We are now just ten days away from the MLB trade deadline, which means we will see a ton of rumors flying around over the next week-plus, and several national media outlets are already beginning to push potential deals. The Braves are expected to be active at this year’s trade deadline again, but it may be much more difficult to find a trade partner with so many teams still in the mix for a postseason berth after 20-30 games. However, that won’t stop the media from evaluating every possible solution.
The Braves were mentioned in a couple of hypothetical deals yesterday — one by the MLB Network’s Mark DeRosa, and the other by The Athletic’s Jim Bowden — and they each addressed a different need.
Mark DeRosa’s proposal
The Trade: The Braves receive Rafael Devers and Nathan Eovaldi for Austin Riley, Kyle Wright, and Ian Anderson
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) August 20, 2020
DeRosa’s deal attempts to kill two birds with one stone, but the prize here for the Braves would be Rafael Devers, who has struggled early on this season but was a stud for the Red Sox in 2019, smacking 54 doubles and 32 homers while hitting .311 — good for a 5.9 fWAR. Devers is the kind of controllable commodity the Braves should be interested in adding to their core of young stars and could be the cleanup hitter of the future in Atlanta.
The Braves also add a starting pitcher in Nathan Eovaldi, but that’s more of a salary dump for the Red Sox than it is an improvement to the Braves roster. Eovaldi is in the second year of a four-year, $68 million contract after playing a critical role in the Red Sox World Series run in 2018, but he’s been a well below average starter ever since. He posted a 5.99 ERA in 23 appearances (12 starts) last year while dealing with injuries, and so far in 2020, he has a 5.94 ERA in five starts. The Red Sox would love to get his contract off the books while they undergo a rebuild.
Boston would be intrigued by the prospect capital they receive in this hypothetical trade as well. They buy low on Austin Riley and Kyle Wright, two players with outstanding upside despite their struggles early on in 2020 and also receive the Braves top pitching prospect, Ian Anderson, who has ace potential.
As Anthopoulos said earlier this week, top prospects are on the table for the “right guy.” Devers fits that description, especially if the Braves are losing faith in Austin Riley and Johan Camargo. Putting him in a lineup that already features, Acuña, Albies, and Freeman for years to come is quite enticing. However, that is a hell of a prospect haul the Braves would be parting ways with, and when you add Eovaldi’s albatross of a contract in the mix, it might be a little too much for Anthopoulos’ taste.
With that being said, I’m sure that’s around where the asking price of the Red Sox would be, which is why blockbuster trades are often tough to come by. To acquire a controllable proven player, the Braves must be willing to part ways with top prospects.
Jim Bowden’s Proposal
The Trade: Braves receive Johnny Cueto and cash for Touki Toussaint and Patrick Weigel
This trade proposal is from Jim Bowden’s most recent article for The Athletic, where he breaks down a trade for each team in the AL and NL East.
Cueto was once an innings eater and one of the best pitchers in the game. He’s finished inside the top six for the Cy Young award three times and has a career 3.36 ERA in 13 seasons, which is why the Giants signed him to six-year, $130 million contract in 2016. He was worth it for the first couple of seasons, but injuries have limited him to just 13 starts over 2018 and 2019 combined.
Cueto’s been able to make a return this season, though, showing that he still has some stuff left in the tank, posting a 2-0 record with a 4.35 ERA and 1.129 WHIP in six starts this season — good for a 0.5 fWAR. Given the current construction of the Braves starting rotation, he’d slot in behind Max Fried in the postseason, where he has plenty of experience. Cueto has a 4.54 ERA in eight playoff starts and won a ring with the Kansas City Royals in 2015.
In this potential deal, the Giants aren’t asking for that much in return — in terms of prospect capital. Weigel is a quality top 20 prospect in the Braves’ system, but there’s a high possibility that he is best used as primarily a bullpen arm going forward. Touki Toussaint has shown some promise as a starter for the Braves in 2020, but he’s also proven that he’s still not quite ready yet. This would give the Braves an immediate #2 starter without having to part ways with any of their top prospects.
The kicker in this deal, however, is Cueto’s contract. He’s owed $21 million next season and has a $22 million club option for 2022 with a $5 million buyout. That’s a lot of money for a player that will be 35 next year, especially one with an injury history. Do the Braves really want to take another substantial financial risk on an aging pitcher after what happened with Cole Hamels this season?
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