Today’s an exciting day, right? The trade deadline isn’t too far off, the Braves are back in action following the All-Star break, the incomparable Shohei Ohtani is going to be pitching in Cobb County today and the team actually has a good record to begin the second half of the season. That last part definitely wasn’t the case last season, as the Braves were famously struggling in the mud before GM Alex Anthopoulos embarked on his attempt to fix the team ahead of the deadline.
Needless to say, there’s a World Series trophy sitting in the stadium right now that shows just how well those moves at last year’s deadline paid off. So what needs to be addressed here in 2022? This is actually a bit of a weird situation since the Braves once again find themselves looking up at the Mets in first place despite being in a far better position record-wise right now. Instead of being in a position of desperate need, the Braves are going to be heading into this year’s deadline simply trying to shore things up if they do decide to get active.
Even though they really don’t need to do so, it would probably be a good idea for the Braves to strengthen their squad even just a little bit. Assuming the team doesn’t fall off of a cliff, the Braves are likely going to make the Postseason once again. Even though the Postseason has been expanded, it’s more important than ever to not only win the division but to also do it with one of the best records in baseball. Avoiding the Wild Card Round should be paramount — yeah, I’d personally still like Atlanta’s chances against anybody in the field but I’d also like any potential path to a return to the World Series to be as “easy” as possible. It’s going to be a tough road regardless but if the Braves are going to see the Dodgers again, I’d rather it be in the NLCS as a Divisional Champion rather than in the NLDS as a Wild Card team.
So with that in mind, where should the Braves shore up? Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. The Braves definitely aren’t getting Juan Soto and the Angels trading Shohei Ohtani (to Atlanta, no less) would be about as likely as Henry Rowengartner winning Comeback Player of the Year this season. Now that we’re done with that, let’s try to figure out who would be realistic given both what the Braves may “need” and who’s likely available while keeping in mind that the Braves don’t exactly have the same prospect stash that they used to have.
When it comes to position players, the only thing that I can really think about now is that they might want to bring in someone who can play second base. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the Braves probably aren’t going to be super interested in going all the way until Ozzie Albies’ return (which could be anywhere from late-August to mid-September) with Orlando Arcia and Robinson Canó holding things down at second base. As Kris mentioned in the linked piece above, most of Arcia’s damage with the bat has come at the expense of a poor Nationals team that the Braves have bullied this season. Meanwhile, I feel like Canó exposed me for not being a big enough baseball nerd because I honestly thought that he’d retired. That’s not a great situation at the moment!
So the two most obvious names to go for would be Whit Merrifield and Brandon Drury. While it might be a tad bit concerning that both of those guys are right-handed bats when the Braves are once again in desperate need of a left-handed bat, I think the need for a reliable bat who can play second base outweighs the need for a lefty at this particular point in time. Drury would be the better option since he’s been tearing the cover off the ball, but that’s the thing — he’s likely going to be one of the biggest names on the market this season. Whit Merrifield seems like a more reasonable option considering what the Braves have to offer, especially considering that he hasn’t been having the best of seasons but does seem like he could bounce back in the right situation.
When it comes to pitching, the Braves also appear to be somewhat set. The rotation appears to be mostly fine and the bullpen has lived up to lofty expectations so far. The main issue is consistency, though. We’ve seen in recent weeks how the relief corps can have their fair share of wobbles and you can never have enough pitching, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea at all to try to shore up the bullpen with the deadline looming. At the risk of sounding like Chip Caray, they could very well receive an internal boost if Kirby Yates and Mike Soroka both come back and are productive.
Until then, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Braves end up bringing in a reliever or two in order to fortify their pitching staff. I’d imagine that this is probably going to be the likely move since relievers aren’t exactly “expensive” when it comes to trades and it’s not like the Braves have a wealth of enticing prospects to deal at the moment. Personally, I’d be fine with seeing guys like Jorge López from Baltimore, Gregory Soto from Detroit or even David Robertson from the Cubs. I might be shooting a little too high in that regard but it’s fun to speculate, right?
Ultimately, the Braves are in a pretty good spot right now when it comes to their roster. This is nothing like last season when they were scrambling to find a way to replace Ronald Acuña Jr.’s production after he got injured. With that being said, the stakes are still pretty high going forward into the second half of the season. It’s very likely that the Braves are going to be fighting the Mets until the final days of the campaign and I repeat that it’s extremely important that the Braves win this division instead of ending up in the Wild Card Round.
Maybe we’ll see Alex Anthopoulos decide to add to the squad, or maybe they decide to stand pat and depend on the guys they currently have to keep up the high level of play. The only thing that’s certain is that the Braves once again have a fight on their hands. It’s a different type of fight than last season but the goal remains the same and I’m pretty confident that they’ll once again meet the challenge as an organization.