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Braves Mailbag: Trade deadline, third base and more

This week’s inbox is here!

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Thanks to everyone that sent in questions for this week’s mailbag and it is very clear that the trade deadline is fresh on everyone’s mind. I wasn’t able to get to all of them but will put some aside for a later date. Let’s get right to it.

With Swanson on another hot streak at the plate, where do you put him in the lineup once Acuña and Albies come back?

Thoughts on keeping Dansby at lead off when Acuna comes back and hitting Acuna 3rd? Think the Braves will consider that?

Let’s get this one out of the way first and I admit I am cheating here since I waited until Acuña was back before answering these questions. I am someone that wouldn’t mind seeing Acuña hit second but I don’t think think you can really argue the thinking about keeping him in the leadoff spot either. It is going to be interesting to see how the lineup order shakes out once Ozzie Albies returns.

It might be helpful to note here that if you think a guy is a really great hitter, you really don’t want him hitting third, because that spot comes up more often with two out, bases empty, than other spots.

Do you see Alex Anthopoulos targeting a starting pitcher next week that is only signed for this year and will it only be a salary dump such as Melancon?

My question revolves around starting pitching. The Braves clearly only have one option as we near the halfway point of the season. With the trade deadline approaching fast in a fast season, do you see Anthopoulos pulling the trigger on a starting pitcher or do we stand out and just let the odd season work out the kinks?

Since the season is nearly half over, are you considering a trade to get another starting pitcher to help the bullpen for the remainder of the season as well as post season?

I think Alex Anthopoulos has to be exploring opportunities to add a starter at the deadline given the current state of the rotation. At this point, Max Fried is the only sure thing that they can count on. Ian Anderson looked great and is going to get more of an opportunity in the immediate future, and I don’t think they have completely closed the book on Kyle Wright just yet. Still, there is plenty of room for an addition or two.

The real question, however, is what this trade deadline will look like. With expanded playoffs, more teams are in the running for postseason berths. Also, it is unclear how eager some teams will be to take on salary given the current climate. Remember that only the players in the 60-man player pools will be eligible to be traded although a swap for a player to be named later may still be possible.

To this point, Anthopoulos has been unwilling (or unable) to move any of Atlanta’s top prospects. I can’t imagine that he would do so in this shortened season for a rental. I also can’t see the Braves taking on a player with a large salary commitment remaining such as San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto, as they may be more exposed to pandemic-related financial impacts than other teams. A guy like Lance Lynn would make a lot of sense but will likely be highly sought after and won’t come cheap if the Rangers do actually decide to deal him.

Any chance we trade for Mike Minor and what do you think it would cost since he is a free agent at the end of this season?

Anything is possible but I don’t see how Minor would be much help at this point. His four-seamer is averaging 90.5 mph this season which is two miles per hour slower than in 2019. He is also having stamina issues as well and will be operating on a pitch count for his next few starts. Additionally, Minor has a 6.75 ERA and a 5.30 FIP through six starts. The price wouldn’t be high and there is a chance that he works himself back into shape but he looks far from a sure thing at this point. The Braves buying a guy just to try to fix him over a handful of starts seems somewhat pointless.

With the sheer number of young pitching prospects the Braves amassed during their recent rebuilding phase, the lack of development and continued pitching control problems these prospects continue to exhibit is troubling. How much of that falls on the minor league pitching coaches to develop these players both mentally and physically?

I have seen this question a lot lately and it is natural that the struggles of Kyle Wright, Mike Foltynewicz and others would raise questions. Still, I don’t think you can ding the Braves for them without mentioning the success of Mike Soroka and Max Fried. When Atlanta acquired Touki Toussaint he was far from a sure thing. Sean Newcomb had numerous questions in regards to his command and control, and even when he succeeded, it was in spite of those things. Mike Foltynewicz has dealt with physical issues, and was a big success story before he became a problem.

Kyle Wright has struggled but he has also shown flashes. He is at the alternate site currently but I believe that has more to do with the team not needing a fifth starter right now thanks to the off days more than their disappointment in him. I expect him back at some point.

Developing pitching isn’t easy and that has been proven over and over. Guys that look like starters in the lower levels sometimes end up being relievers in the majors. If I am critical of anything, I thought they could have done a better job with Wright and Bryse Wilson last season. I don’t think riding the shuttle between Triple-A and the majors repeatedly and pitching mop up duty does anyone much good. Then again, it is hard to give consistent opportunities on a team that is expected to win.

Coming into the season, Riley and Camargo competed to win the 3rd base job. Neither has asserted himself as a clear favorite. What do the Braves do moving forward?

This is a great question and there isn’t a clear answer. When Ozzie Albies comes back from injury, I’d like to see Riley get the majority of the playing time at third. Riley has shown signs of coming around of late but the production overall has still been a disappointment. Notably, Riley was hitting .375 (.421 xwOBA) with all four of his home runs against breaking pitches coming into Wednesday’s doubleheader. But, he continues to struggle with the fastball, which was something that really took shape when he collapsed last season. Still, his wOBA against fastballs is .170 while his xwOBA is .314 so there is some hope that things stabilize a bit.

I still think Camargo would be best used in a utility role. If this season is enough to convince the Braves that Riley isn’t the answer, then that would most likely be a priority for this upcoming offseason. Camargo has played very strong defense this season, but he has almost too many offensive problems to list at this point, and disappointingly, he isn’t showing anything against lefties these days either.

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