The Braves have until 4 p.m. Tuesday to make an external addition that doesn’t involve waivers.
Surprising overall but struggling of late, the Braves undoubtedly need more help in the chase for their first postseason berth since 2013. With less than 24 hours until the trade deadline, their wants have become more apparent.
But there isn’t a clear avenue for them to add such help. They boast arguably baseball’s richest farm system, and as such teams will want to take advantage.
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General manager Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t – and won’t – budge, even if it means doing minimal. The Braves aren’t rushing to complete the rebuild, and the past month of mediocre baseball gives credence to the “they’re not there yet” crowd.
It’s a step forward nonetheless. The Braves aren’t jettisoning their players on July 31, they’re adding to them.
“It’s what we’ve been working towards: Not losing guys, putting ourselves in position to go out and acquire,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I know Alex and his team have been working, grinding. I told him the other day, I didn’t realize how hard it is. In the position we’re in, people aren’t just going to give you players. We have some notable good young players that people are going to want, so I know it’s got to work for us to acquire those guys. It’s a lot easier said than done.”
Here’s what we do know: The Braves have maintained interest in Rays starter Chris Archer. The franchise’s interest dates back to the previous regime, and reports indicate there could be one-third of the league chasing the strikeout-heavy right-hander.
The Tampa Bay Times reported the Braves are among the three most interested parties. They’re joined by the Yankees, who’ve acquired starters J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn, and the last-place Padres, who’re trying to accelerate a rebuild of their own.
Archer presents upside, especially outside the American League East (as some opine), but he’s 30 years old and has looked mostly average for three seasons. He’s been a subject of debate, with advanced stats more in his corner than traditional numbers.
Some still doubt Archer is moved before winter. The Rays have done this song and dance for three years, yet Archer has stayed in Florida. They’ve stuck to a steep asking price that no team to this point has met, and because they control him through 2021, they hold the cards.
The Times reported Monday that the Rays have asked teams to submit their final offers. It’s unclear if the Braves have even made an offer, and given their cautiousness with prospects, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were outbid or bowed out.
Keep in mind, the team should have more motivation to cash in prospect chips in the winter, when the Blue Jay’s Marcus Stroman, Tigers’ Michael Fulmber and others might be more available. The Braves could be better served re-evaluating their options in a few months.
There’s reported interest in the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, who’d give the Braves a right-handed bat at third base and a veteran presence. Beltre must accept or reject any trade, and reports late Monday indicated he’d favor several AL contenders over the Braves.
At 39 years old with an expiring contract, Beltre presumably wouldn’t come at a high cost. But a deal with the Rangers appears unlikely at the moment.
Speaking of the Rangers, Jake Diekman and/or Keone Kela would be a boost to the bullpen. They could carry heavier price tags, similar to San Diego’s group of relievers (Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen).
Yates, in particular, is interesting. Despite being 31, he’s controllable for two more seasons and among the best relievers in the NL. But San Diego hopes to win sooner rather than later, and moving him wouldn’t be conducive to that.
Washington is reportedly entertaining offers on its relievers despite intentions of competing. Kelvin Herrera, Shawn Kelley or Ryan Madson would be a boost to the Braves bullpen if the teams could find middle ground (unlikely).
The Braves aren’t moving treasured pieces (i.e. a young starter) for relief help, reported Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. That works in conjunction with a prevailing thought throughout the industry: The Braves want upgrades, but not desperately enough to win pricey bidding wars.
At least not yet.
Venters and Brach were the perfect additions cost-wise. They were acquired for international signing slots, of no use to the penalized Braves anyway, and provide average upside.
The Braves need bench help, but there might be limited options. The current bench consists of Michael Reed, Ryan Flaherty, Charlie Culberson and whomever isn’t catching.
Anthopoulos is building the Braves in a similar image as the Dodgers, his former employer who took three of four at SunTrust Park over the weekend. When one player goes down, another is more than capable of filling in.
Culberson’s been just that, but the group could use another piece of his stature. Flaherty has played sparingly since his hot April, as has Preston Tucker, who’s now in Triple-A.
The Mets traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies, one name who made sense on paper. The Marlins’ versatile Derek Dietrich could be a fit, though he wouldn’t help the team’s defense.
In all, there are several needs and no clear matches. The Braves are primed for a potentially big winter. They could enter 2019 as the NL East favorites. They just don’t have to press now.
The reality is, the sense of urgency shouldn’t be high. If they can acquire a controllable player for what they deem a reasonable price, like any other team, they’d jump on it. Otherwise they may be forced to settle for moderate improvements.
Either way, answers are coming in the next day.
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