5 Under-the-Radar Players the Atlanta Braves Could Grab in the Trade Window
The offense still hasn't consistently clicked, but the major reason for the Braves' recent struggles has been the performance of the bullpen.
A year after leading the majors with a 2.46 bullpen ERA, the Braves bullpen has slipped to a 3.35 ERA, which puts them sixth in the National League.
This has cost the Braves in multiple games this season as Mark Bowman of MLB.com points out:
The #Braves have already lost more games (18-6) led after the sixth as they did all of last year (71-5). 4 of these Ls have been since 5/27— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) June 9, 2014
The bullpen should get a boost from the recent arrival of Shae Simmons as well as Jordan Walden when he returns from injury. However, general manager Frank Wren will almost undoubtedly be looking for bullpen help at the July 31 trade deadline.
With that said, here's a look at five players the Braves could trade for with the emphasis on bullpen help.
1. Joe Thatcher
With the previously mentioned Walden and Simmons providing some bullpen depth from the right-hand side, the Braves would prefer to target a left-hander.
There is no set return date for Jonny Venters, and one must wonder about his effectiveness and reliability at this point.
Luis Avilan (4.87) has not been the same pitcher he was in 2013 when he posted a 1.52 ERA in 65 innings, and Alex Wood has shown to be much more effective as a starter than reliever.
Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Joe Thatcher would provide manager Fredi Gonzalez with another left-handed arm in his bullpen. The 32-year-old has enjoyed a solid 2014 season, posting a 3.06 ERA in 17.2 innings.
For his career, Thatcher has limited left-handed hitters to just a .222 average, which Gonzalez could use situationally at the end of games.
2. Glen Perkins
Another left-hand reliever the Braves could pursue is Minnesota Twins pitcher Glen Perkins.
It's unclear whether the Twins will sell at the deadline, as they recently signed Kendrys Morales. However, a small-market team like the Twins rarely turn down an opportunity to add some future talent.
Perkins would be a nice fit for the Braves, as he throws from the left side and has served as a closer for the Twins the past three seasons.
In 27 games this season, Perkins has posted a 2.96 ERA, 16 saves and a career-best 12.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings.
Perkins would be able to serve in a setup role as he has proved to get both right (.200 average) and left-handed (.269 average) hitters out in his career.
The 31-year-old would be a major upgrade over Avilan and would complement Simmons and Walden nicely as a setup man.
3. Jake McGee
The Tampa Bay Rays have surprisingly stunk in 2014 and are steadily playing themselves out of playoff contention. Another small-market team, the Rays could be looking to sell at the deadline.
If so, the Braves should take a look at left-hander Jake McGee. The 27-year-old has posted an impressive 1.59 ERA, 0.78 WHIP with a 10.5 strikeout-per-nine-inning rate.
He has impressive splits with right-handers hitting just .145 off him and left-handers at a .206 clip. He has also yet to allow a home run this season.
The Braves would love to add McGee to their bullpen.
4. James Russell
The Chicago Cubs have had their fair share of bullpen issues, but James Russell has been a bright spot.
The Cubs are also firmly planted in a rebuilding process and should be looking to sell in the next few months.
Russell is another southpaw who has enjoyed a solid 2014 season. He has posted a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings this year and is a reliable 3.87 ERA pitcher for his career.
Russell would be another option for Gonzalez to use for more than just left-handed hitters, as he's held right-handers (.217) to a lower average than left-handers (.250) this season.
Russell isn't overpowering but would be a solid addition and upgrade over Avilan from the left side of the rubber.
5. Oliver Perez
After struggling as a starter, Oliver Perez has quietly put together a string of nice seasons out of the bullpen.
The well-traveled 32-year-old has a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings in his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While Perez has similar right-handed/left-handed splits for his career (.248/.232), he has pitched much better against right-handers (.167) in 2014.
Perez knows his way around the NL East, as he spent five seasons with the New York Mets.
The left-hander is yet another option for Wren to explore to upgrade his bullpen as the trade deadline nears.