1st of a series
Buyers or Sellers
They sure aren’t selling. The Braves only real competition in the NL East is the Washington Nationals, over whom they hold a 6.5 game lead. But they’re unlikely to take that lead for granted. Last year they won 94 games – and got knocked out in the one-game Wild Card playoff. The year before they collapsed down the stretch, losing eight of their last ten games (including their last five), finishing one game out of the playoffs. This is not a franchise (or fan base) that is going to feel like they’re all set.
What They Need
Which is a little weird, because they’re just about all set, as the Twins learned when they were swept by them earlier this year. The Braves starting pitching ranks 2nd
in the NL in ERA. Their offense ranks 4th
in runs, but they’re that “low” because their big free agent acquisition, BJ Upton, has just a 594 OPS. That isn’t going to last.
However, there have been multiple reports of the Braves evaluating others teams' relievers. That’s a little odd, because Craig Kimbrel has been fantastic as their closer. However, they lost two left-handed setup men, Eric O’Flaherty and Tommy Venters, to Tommy John surgery in the same week in May. That’s left Luis Avilan, whose numbers look good, but 18K in 33 IP don’t inspire confidence. Neither do the 13 walks that go with them.
What Might Work
Last year at the deadline, and indeed in the offseason, there were lots of rumors about the Braves and Twins talking about a deal. That was because the Braves needed a center fielder (which they filled by signing BJ Upton) and some right-handed power (which they fixed by trading for his brother Justin).
However, the Twins have three effective left-handers in their bullpen right now. Caleb Thielbar is unproven, but has been deadly against lefties. Brian Duensing represents a more senior option who would still not require a king’s ransom. And Glen Perkins would give the Braves the best lefty-righty combo to close games in Major League Baseball. As the Braves evaluate relievers, they’ll certainly approach the Twins.
Here are some names from down the prospect list who could conceivably interest the Twins in any non-Perkins deal:
Jose Peraza – SS – Low A – 19 years old
He’s skilled enough defensively to, project staying at shortstop, but he also showed some pop last year in Rookie League. This year, he’s only at .256/.317/.339, but he also just turned 19. He’s a guy the scouts often like: toolsy and projectable.
Luis Merejo – LHP – Rookie League – 18 years old
He dominated in the Gulf Coast Rookie League last year, striking out 53 in 41 innings. He’s back there this year, but he could make his way up to A ball and there is some thought he could move fast.
Cody Martin – RHP – AAA – 23 years old
Martin wasn’t on any Top 10 Braves list because he’s a command-control pitcher. But this year he’s posting a 2.45 ERA between AA & AAA and has 95 K in 88 IP (and just 74 hits). And those rates are not out of line with his numbers every other year. Don’t forget – Atlanta is the organization from which the Twins plucked Scott Diamond.
Mauricio Cabrera – RHP – Low A – 19 years old
The Braves top two remaining pitching prospects, JD Graham and Sean Gilmartin, are both on the shelf right now with injuries. So let’s look for a bigger arm a bit further down the ladder.
described Cabrera’s arm as “ridiculous” with a fastball that can work in the mid to high 90s. He needs to develop secondary pitches and command, though he has the makings of a slider right now that could be very good. If he progresses, he could be a top of the rotation arm. If not, he could still be a dominant reliever.
If he were to be part of a package, there could be lot of excitement about the future of the Twins rotation with him joining Kohl Stewart and JO Berrios in the lower minor leagues.
Each day in July, we’ll be publishing a profile of a MLB and whether there is any possible fit for a trade with the Twins. Tomorrow: The Washington Nationals