Jonny Venters is a nice piece, but – apologies for stretching a flimsy metaphor – he doesn’t solve the puzzle. He’s a solid left-handed reliever. He’s better than Sam Freeman and as good as Jesse Biddle. (With Arodys Vizcaino out, the lefty A.J. Minter is the closer.)
Jonny Venters is a nice piece – also a nice guy, not to mention a nice story, what with his 3-1/2 rounds of Tommy John surgery – but he won’t cure what ails the Braves. They’re 11-16 since June 19. They’ve fallen 2-1/2 games out of first place in the National League East. That’s their biggest deficit since April 24.
If the playoffs started today, the Braves would have a spot in the wild-card game – known in the industry as the coin-flip game. (Their half-game lead over Arizona for the second wild card would be half-game deficit had the Snakes not blown a ninth-inning lead against the Cubs on Thursday.) The Braves are still in decent shape, standings-wise. Trouble is, they’re not playing well. They haven’t for a while.
They need help. Jonny Venters offers a bit, but they need more. Since Mike Soroka landed on the 60-day disabled list, the rotation has stopped turning. Maybe this is a case of limitations being revealed over the fullness of time, which can happen in a six-month season. But nothing looks good when your starting pitcher gets outpitched by the opponent’s. That’s happening more and more. It happened last night. Anibal Sanchez, who has been very good, was bested by Rich Hill. The Braves lost 8-2. Manny Machado, the prize of this trade deadline, hit his first homer in Dodger blue.
That’s not a swipe at Alex Anthopoulos for not landing Machado. He’s a pricey rental, which means he could have been a Mark Teixeira, only worse. (Teixeira was a Brave for 12 months; Machado might have been gone in three.) Machado also isn’t a starting pitcher, which is what the Braves need most.
Most of the big-name relievers on the market – Kelvin Herrera, Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton, Joakim Soria – have been claimed. Among starters, Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ have gone to the Red Sox and the Yankees, ancient enemies and perennial big spenders. Cole Hamels is now with the Cubs. Chris Archer is still out there, and so – pie-in-the-sky time – is Jacob deGrom. But the Braves have been shopping hard for more than a month, and all they’ve gotten is Jonny Venters.
On the one hand, we applaud the new general manager for not sacrificing any part of his inherited farm system. (Venters was acquired for an international signing slot, the kind of thing that got John Coppolella banned for life.) On the other, we wonder just how much the Braves have to spend. Anthopoulos has said he “can shop in any aisle,” but the store is getting picked over. The deadline is Tuesday afternoon.
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