The trade deadline has gone and passed, and it was a bit of a snoozer compared to previous years. That’s what happens when so many teams still believe they are in contention for the postseason. There was loads of speculation surrounding the Braves and even a few juicy rumors, like their connection to three-time Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, but in the end, they decided to mostly stand pat, adding some bullpen depth and a backup infielder that was a bit of a necessity, even if he might not have a pivotal impact.
The most notable addition the Braves made ahead of the trade deadline was Pierce Johnson. Braves fans have already gotten their first glimpse of the reliever, and he’s looked impressive, recording a 0.00 ERA and 0.27 FIP over his first three appearances with a tomahawk across his chest. Johnson’s ERA with the Rockies was unsightly, but the club is betting on his track record, peripherals, and stuff. He could be a critical piece to Atlanta’s bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason.
The Braves double-dipped on Rockies relievers today, adding veteran Brad Hand. He’s a three-time All-Star and formerly one of the most feared closers in the league. However, he’s not that guy now, and the Braves aren’t expecting him to be. Hand was acquired as a specialist that can get left-handed batters out. Prior to the trade, the Braves only had two southpaws in their bullpen, one of which is Dylan Lee, who hasn’t pitched in over two months.
The final addition is utility infielder Nicky Lopez. He may not seem like much, and if everything goes right, we won’t see much of him at all, but he’s a defensive specialist that can play all over the infield in a pinch. The Braves needed a legitimate backup option with MLB experience in case disaster strikes over the next two months. He also can be used to give guys some rest ahead of the postseason.
The one area the Braves failed to address is their rotation, and it will be the biggest question mark for the team heading into the postseason. The hope is that Max Fried will return to form, as he’s set to return to the mound this weekend against the Cubs, but there’s always a risk that his elbow might not hold up.
The Braves also have to consider the usage of Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder. Neither of them has pitched this much in a single season. Will they gas out when it matters, and can Charlie Morton continue to provide valuable innings for the team?
These are all legitimate concerns that will be tested in the coming months, but there weren’t a lot of options for the Braves to turn to at the trade deadline. The two best pitchers that were moved came from the Mets, who weren’t about to help the Braves win another World Series. Outside of that, I’m not sure the other arms traded should even be considered significant upgrades over guys like AJ Smith-Shawver. The Braves also hope Kyle Wright can return sometime at the end of the season, giving them another potential option come the postseason.
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