Ranking the top 10 early trade targets for the Braves

MLB: JUN 17 Angels at Royals

We are just over a month away from the trade deadline, which is always an exhilarating time for baseball fans. The Atlanta Braves, with their impressive offensive lineup, don’t have many obvious weaknesses. However, there are areas within their pitching staff that could use some improvement. As the famous saying goes, a team can never have too much pitching, and the Braves have certainly learned that lesson the hard way this season, dealing with multiple injuries. Despite the setbacks, they have managed to establish a commanding 6.5-game lead in the NL East. While I don’t anticipate any major blockbuster trades before the deadline, the Braves will undoubtedly be active as they strive for their second World Series title in three seasons.

At present, only a handful of teams are unequivocally destined to be sellers. I expect a few more teams to fall out of contention before the trade deadline, but overall, there will likely be fewer sellers compared to previous years. In these rankings, I will be considering both impact and team needs. For instance, the Braves’ primary need at the moment is a dominant reliever, so players who fit that description will take precedence over starting pitchers and offensive additions. Moreover, I’ll strive to maintain a sense of realism throughout the analysis. The Braves don’t have an abundance of pressing needs, nor do they possess an excess of prospects to facilitate a blockbuster trade.

10. Lance Lynn

It’s no surprise to see multiple White Sox players featured. Lynn has struggled this year, making it unlikely that the club will exercise his option for next season unless he drastically turns things around. I believe the White Sox will trade him before the deadline, as a change of scenery might do wonders for Lynn. Taking a chance on Lynn’s potential upside wouldn’t be a bad move for the Braves.

9. Jack Flaherty

Flaherty emerged as a Cy Young contender at the age of 23 back in 2019. However, injuries have plagued him since then, leading the Cardinals to likely explore a trade for him before the deadline. Flaherty is an unrestricted free agent, and with the team currently in last place, it’s unlikely they will offer him an extension given his injury history. While he may not be the same pitcher he once was, there’s still some upside to tap into. At the very least, he could provide valuable veteran innings for the Braves down the stretch.

8. Drew Smyly

Braves fans might not want to hear it, but Smyly has quietly been having a solid year for the Cubs, boasting a 3.38 ERA over 15 starts. This comes after a 2022 season in which he posted a 3.48 ERA over 22 starts. Smyly has thrived since leaving the Braves, and while he may not be a game-changer, if the team is in need of a starter, Alex Anthopoulos could do much worse.

7. Lucas Giolito

Giolito may not be the superstar he once was, but he’s having a productive season for the White Sox, who have hinted at being open to trading their impending free agents. Giolito is in the final year of his contract, and it would be surprising if he wasn’t moved. Should the Braves face another starter injury or if Max Fried or Kyle Wright encounter setbacks, Giolito would be an enticing target.

6. Daniel Bard

Among all Major League teams, the Rockies are undoubtedly one of the sellers at the trade deadline, with Daniel Bard being their most appealing trade asset. With a contract running through 2024, Colorado can maximize their return in a trade, especially considering Bard’s impressive performance. After a stellar 2022 campaign with a 1.79 ERA and 10.3 K/9 over 60.1 innings, Bard has been even better this season, boasting a remarkable 1.40 ERA through 25 appearances. However, his 5.20 FIP indicates potential regression.

5. Dylan Cease

Acquiring Dylan Cease is more of a pipe dream than a realistic possibility for several reasons. The White Sox are unlikely to trade Cease before the deadline as he still has two years of control beyond this season. Additionally, the Braves might struggle to put together a prospect package enticing enough to acquire him. Nevertheless, if there were one starting pitcher worth going all-in for, it would be Cease. Unfortunately, even that might not be enough for the White Sox to pick up the phone.

4. Kendall Graveman

Kendall Graveman has consistently been one of the league’s top relievers in recent years. He posted a remarkable 1.77 ERA in 2021, a 3.18 ERA last season, and currently owns a 2.70 ERA this year. With an extra year of control, Graveman becomes an even more attractive target if the White Sox decide to sell.

3. David Bednar

According to Jon Morosi, the Pittsburgh Pirates will likely sell at the trade deadline following a miserable stretch of baseball that has put them well out of first place in the NL Central. David Bednar is their best possible trade chip. He’s been one of the elite relievers in all of baseball over the last three seasons and is amid a career year, boasting a 1.50 ERA and 1.73 FIP. Bednar is also under contract through 2026, which will be appealing to a lot of clubs. However, that also means he will cost a lot in terms of prospect capital, which is why I have him at third on this list instead of first.

2. Scott Barlow

Scott Barlow narrowly misses the top spot on this list. While he hasn’t been as dominant as in previous years, posting a 3.90 ERA, he boasts an impressive track record that suggests positive regression is likely. Moreover, Barlow remains under team control for the 2024 season, adding value to any potential trade. Acquiring Barlow won’t come cheap in terms of prospect capital, but his presence would significantly bolster the Braves’ World Series aspirations for the next two seasons.

1. Aroldis Chapman

As mentioned in the article’s introduction, the Braves’ primary need heading into the trade deadline is a high-powered bullpen arm. Aroldis Chapman emerges as the top choice, given his unmatched abilities. Despite some off-field issues, Chapman’s postseason experience, highlighted by a 2.40 ERA over 35 appearances, makes him an incredibly valuable addition. With an astonishing strikeout rate of 16 batters per nine innings this season, Chapman represents the best possible trade deadline acquisition for the Braves, and he should be within reach.

Photo: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

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