The Braves’ run of series victories ended at 11. Their run of games with a homer ended at 28. (Second-longest ever, trailing only the 2019 Yankees’ streak of 31.) Double bummer.
The Braves have now lost series to the A’s, MLB’s worst team, and the Pale Hose, the fifth-worst. How does this happen? It’s baseball. That’s not an explanation, but it’s the only explanation.
Enough of that. Momentum, as they say, is tomorrow’s starting pitcher. The Braves’ probable pitchers for Arizona: Bryce Elder, All-Star; Charlie Morton, whose ERA is 3.20, and Spencer Strider, All-Star. Max Fried’s second rehab start went well. The starting pitching, knock on wood, looks fine – even though Kolby Allard left Sunday’s game with an apparent shoulder issue.
The bullpen is a source of concern. Over the past 10 days, the Braves placed Nick Anderson and A.J. Minter on the injured list. Jesse Chavez was there already. Minter ranks first among Braves pitchers in appearances; Anderson is second, Chavez fifth. That’s a big deal. These relievers are, per FanGraphs, second in the majors in bullpen WAR; they’re third in ERA.
As fate would have it, this is the time for bullpen-shopping. The trade deadline falls in two weeks. Every good team scrounges for relievers, just as every bad team looks to offload bullpen assets. (Even bad teams have good relievers.) Alex Anthopolous was surely looking for an arm or two. He might now be seeking two-plus.
Among the most intriguing is David Robertson. He’s a Met. The Mets have MLB’s highest payroll and the ninth-worst record. They’re 8-1/2 games out of the final wild card. Robertson, who’s making $10 million, is eligible for free agency in November. He’s 38. His ERA is 1.97. He has 12 saves.
Even if it’s a rational move, would the Mets ship an asset to their nemesis? Would the Braves even ask – they’ll probably ask – if they know the price might be Vaughn Grissom, who’s hitting .317 with an OPS of .866 at Gwinnett but who has three home runs in 300 Triple-A plate appearances? (One was a grand slam on Sunday.)
The Braves found their shortstop in Orlando Arcia, who just made the All-Star team. He’s 28. He’s under contract through 2026. The Braves can keep Eddie Rosario in left field for one more year at $9M. There’s not a place here for Grissom.
Braden Shewmake, another middle infielder, is hitting .236 with an OPS of .746 in his second year at Gwinnett. (He has hit .256 with an OPS of .857 in July.) He has 11 homers in 299 plate appearances. He’ll be 26 in November, and there’s likewise no big-league spot for him.
Could the Braves trade Grissom/Shewmake for a three-month rental? Grissom, possibly. Shewmake, definitely.
The Braves aren’t in developmental mode. They’re out to win the World Series every blessed year. Anthopoulos dealt Allard, a higher-rated prospect than Grissom or Shewmake, to Texas in July 2019 for reliever Chris Martin. A day later, the same general manager shipped Joey Wentz – another Round 1 pitcher – to Detroit for Shane Greene. (Martin was a rental; Greene was not.)
Assuming Fried is OK, the Braves don’t need a makeover. They do need to tweak the bullpen. As we know, bullpens assume exponential weight in October.
We recall Game 4 of that World Series. Dylan Lee, pressed into service as an opener, recorded one out. Kyle Wright, then an afterthought, went 4-2/3 innings and kept the Braves close. Martin worked the sixth, Tyler Matzek the seventh. Dansby Swanson tied it with a homer. Four pitches later, Jorge Soler put them ahead.
With Truist Park going nuts, the Braves’ relievers transitioned from hang-in-there to we’re-winning-this-now. Luke Jackson took the eighth – 1, 2, 3. Will Smith had the ninth – same. What a night. What a bullpen.
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