Many fans were underwhelmed with the Braves moves at the trade deadline. They neglected to add to their rotation; instead, bolstering their bullpen in the form of two underachieving arms from Colorado and adding a bench piece in Nicky Lopez for a player who was likely going to be DFA’d anyways. It was far from sexy, but the early results are exactly why Alex Anthopoulos knows best.
Pierce Johnson has been infinitely better with the Braves than he was in Colorado. Through eight appearances, he’s yet to allow an earned run while striking out 11 batters in just 7.1 innings. This is a guy who was a stalwart in the San Diego Padres bullpen from 2020-2021, posting a 3.09 ERA over 87 appearances, and even though his ERA was a gaudy 6.00 with the Rockies before he was traded to Atlanta, he was striking 13.4 batters per nine innings. Johnson has real talent, featuring a fastball in the high-90s with a nasty curveball, and he looks like he’ll be a critical piece to the Braves bullpen down the stretch and into October.
The other under-the-radar move Alex Anthopoulos pulled off at the trade deadline was for utility infielder Nicky Lopez. The Braves acquired him for essentially nothing, patching up one of the few holes left on the roster. Prior to Lopez, the team didn’t have a reliable backup that could play in a pinch. It’s important to think about worst-case scenarios, and we are already seeing this trade pay off with Ozzie Albies hitting the IL.
Lopez is 7-for-10 with 8 RBIs in his first two starts with the Braves, and while the hope is Albies won’t be out for long, having Lopez and Grissom to take over in his absence is much better than the alternative. There shouldn’t be too much of a drop-off, and the Braves can feel comfortable giving Albies as much rest as possible to recover fully from his hamstring strain.
I know Braves fans wanted some more significant additions to the roster at the trade deadline, but in a seller’s market, it was nearly impossible to find value. Several teams tried and failed; meanwhile, the Braves gave up next to nothing and acquired a high-leverage reliever and a competent backup infielder that can play all over the diamond. They also added a lefty specialist with loads of experience in Brad Hand. It’s these kinds of moves that don’t get much national recognition, but they are a primary reason why Alex Anthopoulos is one of the best general managers in all of sports.
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