There has been much talk around this trade deadline that the Braves will not be making any splashy moves to sell out for an Postseason run early on in their contention window (which appears to be just slightly opening). Then again, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has said repeatedly that Atlanta has the money to go make a deal should they see fit. However, hypothetically, if the Braves were to only make some marginal trades or none at all to bolster the club at the deadline what then are some moves that Atlanta could still then make to give the team a much needed jolt?
Priority number one should be the Atlanta pitching staff. The Braves already have two solid pitchers in their rotation with a 1-2 punch of Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb, but past that the rotation could use an influx of fresh talent.
Sadly it appears as though Mike Soroka will not be able to return this month and the Braves might go ahead and shut him down for the remainder of the season just to be safe. Max Fried has also showed some promise in a couple of starts for Atlanta, but the real upgrades that the Braves could make are currently lurking in AAA-Gwinnett. I’m speaking of Kolby Allard and Touki Toussaint of course who are both having tremendous seasons respectively and are looking very much ready to make the jump.
Allard currently sports a 2.80 ERA and 3.38 FIP as a 20-year-old in AAA while Toussaint boasts a collective ERA between AA and AAA of 2.71 this season with 128 strikeouts in 106 innings. Either of these young starters would instantly be an upgrade over Julio Teheran who has now had two straight seasons of disappointing statistics. Teheran continues to draw starts for the Braves, who are not completely out of the Playoff race, with a 4.42 ERA and 5.27 FIP which doesn’t seem proactive.
With Toussaint pushing Julio out of rotation and Allard moving into the place of a quickly regressing Anibal Sanchez not only do the Braves improve their rotation instantly, but get younger in the process. With a rotation of Foltynewicz, Newcomb, Toussaint, Allard and Fried the Braves can then move Anibal Sanchez into a long relief role and improve their bullpen as well.
Speaking of the bullpen, the Braves already have a bevy of solid pieces in relief and yet there are still ways to improve the pen without making a single trade. This idea begins with the replacement of Peter Moylan with Anibal Sanchez, as was mentioned above, and moving Sam Freeman out in favor of Wes Parsons, who isn’t necessarily a prospect anymore, but has been tearing up AA and AAA in 2018 to the tune of a collective 2.31 ERA and 3.44 FIP with 83 strikeouts in 91 innings. With just those two replacements the Braves could have a solid bullpen of Sanchez, Minter, Vizcaino, Carle, Winkler, Parsons, Biddle and Jonny Venters.
Moving into the position players group you see another area that could use a youth movement if no trades are made. This would need to begin with the promotion of third base superstar prospect Austin Riley.
The 21-year-old has been at AAA for 41 games this season and all he has done is absolutely rake. Riley is sporting a .289/.363/.409 slash line with Gwinnett and 120 wRC+ mark which would currently rank T-3rd on the big league team right now. Riley may still be a little of a work in progress while he continues to adjust to the big league level of action, but he would allow the Braves to move Johan Camargo over to short while he gets the bulk of the playing time at third which would improve the Braves offense as Dansby Swanson continues to struggle swinging the bat in the majors. This would give Atlanta a strong bench of Swanson, Flowers/Suzuki, Culberson, Reed and Preston Tucker though with Ryan Flaherty being the odd man out.
All of this is to say, just because the Braves don’t make a huge trade at the deadline doesn’t mean the final two months of the season will be uneventful. Sure there are still some major holes that maybe prospects cannot fill right away, but there are still some ways for the Braves to improve via their top prospects in Gwinnett. Regardless of what the Braves decide, trade or promotions, reinforcements need to be on their way to Atlanta as soon as possible because the Braves are losing ground in the Playoff race quickly and with them having played so good to this point it would be a shame for them to just decide to pack it in and be complacent this season. Stay tuned.