Braves' Updated Trade Targets with 2021 MLB Deadline Approaching
The Atlanta Braves have been arguably the most disappointing team in baseball relative to preseason expectations after they came one win away from reaching the World Series a year ago.
They are three games under .500 with a 38-41 record, but in a wide-open NL East, they are only 4.5 games back in the standings. They also have a plus-14 run differential on the year, which suggests this is a better team than that win-loss record might indicate.
With a roster built to win now, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see them buy at the trade deadline, and there are two clear areas of need.
The bullpen ranks 23rd in the majors with a 4.71 ERA and could use reinforcements. Left field is also a hole, with Marcell Ozuna away from the team with two dislocated fingers and facing domestic violence charges.
Ahead we've highlighted three players who could serve as roster upgrades for a Braves team with some work to do to climb the standings.
Bullpen Help: RHP Yimi Garcia, Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins entered the year without a clear-cut option in the closer's role, but it didn't take long for right-hander Yimi Garcia to emerge as the guy in the ninth inning.
Signed to a new one-year, $1.9 million contract during the offseason after posting a 0.60 ERA with four holds in 14 appearances out of the Miami bullpen last year, Garcia began the year with just two career saves in six MLB seasons.
The 30-year-old has made 32 appearances, posting a 2.70 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 with 12 saves in 15 opportunities, and while it's unlikely a Marlins team on the rise will be looking to trade away any controllable assets, flipping him makes a ton of sense.
Garcia has tossed 3.1 scoreless innings against the Braves on the year, nailing down a pair of saves, and Atlanta would welcome him to the other side of that matchup with open arms.
His team-friendly contract and late-inning production make him a hot commodity, and the Braves might have to pay a premium as a divisional rival, but he would be a great addition to the relief corps.
Bullpen Help: RHP Ian Kennedy, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers found a diamond in the rough when they signed veteran Ian Kennedy to a minor league deal during the offseason as a part of a low-cost, revamped bullpen.
A starter for most of his career, Kennedy moved to the bullpen in 2019 and saved 30 games for the Kansas City Royals, but his ERA spiked to 9.00 in 15 appearances last year, and he was unable to find a big league contract during the offseason.
An injury to Jose Leclerc created a void at the back of the Texas bullpen, and Kennedy has seized the job, posting a 2.96 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 with 14 saves in 15 chances.
There might not be a more obvious trade candidate on the market this summer, and he's all but guaranteed to be pitching elsewhere come Aug. 1.
The Braves leaned heavily on veteran Mark Melancon the past two seasons before losing him in free agency, and Kennedy could step into that role as a right-handed option in the late innings alongside southpaw Will Smith.
Left Fielder: OF Robbie Grossman, Detroit Tigers
The rebuilding Detroit Tigers signed Robbie Grossman to a two-year, $10 million contract during the offseason after he posted a 129 OPS+ in 192 plate appearances with the Oakland Athletics last year.
A productive fourth outfielder for much of his career, he has continued to produce in an expanded role, and his on-base ability remains his most valuable offensive tool.
The 31-year-old has a 12.7 percent walk rate for his career, and he ranks seventh in the AL with 47 walks en route to a .334 on-base percentage. He has also slugged 10 home runs on the year, just one shy of his career high with three months left to play.
Veteran Abraham Almonte is 3-for-32 with 10 strikeouts in his past 12 games after getting off to a hot start filling in for Marcell Ozuna, so Atlanta will likely be looking for a corner outfielder as the deadline approaches.
His $5 million salary in 2022 is not prohibitive, even if he returns to more of a fourth outfielder role.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Wednesday's games.