Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos improved the team’s bullpen at the July trade deadline without surrendering any of his organization’s highly rated prospects. But Anthopoulos did send away Kolby Allard, a former top prospect who had fallen out of favor. Now Allard may be figuring things out with his new team.
Anthopoulos sent Allard to the Rangers on July 30 for reliever Chris Martin. Devan Fink of FanGraphs notes Allard has complied 1.3 Wins Above Replacement over nine starts with the Rangers. That’s the highest mark among pitchers who were traded in July, a list that includes Zack Greinke, the former Cy Young Award winner who was traded from Arizona to Houston at the deadline.
Allard’s WAR since Aug. 1 is tied for 16th-highest among all MLB pitchers. Max Fried’s 1.1 WAR is the best among Braves pitchers during that span. Martin has compiled 0.4 WAR for the Braves, 10th-best among pitchers who were traded in July.
The possibility that Allard could regain his form was part of the risk Anthopolous took in trading him. Martin has helped the Braves’ bullpen and could be key in October, so could end up being worth the gamble. But he will be a free agent after this season, while Allard is under team control through 2024. Allard still has more to prove as a big leaguer, but he’s off to a good start with the Rangers after his career had stalled with the Braves.
The three major prospect rankings all rated Allard among baseball’s top 100 prospects each year from 2016-18. But during a mid-season call-up to the Braves in 2018, Allard surrendered 11 earned runs in eight innings over three games (one start). Allard began this season at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he had a 4.71 ERA over 110 innings.
The Rangers called Allard up after he pitched one game for their Triple-A team. He’s posted a 4.34 ERA over seven starts with the Rangers while allowing only one home run over 37-1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts and 14 walks. The most development for Allard has been increased fastball velocity. The average has increased from 89.4 mph last season to 92.5 mph with the Rangers -- a development that Fink attributes to a change in his release point -- and has improved his change-up and curveball.
It would be a big loss for the Braves if simple adjustments lead to Allard fulfilling his potential as a big leaguer. They still have two touted pitchers in the high minors, right-hander Ian Anderson and lefty Kyle Muller. Right-hander Mike Soroka has been excellent in the majors and lefty Max Fried has shown promise. But three other young Braves pitchers have yet to distinguish themselves in the majors: Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson and Touki Toussaint.
The Braves could have at least two open spots in their rotation in 2020. Dallas Keuchel is eligible to become a free agent, and Julio Teheran will hit the market if the Braves buy out his contract for $1 million rather than exercise a $12 million option. If Keuchel and Teheran depart, the Braves could fill those slots through free agency or give their young pitchers a shot.
They’ve got one less option now that Allard is with the Rangers. Anthopoulos had to give up something to improve his team’s leaky bullpen. Allard was part of that price. The trade could pay off for the Braves if Martin is a key part of a postseason run, but it may bear fruit for the Rangers beyond this season if Allard really has turned his career around.
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