The MLB trade deadline Friday saw a ton of activity, and the Atlanta Braves were important figures in that. The Braves grabbed four figures at the deadline: outfielders Jorge Soler (seen above), Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario, and reliever Richard Rodriguez. They picked up Soler for relief pitching prosepct Kasey Kalich, Duvall (who previously played for the Braves from 2018-20) for catching prospect Alex Jackson, Rosario for backup infielder Pablo Sandoval, and Rodriguez for starting pitcher Bryse Wilson and pitching prospect Ricky DeVito. Add that to the July 15 move they made to bring in outfielder Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs (in exchange for first base prospect Bryce Ball), and that’s a whole lot of reinforcements around the trade deadline.
It makes some sense for the Braves to be aggressive here. They were just 51-52 on the season heading into Friday’s home game against the Milwaukee Brewers, but that was only four games back of the New York Mets for the division lead (however, the 51-51 Philadelphia Phillies are also in the way). And with the Mets being aggressive themselves, picking up Javier Baez and Trevor Williams from the Cubs, sitting pat might have really indicated that the Braves weren’t trying for a playoff run this year (especially with the NL wild card race looking tougher than the NL East; the 62-42 Los Angeles Dodgers and 60-45 San Diego Padres currently hold the two wild card spots).
With these moves, the Braves are at least making a case that they’re still in contention for the division. And they’re getting an upgrade at important spots, especially in the outfield. There, Ronald Acuña Jr is out for the year following an ACL tear earlier this month, and Marcell Ozuna is still out following May domestic violence charges; prosecutors dropped the felony charge there Friday, but Ozuna is still facing misdemeanor assault and battery charges, and is still under MLB investigation as well. As per Fangraphs’ projected lineups, before the deadline’s moves, the majority of Atlanta’s remaining starts in left field and center field were expected to go to Orlando Arcia and Christian Pache respectively, hitting .265/.224/.278 and .162/.111/.152 this year (albeit in smaller sample sizes, from 17 and 22 games respectively). That doesn’t work well for a team making (at least a theoretical) playoff push.
What did the Braves get in addition here? Well, Soler is only hitting .192/.288/.370 on the season with 13 home runs, but he’s been raking lately, hitting seven home runs in his last 14 games. There are defensive questions about him, especially for a NL team, as he spent almost half (44 of 90) of his games as a designated hitter for the Kansas City Royals this year (playing right field in the other ones), but if he keeps up this home run pace, it may be easy to find a spot for him. He did hit 48 home runs in 2019, so if he’s back on a level of home run form even close to that, he could be valuable. Meanwhile, Duvall hit .229/.277/.478 for Miami this year, while Rosario hit .254/.296/.389 for Cleveland (he’s currently battling a strained right oblique, though). None of these guys are necessarily a perfect outfield solution, but they (along with Pederson, who’s hitting .239/.303/.421 with 13 home runs between the Cubs and Braves this year) do make that outfield look better than it had following Acuña’s injury.
The move for Rodriguez is also a notable one. He’s had some struggles recently (allowing nine hits and six runs in 10 innings since late June), but has posted a 2.82 ERA (148 ERA+) and a 6.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37 appearances this year. So that certainly boosts the Atlanta bullpen, and that’s been an area of concern.
None of these moves were amongst the biggest ones on the market, but they’re interesting in total. They show the Braves trying to put together some pieces to help with their outfield production in Acuña’s absence, and also adding some bullpen help. And while they gave up some prospects along the way, these deals do seem to come with smaller price tags than some of the other ones we saw at this deadline. We’ll see how this works out for Atlanta, but it does appear that the Braves are showing they intend to fight for that NL East title despite their injuries and absences.
[CBS Sports; photo from Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports]