for Bryse Wilson. Should Wilson have another successful outing or two, look for him to be thrown in a potential trade.

Madison Bumgarner

With the postseason a likely occurrence for the Braves, bringing on a player with Bumgarner’s pedigree would be advantageous, and Atlanta has reported interest.

Even though he’s not the same pitcher he was a few years ago, it’s hard to ignore a 2.11 playoff ERA over 109.2 innings. For a team that is low on playoff experience as far as starters (sans Dallas Keuchel), Bumgarner would be a welcomed addition at the top of the rotation.

Another thing I like about the Braves going after Bumgarner is they could also acquire Smith or Tony Watson to help in the bullpen.

This is the only deal where the Braves will insist on one of the relief pitchers as well as the starting pitcher. Because of this, it will cost the Braves one of their top pitching prospects. Some fans won’t agree with it, but the Braves have the capital and are legitimate World Series contenders. It’s time to cash in that capital, even if it’s for rental players.

Proposed Trade

Braves Get: Bumgarner and Smith

Giants Get: RHP Kyle Wright, LHP Kyle Muller, and 2B Kevin Josephina

Zack Wheeler

It’s been recently reported that the Mets are interested in trading away Wheeler and it doesn’t matter to whom. New York is merely looking for the best package they can receive, and again the Braves are circling the waters.

Signing Wheeler won’t be as flashy as Bumgarner, but he can ratchet up his fastball into the high-90s and keep hitters off-balance. When Wheeler is on, there are few lineups, if any, that will have success. He’s also from metro-Atlanta, which is a bonus.

Wheeler has struggled at times this year, going 6-5 with a 4.42 ERA and 123 strikeouts. But his FIP suggests he has suffered from poor luck at times, and he could feel rejuvenated after joining a playoff contender.

The Braves won’t have to give up nearly as high of a prospect as they would for Bumgarner. Regardless, they have the resources.

Proposed Trade

Braves Get: Wheeler

Mets Get: LHP Kolby Allard

Marcus Stroman

Stroman’s record isn’t indicative of how well he’s pitched this year. He’s currently 5-9 with a 3.18 ERA and 81 strikeouts.

He’s not going to blow you away with his stuff, but he gets the job done. And not only that, but he does it in the AL East.

Adding to Stroman’s value is the fact that he has one more arbitration year before he’s eligible to hit free agency. So, if the Braves trade for him, they would get him for 2020 as well. Also, remember that Alex Anthopoulos was the general manager in Toronto when the Jays drafted Stroman, so there’s familiarity there. And pitchers like Dallas Keuchel (free agent) and Julio Teheran ($1 million buyout for next season) may not be around in 2020.

Proposed Trade

Braves Get: Stroman, C Riley Adams

Blue Jays Get: Allard, LHP Thomas Burrows, OF Trey Harris

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