Would this be enough for the Braves to pry Josh Hader away from Padres?

MLB: JUL 19 Padres at Blue Jays

The Braves have already been one of the more active teams in the trade market as the deadline approaches.

Alex Anthopoulos has struck deals for a pair of relievers with wildly different expectations. Taylor Hearn is a lefty depth piece that probably won’t make the biggest impact but has options left; he only garnered cash considerations. On the other hand, Pierce Johnson has a legitimate chance at contributing in a considerable way.

The former Rockies and Padres reliever’s surface level numbers aren’t encouraging. After all, Braves Country, like every other fan base, went directly to the ERA and saw 6.00; it’s understandable to be pessimistic. However, if you dig a bit deeper, there’s reason to be optimistic about his future in Atlanta.

Johnson boasts a ridiculous 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranks fourth among all pitchers, to go along with 13 saves in 15 attempts. He’s also been much better as of late, recording a 3.27 ERA in his last 12 games. The move away from Colorado should benefit him as well.

Johnson owns a 2.31 FIP and 2.71 xFIP away from Coors Field this year. If you need more reason to believe positive regression is in line. From 2020-2022, he posted a combined 3.39 ERA, 3.19 FIP, and 12.1 K/9 with the Padres.

Despite some believing the Braves bullpen has struggled, the unit has accrued the second most fWAR and ERA in all of baseball. It’s because of unsung heroes like Ben Heller, Michael Tonkin, and most recently Daysbel Hernandez. However, improvements can be made, especially among the high-leverage arms.

The Braves have two elite relievers in A.J. Minter and Raisel Iglesias, to go along with a slew of middle relievers. Pierce Johnson could turn into a set-up guy, but I’ve been advocating for something more. Acquiring a bonafide closer to bump everyone down would do wonders for this relief core. Getting to the seventh inning with a lead and knowing Brian Snitker has three horses that are going to slam the door shut gives me goosebumps.

The most popular name that comes to mind is Josh Hader, which is ironically who Bleacher Report has the Braves trading for in this hypothetical.

Proposed Trade: Atlanta gets LHP Josh Hader, Padres get RHP Darius Vines and 3B/SS Ignacio Alvarez

Hader is a terrific closer, but his looming free agency and hefty $14.1 million salary undercut his value somewhat. This would nonetheless be a solid upside play for the Padres. Though neither is top 100 material right now, Vines has struck out 21 of the 55 batters he’s faced since returning from shoulder inflammation and Alvarez has a .409 OBP at High-A.

Darius Vines is currently the 12th-rated prospect in the Braves farm system, according to FanGraphs. He’s 25 years old and hasn’t pitched much at all this year due to shoulder issues. However, I must remind everyone that Atlanta’s farm system is the worst in baseball, so these rankings are a bit inflated.

Alvarez currently sits as the 9th-ranked prospect in FanGraphs’ ratings. He’s only 20 years old and is playing well in Rome, slashing .293/.409/.414 with 17 doubles and six home runs in 83 games. The fifth-round pick is an intriguing prospect, but not worth holding onto if Josh Hader is on the table.

The veteran is arguably having the best season of his career, boasting a 0.97 ERA and a .126 average against. After a rough season in 2022, Hader is back to looking like the best closer in baseball.

The move would enable Iglesias and Minter to bump down, giving the Braves one of the most potent three-headed monsters patrolling the end of games.

Unfortunately, Bleacher Report has no idea what they are talking about. The Padres are still kind of in the NL Wild Card race, sitting six games back, and they have the talent to make a run. They also have deep enough pockets to re-sign Hader at the end of the season. If this is all I could get for him, I’m going for it, but some competing team, perhaps even the Braves, is going to offer a lot more than a couple of middling prospects.

Photo: Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire



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