After getting off to a rocky start, Atlanta currently has a 6.5 game lead over the Phillies in the NL East division race. A lot has gone into this lead, including one of the best all-around offenses in baseball. With the “addition” of Austin Riley in the lineup and Ronald Acuna Jr. moving back into the leadoff spot, the lineup has depth and power with every player that comes up to bat. In addition, the bench is vastly improved with Charlie Culberson, Johan Camargo, Matt Joyce, and either Tyler Flowers or Brian McCann being able to hit in any situation during a game.
Consequently, the pitching has not been as consistent this season. Rookies Mike Soroka and Max Fried have pitched extremely well so far and Julio Teheran has been a pleasant surprise other than his last start against the Mets. Others however, like Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman, were injured to start the year and have not seemed to fully recover yet. This begs for help by any means necessary. Luckily, Atlanta has already made a move right after the draft began in June. That was the free-agent acquisition of Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young award winner. He will be a huge boost to the pitching staff, even if he becomes an innings eater.
Atlanta still needs to add at least one more pitcher for the postseason success the team and fans want to see. While the biggest need currently is bullpen help, acquiring a front-line starter should still be in the mix for the Braves. Atlanta has many starters, but they are all young and have barely any postseason experience which is something manager Brian Snitker wants to have.
There are many starters that the Braves could target at this year’s trade deadline, but here are a few that should be at the top of the list.
MadBum became one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever after his world series win with the San Francisco Giants back in 2014. While he had fluke injuries the past two seasons, Bumgarner is healthy and continues to pitch deep into games. He is better than league average in ERA and WHIP while boasting a great 4.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also is on the last year of his deal with a salary of only $12 million total for 2019. To put this into perspective, Atlanta is paying Darren O’Day $9 million in 2019 and he hasn’t pitched in almost two years.
Bumgarner does have an eight team no trade clause, and Atlanta is one of the teams listed, but many around the league believe he will accept a deal, he just wants to increase his leverage in any deal involving himself. That is not the biggest challenge of completing a deal with the Giants. The biggest challenge will be the compensation in return. There are many other teams that are calling San Francisco and are willing to give up a lot of prospects.
While the Braves have numerous prospects, and they can’t all play, they have shown a hesitation to include any in trades. This will have to be the one that includes at least one top 15 prospect in the Braves system, if not more, because of the pedigree and contract associated with Bumgarner.
Stroman is not your prototypical starting pitcher. Listed at 5’7” 180 lbs., Stroman has a small stature but is a very fierce competitor. He currently has a 3.23 ERA and a 1.268 WHIP while pitching in the daunting AL East. He also has a low walk rate and pitches deep into games.
Making only $7.4 million this year, Stroman would be a steal for the Braves’ depending on the prospects given up in a trade. He is arbitration eligible for next year as well, then becomes a free agent for the 2021 season, meaning Stroman will command a very similar return as Bumgarner will on the trade market. In addition, he has ties to Alex Anthopoulos, the GM of Atlanta. Anthopoulos was the GM in Toronto from 2009 to 2015 and has seen firsthand just how good Stroman is. This could be a negative however, as Toronto might not want to make a deal with a someone who rejected a contract extension, albeit a demotion in duties. Hopefully this is not the case because Stroman would be a huge boost to the rotation.
Bauer has a 3.41 ERA with a 1.117 WHIP in 108.1 innings pitched, which currently leads all major league baseball. He also carries a $13 million salary and is arbitration eligible next season, becoming a free agent in 2021.
One of the biggest concerns about Bauer is that he is very vocal on social media. While that in of itself is not bad, the team chemistry could be affected, and that is something the Braves take very seriously. In addition, the Indians will have to decide to become sellers at the deadline to trade Bauer. While the next couple of weeks will provide a clearer picture, Cleveland has said at the beginning of the season they will listen to trade offers for all their players. If this is still the case, getting Bauer and possibly another reliever would be a dream come true for many fans around Braves Country.
Boyd is a young, controllable starting pitcher having the best year of his career in Detroit. He has a 3.35 ERA and a 1.083 WHIP. In addition, he has an unbelievable 6.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Also, he is only making $2.6 million this year and has three more years of team control remaining. While this is great from a financial standpoint, it means the Braves would have to give up more capital in return. Are they willing to do that? Just like with Bumgarner, that has yet to be seen. Boyd will be a hot name between now and the July 31 trade deadline, and any trade will involve a couple prospects coming back to Detroit for them to move him.
The Braves have a great offense. Their pitching however, needs some help, even with the addition of Dallas Keuchel. Looking at only the starting pitching options that could be available, there are a few that make sense for the Braves to go after. Bumgarner has the postseason track record Atlanta is looking for, Stroman has ties with Anthopoulos, Bauer is a great young pitcher, and Boyd is having a breakthrough season. All four will command and huge haul in return, the question is, will the braves finally trade away the talent they have been stashing away for years? After the start to the season and where they currently are, there is a good chance a move will be made before the trade deadline. All four are worth the prospects and can be the final piece to put Atlanta over the edge in the NL.
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