Relievers the Braves could target at the trade deadline

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Don’t look now, but the Braves are just 4.5 games back in the NL East and have a golden opportunity to eat into that lead before the All-Star break. It starts tonight against the very team they are chasing — the New York Mets. If Atlanta can finish the first half of the season strong, they will surely be buyers at the trade deadline, particularly in the market for relievers. As of now, there look to be nine teams that will surely be selling come July 31st, and more could join them over the next month. But for this exercise, we will focus on those nine clubs that are already out of the playoff race and the relievers they could be willing to part ways with.

Baltimore Orioles

Paul Fry

Sure, the Braves may need righty relievers more than they need another lefty, but at this point, they’ll take what they can get. Fry has been fantastic for the Orioles in 2021, posting a 3.68 ERA with a 12.6 K/9, and his 2.09 FIP suggests he’s been subject to some abysmal luck. Baltimore may not be eager to deal him, given that he has three more years of control after this season, but they could choose to sell high on a guy who has had back-to-back productive seasons.

Cole Sulser

Sulser is having the best season of any Orioles reliever, boasting a 2.17 ERA with a 13.0 K/9, and his 2.39 FIP suggests his numbers are legit. The right-hander is another guy who isn’t a free agent for a while (2026), but given his track record (which is non-existent), he’s another player the Orioles could choose to sell high on.

Minnesota Twins

Taylor Rogers

Since 2016, Rogers has been a staple of the Twins bullpen, recording a career 3.06 ERA. This season’s numbers have been even better, as he boasts a 2.53 ERA with an 11.8 K/9, and he’s another pitcher with an encouraging FIP (2.21). Rogers has one more year of arbitration remaining, so he’s a player the Twins should be taking calls on before the trade deadline.

Alex Colome

Colome has been disappointing for the Twins this season after signing a one-year contract this offseason, but he’s been an effective reliever for his entire career and could just need a change of scenery. During the 2020 shortened season, he posted a 0.81 ERA over 22.1 innings, and he owns a 3.09 ERA for his career. This could be an excellent buy-low opportunity for the Braves, and he has a mutual contract option for the 2022 season.

Detroit Tigers

Michael Fulmer

Fulmer had a forgetful 2020, but he’s bounced back pretty nicely in 2021 as a member of Detroit’s relief core. Since being moved to the bullpen this season, Fulmer has six saves and a much more respectable 3.62 ERA to go along with an 11.5 K/9. He has one more year of arbitration left on his contract, and Detroit is likely a couple of years away from competing; they should be willing to move him before the trade deadline.

José Cisnero

Cisnero had a very productive 2020 campaign and has been even better so far in 2021, recording a 2.91 ERA and 11.1 K/9. He has a couple of years left of arbitration before becoming a free agent, so he’s another affordable and reasonable target for the Braves this July.

Kansas City Royals

Scott Barlow

Barlow is amid a career year, carrying a 1.91 ERA and 13.1 K/9 into June — good for 1.7 WAR. He also won’t be a free agent until 2025. This would be a fantastic pickup for this season and the future, but it would likely cost the Braves a couple of good prospects.

Kyle Zimmer

Zimmer has followed up a magnificent 2020 in which he posted a 1.57 ERA with an equally impressive 2021 so far. In 30.2 innings this season, he has recorded a 2.64 ERA and 1.076 WHIP. Like Barlow, he has several years remaining before becoming a free agent in 2026, so the Royals likely will be hesitant in dealing him unless they get a great offer.

Texas Rangers

Ian Kennedy

Kennedy has been around for a long time and is enjoying one of his best seasons so far in 2021. The 36-year-old is 13/14 in save opportunities for the Rangers and owns a 2.39 ERA over 26.1 innings. He would be a quality addition to the Braves ‘pen and shouldn’t cost very much prospect-wise.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins have a plethora of bullpen arms that could help the Braves, but I feel like they are a team that believes they are just a year or two away from being serious contenders. Because of that, I don’t see them being very willing to trade with someone inside their division, especially the team that has won the last three division titles.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Richard Rodríguez

Rodríguez has been downright filthy for the Pirates this season, leading to a 1.78 ERA, and his 2.09 FIP suggests he hasn’t benefitted from much good fortune. Not only does he have nasty stuff, but he also doesn’t walk batters, which would be a welcome sight in Braves Country. Rodríguez is walking less than a batter per nine innings, leading to a minuscule WHIP of 0.692. He also isn’t a free agent until 2024, but since the Pirates likely won’t be competitive between now and then, they would be wise to cash in on his value while it is sky-high.

Chris Stratton

Stratton is another bullpen arm the Braves could be interested in if they don’t want to pay the hefty price for Rodríguez. He’s currently amid the best season of his career, boasting a 2.59 ERA over 41.2 innings, and is also not a free agent until 2024.

Colorado Rockies

Daniel Bard

The Rockies bullpen has been rather atrocious, but Bard could be worth taking a flier on. He’s 11/16 in save opportunities with a 4.45 ERA, not anything special, but he has a 3.78 FIP over his last two seasons (57 innings), and getting out of Coors Field can only do him some good. Bard also has one more year of control remaining and won’t cost the Braves a blue-chip prospect. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Caleb Smith

You might remember Smith from his days with the Marlins. Well, he’s been one of the bright spots of an awful Diamondbacks team. The southpaw has been fantastic out of the bullpen, posting a 2.78 ERA in 18 relief appearances (30 innings). His experience against the NL East is also attractive, and he isn’t a free agent until 2024.




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