The Atlanta Braves gave away another game last night, falling 6-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays after relievers gave up five runs in the eighth inning. This has been an area that has faltered on multiple occasions this season. The Braves just lost their first place spot in the NL East after last night’s defeat, and it isn’t a big secret that the bullpen is mainly to blame for the large division lead that has suddenly evaporated.
The numbers speak for themselves: the Braves bullpen has the fifth highest ERA in the NL (4.33) and has walked the second highest amount of batters as well (157). They are walking the first batter they face on many occasions, and if you’re any bit familiar with baseball, you know those usually come around to bite you.
There is so much talk about the big names that might be on the move in the major leagues. Where will Manny Machado go? Bryce Harper? Jacob deGrom? No, sir. The Braves should not be looking into any of these at this stage as the relief pitchers (and a couple of the starters, honestly) have been borderline abysmal as of late. If Atlanta wants to be taken seriously as contenders, they will make some moves to bolster up their relief core at the trade deadline. There are a few names that have been rumored to potentially be on the move that the Braves should consider.
Raisel Iglesias – RHP – Cincinnati Reds
The electric 28-year old closer for the Reds has been one of the more popular names circulating the trade rumor mill for a couple of reasons. One being his great numbers thus far this season – a 2.41 ERA, 19 saves, 1.05 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 41.0 innings pitched – the other being his attractive contract situation. Iglesias is under club control with the Reds for two-and-a-half seasons and is scheduled to only make $5 million in each of 2019 and 2020. Not a high asking price for a needy contender to pick up.
Kyle Barraclough – RHP – Miami Marlins
A reliever that the Braves would be familiar with from being within the division, Barraclough provides a hard-throwing right arm that could be an anchor for Atlanta. The save numbers may not be there with only eight this season (you’re not going to get a lot of save opportunities in Miami), but the ERA (1.34) and the WHIP (0.89) are something to be desired.
Brad Hand – LHP – San Diego Padres
This might be “the guy” if you’re in Atlanta’s front office. Hand is a tough lefty that provides experience as a closer as well as a setup guy. His stats have also been stellar – 2.91 ERA, 24 saves, 1.08 WHIP, and an impressive 64 strikeouts in 43.1 innings of work. He also has a contract that the Braves can handle with their cap space ($6.5M in 2019, $7M in 2020, $10M or $1M buyout in 2021).
The division lead has been lost, but it’s a very long season and we’re just now only getting to the all-star break. Atlanta built the lead it had with good pitching along with the timely hitting early in the season. They have to get back to holding leads that their offense gives them. Any one of these three relievers could provide some security in middle relief to start securing key wins for the Braves down the stretch. Alex Anthopoulos, if you’re serious about brining division titles back to Atlanta…you’ll make a move.