Atlanta has been looking for left-handed relievers to add to its bullpen recently, and Downs is one of the players the team has targeted, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN. James Russell is a lefty who would be a great fit, as I wrote a few days ago, but the Braves could potentially get Downs for cheaper and he’d be just as good.
The Braves have gone with just one left-handed reliever for the bulk of the season. Jonny Venters hasn’t been able to throw one pitch for the team this season, and Eric O’Flaherty only made it through 19 appearances before getting injured. Both are out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
That leaves Luis Avilan as the lone lefty in the bullpen. Atlanta could’ve used Alex Wood as a reliever, but now that Tim Hudson is out for the season with a broken ankle, it seems that he’s needed much more in the rotation. The Braves could call someone up from the minors, but trading for Downs would be a better idea.
Downs isn’t going to come into a game and blow the opposing hitters away, but he knows how to get the job done. In 42 appearances this season, he has a 1.24 ERA. He’s struck out 21 batters and walked 11 in 29 innings of work. Oh, and he has quite the scoreless streak going at the moment.
May 1 was the last time Downs allowed a run of any kind—meaning earned or unearned. That was nearly two months ago. He’s gone 29 consecutive appearances without allowing an opposing player to score. Over that stretch, batters are hitting .183 and have a .485 OPS against him.
The Angels are out of the playoff hunt this season and with Downs’ contract expiring after 2013, there’s really no sense in keeping him throughout the remainder of the year if they can get something worthwhile in return. It doesn’t appear that Los Angeles is very willing to move him, though, per Peter Gammons of MLB Network:
Things could certainly change in the next few days. Entering Saturday, Los Angeles was 11 games back of Oakland in the AL West. If it drops a couple more before Wednesday, maybe then the team will be more keen on accepting an offer for the 37-year-old veteran. Either that, or Atlanta should make Los Angeles a strong offer.
We’re not talking about trading a top prospect to land a guy who’s only going to face a batter or two each night. No, we’re talking about giving up a minor leaguer who’s in the lower levels of Atlanta’s system, and while he could be good someday, it’s much too early to tell. What could the Angels possibly want for Downs? Seriously.
The Braves should have a lot of options in the coming days in terms of potential acquisitions, but if they want to get someone on whom manager Fredi Gonzalez can rely day in and day out, it should be Downs. Wren will find a way to work out a deal with the reluctant fourth-place Angels.
All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and are current through July 26. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts and all injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus.