With Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline quickly approaching, the Atlanta Braves’ most significant need for upgrade is in the starting rotation and bullpen. Aside from Mike Soroka and Julio Teheran, the rotation has been inconsistent, although often good enough to win games. In terms of relief pitching, the team has blown 37% of its save opportunities. The team has plenty of talent, both with the bat and in the field, to make a deep playoff run, but the Braves must address holes on the pitching staff.
Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
This time last season, Marcus Stroman was one of the most sought-after trade candidates on the pitching market. A veteran starter with an expiring contract, Stroman has postseason experience, and plays with an emotional flair that seems to suit this Atlanta team right. Stroman’s fastball can touch the mid-90s, although he doesn’t often go to it. Opponents are hitting only .172 on his slider this season, and a microscopic .111 against his changeup.
His 3.06 ERA would qualify as the best of his career, and he doesn’t particularly walk many batters, nor give up many home runs. Being in the prime of his career, as well as having a “revival year” of sorts, Stroman won’t come cheap. However, adding a player of Stroman’s caliber could pay huge dividends for the Braves down the stretch and in the postseason.
Kirby Yates, Padres
Perhaps the most sought-after closer on this year’s market is Kirby Yates. Yates has been dominant in 2019, leading the entire major leagues in saves with 31, and posting an ERA of 1.05. Opponents are hitting only .171 against him, dominating batters on both sides of the plate. Yates’ fastball sits in the mid-90s, and he uses almost exclusively a four-seamer and splitter. His four-seam fastball has a 16% swing-and-miss rate, despite not having overpowering velocity.
Most importantly, Yates has given up only one home run in 43.0 innings this season. He has an excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio, and has converted 94% of his save opportunities in 2019. If the Braves are looking for a sure-fire option at the end of games, Yates presents them with their best chance. Yates is eligible for arbitration next season, and won’t be a free agent until 2021, so he most certainly would carry a very high price tag.
Mike Minor, Rangers
A former Brave, Mike Minor has been one of the more underrated starting pitchers of 2019. Across 129.0 innings, Minor has posted a 2.86 ERA, which ranks second among qualified AL pitchers. He’s a four-pitch pitcher, who can touch the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball, and who throws a hard slider and change.
If Atlanta were to trade for Minor, he would be its third southpaw in the regular rotation, joining Max Fried and Dallas Keuchel. Although he has allowed a low batting average, his moderately-high home run and walk rate, as well as his injury history do present concerns. Ultimately, a reunion with Minor could be a low-risk, fairly high-reward move for the Braves that would help solidify the rotation into October.
Shane Greene, Tigers
Another closing option for Atlanta is Shane Greene. In 36 appearances this season, Greene has a miniscule 1.25 ERA, and has converted 22 of 25 save chances this season. He’s a three-pitch player who relies mostly on his sinker, while also leaning heavily on a cut fastball and slider. He’s dominant against righties, and lefties are hitting only .211 against him. Although he doesn’t throw all that hard, he strikes out four times as many as he walks, and doesn’t give up many hits. Having a pitcher with a high groundball rate and valuable closing experience may be exactly what Atlanta needs to make a postseason run. Greene is under contract for the rest of this season, and is arbitration-eligible for the 2020 season.
Ken Giles, Blue Jays
A third option that the Braves could look at to close games is Ken Giles. Giles has saved 14 of 15 games for the Blue Jays this season, and has an 88% success rate in his career. After struggling in 2018, Giles has rebounded to the tune of a 1.64 ERA this season, boasting nearly 16 strikeouts per nine innings. Of players on this list, Giles by far has the most explosive fastball, which ranges in the high-90s to 100, and garners lots of swings-and-misses.
He also throws a hard slider that is equally effective. Behind Yates, Giles may be the hottest commodity among closers, although, he’d likely come a good bit cheaper. Toronto has long since been out of the playoff race, meaning Giles will almost certainly be on the move, and possibly even the Braves’ most legitimate trade target.
*All Stats From ESPN.com and Baseball Reference