The clock is ticking.
It’s officially trade deadline season and the local professional baseball team has some fascinating decisions to make.
The original version of this article concluded the Braves should trade for Joey Gallo and Ian Kennedy from the Texas Rangers. Those moves felt like the best combination of giving the team the fire power to chase down the Mets this season, while getting a head start on the 2022 team.
Of course, the New York Yankees ruined all that. This morning they completed a trade for Gallo in exchange for a slew of prospect, ending the dream this writer has held onto for years.
There were reports the Braves were in on Gallo to the very end, even one of the favorites, but most Braves’ fans don’t find much comfort in that common refrain after having to watch another team trade for another star, again.
So where do the Braves go from here? With Drew Smyly pitching well, the emergence of Touki Touissant and Kyle Muller, the expected return of Ian Anderson, and Huascar Ynoa coming back from the IL soon, the area the Braves probably need the least help is in the rotation. Upgrades can always be had of course, but whatever resources are available almost certainly need to earmarked for the bullpen and the lineup.
Gallo made sense because he was an impact bat that could help cover the losses of Ronald Acuña Jr and Marcell Ozuna in the middle of the Braves lineup. A lineup that has had to rely on backup and replacement level players far too long. Gallo was also under team control for next year, so had the Braves completed a trade for him, it would not have been just a two month gamble.
The next name on the list that could fill those two criteria is Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Guardians.(still weird) Ramirez checks all the same boxes as Gallo did and even checks a few more since he’s under team control until 2023 at an extremely team-friendly rate. The prospect cost would be severe, as it should be, and it’s unclear if Atlanta would be willing to meet that price but in terms of players on that level, it’s Gallo and Ramirez.
After that, the names drop down a level. Max Kepler is an interesting possibility out of Minnesota but it’s unclear if the Twins are ready to move their talented outfielder. He’s locked up until 2024 after signing a five-year extension in 2019, and the Twins will certainly be setting the price accordingly.
Robbie Grossman of the Tigers is another player who’s had a good 2021, a 114 wRC+, and has another year of control after this season. The acquisition cost for Grossman would be much lower than any of the previous names listed.
Adam Duvall is always a name that’s out there but Craig Mish reported yesterday that the Marlins will not be trading any player to Atlanta no matter what, so that would appear to reduce those odds. I very seriously doubt they’ve drawn a hard line in the sand like that, because it would be incredibly dumb to do so, but there are teams that prefer not trading in their own division. Marlins appear to be one.
A few other names to watch would be a trio of Royals, Andrew Benintendi, Whit Merrifield, and Jorge Soler. The Cubs have an entire roster of possible trade targets, though I question just how much interest Alex Anthopoulos will have in high-priced rentals. If you’re still hoping for a major move and want to wish upon a star, no pun intended, Byron Buxton is always a fun possibility to think on. Though again, the price would match the talent.
Atlanta will also be looking at reliever upgrades. There are too many names to go through individually but the ones I would keep an eye on are Ian Kennedy and Craig Kimbrel. Managers and GMs love experience at the backend of their bullpens and both of those guys come with a wealth of it. Also adding a quality closer improves every single spot in your bullpen as all the current members move down a role.
The odds that the Braves become sellers has been reduced quite a bit the last few weeks. The Mets just haven’t shown any strength at the top of the division and acquiring Joc Pederson and Daniel Vogt seem to indicate the Braves still very much intend to defend their NL East division title. If they did sell for some reason, the key names to watch would be Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly and Chris Martin. All three are pending free agents and are the type of players that get dealt if it comes to that. Pitching is in high demand and limited supply.
It should be pointed out that, despite how it’s often portrayed for the sake of click-bait articles, buying or selling is not a binary decision. Those two things fall on a spectrum where there are all different levels of both, some even existing at the same time. There are scenarios where the Braves could do a bit of both. Not likely, but just something to also keep in mind.
Standing pat is also always an option but the team’s explanation for such a decision would be drowned out but the collective groans coming from the entire fanbase. Especially after sitting through that very scenario at last year’s deadline only to watch the team get within one game of the World Series before losing to the Dodgers. But we’ll see.
The deadline is 4 p.m. ET Friday afternoon and industry people all over the spot expect it to be a wild 30 hours or so. As Samuel L. Jackson once said while trying to restart a dinosaur theme park, hold onto your butts.