The Braves had a rather quiet deadline, only landing a couple of bullpen arms and a super utility piece. The most recent was lefty Brad Hand from the Rockies, who garnered Alex Barger in return.
It’s not the high-leverage reliever that many wished Alex Anthopoulos had acquired, but there’s reason for optimism. Firstly, the pitching staff as a whole has been very productive despite being down Max Fried, Kyle Wright, and a bevy of critical bullpen pieces.
Coming into Wednesday’s series finale against the Angels, the club’s starters have combined for a 3.98 ERA, which ranks second in the NL and eighth in Major League Baseball. While the relief core owns a 3.65 ERA, ranking first in the league and tied for fourth in all of baseball.
The Braves could’ve used another starter or a high-leverage arm, but at what cost? It was a seller’s market and prices were ridiculously high. If there’s one thing about Alex Anthopoulos, it’s that he won’t overpay for anyone, especially when considering the circumstances.
Max Fried will start for the team on Friday, and Kyle Wright is still hopeful to return in about a month. A.J. Minter came back on Monday night, while Dylan Lee and Jesse Chavez aim to return in the near future.
More than anything, Hand and Pierce Johnson complement what the Braves already have, particularly Hand, who is practically unhittable against lefties, leading The Athletic to give the Braves a respectable grade for the trade.
Andy McCullough: Hand fills one of the holes on Atlanta’s roster: He’s a left-handed reliever with plenty of big-league experience. Like almost every pitcher to spend time with the Rockies during the past few decades, one doubts he will miss Coors Field. He has been striking out more than a batter per inning this season, back near the rate he produced during All-Star seasons with San Diego and Cleveland in the late 2010s. But he’s also been prone to hard contact and walks. His primary purpose may be to siphon some regular-season innings away from high-leverage relievers like Raisel Iglesias, Joe Jiménez and Kirby Yates.
Hand’s 4.54 ERA is a bit misleading, given he had two blow-ups in early July against the Tigers and Giants. Still, he’s a middle reliever, whose track record and splits against lefties paint a pretty picture for Atlanta. He posted a 2.80 ERA for the Phillies a year ago and is a former three-time All-Star; however, the Braves aren’t expecting him to be that guy.
Brian Snitker will be able to use Hand against lefties, the importance of which can’t be overstated. Minter and Lee are the pen’s only lefties and there’s no guarantee the latter will return to form. Hand has allowed an opposing slash line of just .143/.276/.205 with a .481 OPS and .233 wOBA against lefties. His 2.42 FIP also suggests this is no fluke.
It’s not a knock-your-socks-off trade, but the Braves didn’t give up much of anything and solidified a specific facet of the roster.
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