3 areas Braves could upgrade by trade deadline

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Potential Braves trade targets for outfield, rotation and bullpen.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has more than a month to evaluate his team before the July 30 trade deadline. Whatever happens between now and then, how he decides to proceed will be fascinating.

The Braves have underwhelmed to this point, with a 30-34 record entering Wednesday. They’re 6-1/2 games behind the first-place Mets, who are beginning to get healthier as the Braves continue their dance with mediocrity. The National League wild-card race is crowded, especially with San Francisco’s emergence giving the NL West three powerhouses, so the Braves’ clearest path to the postseason again seems to be winning the NL East.

Season so far

It’s an uphill climb, though not an impossible one. How the Braves fare over the next month will influence Anthopoulos’ decisions, but however this season ends, the team also will want to contend in 2022, which factors into the Braves’ thinking.

Trade-deadline talk will ramp up next month. We’ll have a better idea of where the Braves are then. But if they’re pursuing help at the deadline, here are three areas in which they could upgrade:

Outfield

Guillermo Heredia and Abraham Almonte have done an admirable job as fill-ins, especially considering their track record and circumstances, but if the Braves still believe they can be a factor in the postseason, they should add a more proven commodity to their lineup.

The outfield is an obvious area of need. Marcell Ozuna is out of the picture. Cristian Pache has struggled in the majors, and there’s no guarantee he’ll make sizable strides at the plate later this season or even by the next. Fellow prospect Drew Waters isn’t ready. In other words, the team would be wise to add an outfielder — perhaps one who also could help the 2022 team.

Arizona’s David Peralta is a name that’s been thrown out there. He’s under contractual control through next season at $7.5 million. If the Reds slip in the standings, Nick Castellanos could be acquirable, though his opt-out following the season could complicate talks. Pittsburgh’s do-it-all second baseman Adam Frazier, an Oconee County High grad, would help the lineup and give the Braves a valuable chess piece, but the Pirates surely will want premium compensation. Frazier is expected to be one of the most prized players available in July.

Joey Gallo, Texas’ massive slugger, will be mentioned, though he’ll also command a high price. Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds and Arizona’s Ketel Marte have appeared in rumors, though both remain under team control for multiple seasons, and their teams won’t be motivated to move them. Baltimore and Seattle can debate moving Trey Mancini and Mitch Haniger, respectively. Both players are arbitration eligible for the final time this winter.

There should be outfielders available. As always, it’s a question of how much the Braves are willing to pay.

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Braves starting pitcher Drew Smyly comments on his execution of pitches and the end of Atlanta's losing streak in Miami.

Rotation

The Braves certainly could upgrade their rotation. Drew Smyly hasn’t been consistent. Charlie Morton, for as good as the stuff can be, has lacked consistency, too. Tucker Davidson was a pleasant surprise before Tuesday’s clunker and ensuing injury. Ian Anderson will be in unprecedented territory workload-wise. Bryse Wilson provides solid depth, but hasn’t yet proved to be more. The Braves would benefit from a consistent innings eater (who wouldn’t?).

Anthopoulos hasn’t been inclined to trade packages of multiple prospects for one player, but to acquire a steady starter never is cheap. Would the Braves try to make a deal like the Kevin Gausman trade of 2018, where they dealt a modest package for a decent starter with years of contractual control remaining? Or would the team be better served just rolling with players such as Davidson and Wilson? Mike Soroka and Huascar Ynoa could return late in the season as well, though the team shouldn’t count on them.

Colorado’s Jon Gray, Pittsburgh’s Tyler Anderson and Texas’ Kyle Gibson are among the starters who could be traded. The list isn’t illustrious unless Washington decides to move long-time ace Max Scherzer, which would alter the pennant race. If the Rockies listened on German Marquez, he surely would fetch plenty of interest, especially since he’s signed through 2024.

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Braves reliever Chris Martin discusses 10-8 loss to Red Sox.

Bullpen

The bullpen has been an up-and-down ride thus far. The Braves have over a month to evaluate their core relievers – Will Smith, Chris Martin, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Tyler Matzek and A.J. Minter – but even if the group comes together and finally creates a steady bullpen, every team could always have more. Any aspiring contender will seek relief help. Given Martin’s recent struggles and the frustrating variance of the unit, it seems even more likely the Braves will pursue bullpen help.

There should be plenty of relievers available. Taylor Rogers, the late-inning lefty in Minnesota, is under contractual control through next season and could interest nearly every contender. There have been rumors about the Cubs listening to offers for Craig Kimbrel, but his contract and their status as postseason contenders muddies those waters. Pittsburgh’s Richard Rodriguez, the Angels’ Raisel Iglesias, Texas’ Ian Kennedy, Detroit’s Michael Fulmer, and Colorado’s Mychal Givens and Daniel Bard are among many relievers expected to draw interest.

There should be plenty affordable options, both in salary and prospect price, but the counter is that one usually gets what one pays for. There’s no doubt the Braves would benefit from adding some relief help.