The Braves didn’t make the blockbuster splash many hoped for at the trade deadline, but that was always unlikely given their lack of prospect capital within their farm system. They did, however, make a couple of intriguing trades with the Rockies for relievers that weren’t living up to expectations.
Perhaps it’s getting out of Coors Field, maybe it is coaching, or it could even be joining a competitive club, but for whatever reason, both Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand have looked much better in a Braves uniform.
Johnson was the more notable addition of the two. He had a 6.00 ERA with the Rockies, but his strikeout rate and track record supported the notion that better days were ahead. The Braves took a gamble, sending Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon to Colorado, and Johnson has yet to allow an earned run over 5.2 innings. He’s also struck out eight with a 1.51 FIP, and the eye test has been very encouraging. Johnson can run up his heater into the high-90s and has a filthy curveball that induces a ton of whiffs.
Hand has also tossed a few scoreless frames since the move. I’m not sure what his role will be with the team once Dylan Lee returns, but having another quality lefty in the bullpen should not be taken for granted. Hand’s experience is a plus as well. This was once one of the more feared closers in all of baseball. At the very least, he can serve as the Braves lefty specialist in key situations. On the season, left-handed opponents are hitting just .157 off of Hand with two extra-base hits.
It’s far too early to start praising Alex Anthopoulos for finding some really good value with these trades, but the early results are extremely encouraging. Johnson, in particular, looks like he could be a critical piece to the Braves bullpen that can handle high leverage situations. That’s something the Braves desperately needed to add, and they didn’t have to give much to get him.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire