If the Braves have a need, it lies with the pitching staff. Despite it being one of the better overall units in the league this season, there’s always room for improvement, and the Braves have the opportunity to make themselves as unbeatable as possible before the trade deadline.
Given the current state of the farm system, Alex Anthopoulos might not have the ammunition to pull off a blockbuster trade for an All-Star caliber talent, but there are a couple of names worth monitoring out West. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports, the Padres will look to sell two All-Stars whose contracts are up at the end of this year, barring something significant happening.
Several teams who have spoken with the #Padres in recent days believe that All-Star closer Josh Hader and former Cy Young winner Blake Snell will be traded, particularly Hader.
The struggling Padres (49-54) are in 7th place in the wild-card race, 6.5 games out of a playoff spot.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 27, 2023
To make this more fun, I thought I would approach it from a buy or sell perspective. But I’m not only evaluating whether the Braves should trade for either of these guys because both would be tremendous impact players toward the club’s goal of winning the World Series this season. I will also be considering what it will take to acquire each guy, and whether it makes sense for the club in the long-term.
Snell won the AL Cy Young in 2018 with the Rays before he was eventually traded to the Padres. He’s been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball ever since, and he’s set to sign a massive contract this offseason once he hits free agency. On the season, Snell owns a league-leading 2.61 ERA, and he also leads the league with an ERA+ of 157+ (57% above league average). Adding him to the rotation would give the Braves arguably the best 1-4 in the league, making them nearly impossible to beat come October, assuming everyone stays healthy.
With the Padres so far out of the Wild Card race, selling Snell to the highest bidder before he hits free agency makes the most sense. I would be thrilled if the Braves landed him, but it is incredibly far-fetched. It’s a seller’s market, just look at what the White Sox were able to get for Lucas Giolito, who isn’t in the same category as Snell. The Padres ace could fetch double that in the coming days, even if he’s just a rental. Number 1 pitchers don’t grow on trees, and I don’t see the Braves making the move and then ponying up the cash necessary to re-sign him. They have their own lefty ace in Max Fried to take care of at the end of the 2024 season.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Hader is in a similar boat. He once again looks like the best relief pitcher in baseball, boasting a 0.95 ERA and fresh off his fifth All-Star appearance. If the Padres indeed do make him available, there will be no shortage of suitors, which could price the Braves out of the conversation.
However, if there is one thing I have been begging this team to add, it’s a high-powered shutdown closer. That’s not going to be cheap, but it’s easier to acquire than starting pitching at the trade deadline, and there isn’t a better option than Hader. The Braves rotation should be just fine with Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, and Bryce Elder — and that’s not even mentioning the possible return of Kyle Wright in September. The bullpen, on the other hand, could use a dominant closer, allowing Iglesias to pitch the eighth, a role he was elite in last season.
For that reason, I’m going to buy. Given Hader is a rental reliever, it shouldn’t cost an absurd amount to acquire him, and there are few teams that can justify trading a lot for a closer that will likely leave in free agency. The Braves are one of them. They are the best team in baseball, and a shutdown closer is exactly what this team needs. I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but I do think the Braves will seriously inquire about his services.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Photo: Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire