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Grading Alex Anthopoulos’ first trade deadline in Atlanta

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How did our first year GM fare at the deadline with the Braves fighting for a playoff spot?

There are a lot of opinions around the first trade deadline with the Atlanta Braves for Alex Anthopoulos. Ranging from “he didn’t to enough” to “he waited to long” and “he hit a homer run,” the opinions are varied depending on the person.

Here is a closer look at each move, taking a look at each addition as well as each cost to the team.

Jonny Venters

On Thursday night, July 26th, Anthopoulos made his first move. At this point tensions were mounting among the fans because trades were happening and the Braves weren’t involved while the team was struggling against the Dodgers earlier that night.

Anthopoulos didn’t let that effect him. He sat back and let things play out, landing Jonny Venters from Tampa Bay for $250k international spending room. Considering the Braves are severely limited in international free agency this year, they weren’t going to get full value out of that money and therefore sent out something that wasn’t of much use to the team for a guy who will help the team.

Jonny Venters is not the former All Star setup man we saw earlier this decade. He’s older and he’s been through multiple Tommy John surgeries. At this point he’s more of a deceptive, crafty lefty reliever who is best used to get out left handed batters.

The Braves lefties weren’t cutting it. Peter Moylan wasn’t having success against hitters from either side, and Sam Freeman was also struggling quite a bit recently. Venters will immediately be able to do that and there is some hope that he may be able to handle some right handers as well.

This trade wasn’t big by any means, but suddenly the Braves got themselves a left handed reliever that was having success against left handed batters, and did so at a cost where they don’t have to regret taking a chance on Venters if he isn’t effective.

Grade: A

Getting something for basically nothing is always good. Venters isn’t a guarantee to work out considering his health issues and lack of big league experience in the last five years, but it’s a low risk add to fill a void.

Brad Brach

Sunday afternoon as rumors were flying around Kolby Allard’s promotion and Luiz Gohara being scouted by Texas, the Braves quietly swung a trade for Brad Brach from Baltimore.

Brach hasn’t been the same guy he was in the past few years, but that’s what happens when a guy gets hurt and plays for a team with bad infield defense. Brach had actually been very bad this year in 39 innings with Baltimore, giving up a WHIP of 1.77 on the year.

Still you can’t forget that Brach was one of the better non-closing relievers in the game from 2015-2017, and made an All Star game in 2016. Just because he isn’t a guy pitching well right now does not mean that he can’t turn things around in a hurry. Anthopoulos and top scout Perry Minasian have had an eye for bargain bin relievers dating back to their days in Toronto.

Brach may not be very good right now as his health may be an issue, but when he comes at the cost of just $250k in international spending slot money it is a gamble well worth taking. Unlike Venters, who had pitched well in his limited showing this year, Brach is a bit more of a gamble.

Grade: B+

The fact Brach is a bit more of a gamble is reflected in the grade. There is a chance Brach continues to struggle, but taking a chance he can return to form with a change of scenery is well worth using an asset that the Braves could not spend themselves.

Adam Duvall

One of the most unlucky players in baseball this year is Adam Duvall. After hitting 64 homers in the last two seasons and making the NL All Star team in 2016, Duvall’s sharp drop in production is a bit of a surprise as he is hitting just .205/.286/.399 on the year.

The above tweet shows you why Duvall has struggled this year. Not much has changed other than the ball not falling in for hits.

Luck hasn’t been Duvall’s only problem, as he has also been misused in Cincinnati. The Reds were forced to put him out there every day because of his power production and left field defense, but in an ideal world Duvall is more of a platoon bat against left handers and bench power bat.

The Braves once again made an addition without giving up any real prospects, and actually opened up a pair of 40 man roster spots here. Preston Tucker, Lucas Sims, and Matt Wisler were all dealt to the Reds for Duvall. It’s hard to see Sims or Wisler in the longterm plans, and Tucker was the guy replaced by Duvall.

I’m not prepared to write off the three guys the Braves dealt, but just because I think they still have value doesn’t mean that they have value in Atlanta. Tucker has a chance to play a role similar to what Duvall is going to here, and while he’s a good player in that role he doesn’t have Duvall’s power or defense. Wisler has a chance to develop as a backend starter if he is given a chance to just pitch without worrying about moving up and down the way he did in Atlanta. Sims is a guy that could work in relief, but that conversion hasn’t even happened yet.

Grade: A+

The Braves upgraded their backup outfielder and bench in a big way here. Adding the power and defense that Duvall bring to the bench are real assets. He also lets Brian Snitker bench Ender Inciarte against lefties by switching Ronald Acuña Jr. into center and Duvall in left. Then you throw in the fact that the Braves open a pair of 40 man spots with this deal by getting something for guys that could have been in danger of being squeezed out this winter, and the deal gets even more attractive.

Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day

This takes some breaking down to sort out. There are so many factors in this one that there is no simple way to look at this.

The first thing is that the Braves were closing in on Chris Archer, and in the hour before the deadline pivoted to Kevin Gausman. Archer is the better pitcher right now, but Gausman costs less and is a buy low candidate.

Gausman is a 27 year-old taken by the Orioles with the fourth overall draft pick out of LSU back in 2012. It’s fair to say he’s under-achieved based on his draft status and pure stuff, as he has a career 4.22 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. This year the numbers were a 4.43 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, in line with the career numbers.

That said Gausman has a real chance to improve. Not only is he leaving the American League, and the tough AL East but there are more factors. The first is that he was playing in front of a bad infield defense, and the Braves infield defense is a major upgrade for him, as well as the outfield. Then you have to remember the Orioles have struggled to develop highly thought of pitchers for years, and Jake Arrieta is just one example of a pitcher who didn’t flourish until leaving the Baltimore system. Eduardo Rodriguez and Josh Hader are some other examples of pitchers who got better in another uniform, so improving by finding a new voice in terms of coaching is also a possibility.

There is no guarantee that Gausman improves, but the stuff that made him a #4 overall draft choice is still there and he’s got some signs that point to chances for improvement. He’s under control through 2020, so he could be an important asset.

O’Day is a tough guy to sort out because the former All Star is out for the season with a hamstring injury. He costs $9M this year and then again next year. The Braves are taking him as a salary dump, and doing so likely is similar to the Touki Toussaint from Arizona trade. In the Touki deal the Braves took on Bronson Arroyo’s money and essentially bought Toussaint from the DBacks. They are basically doing the same this year, except instead of getting a new prospect the taking of O’Day’s contract likely allowed them to protect a fairly strong prospect.

O’Day isn’t just a money dump though. Prior to getting hurt he had a 3.60 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 20 innings, and the 35 year-old was striking out more than 12 batters per nine innings- a career high. We don’t know his health status for next year after his hamstring surgery, but he has a chance to actually help the Braves in 2019.

The Braves sent $2.5M of international slot money to the Orioles along with four prospects. That international slot money isn’t actually cash, but the right for the Orioles to spend that amount of money. The Braves were extremely limited and couldn’t use that money themselves in a meaningful way, so this isn’t a big piece for them

Jean Carlos Encarnacion stings to lose, but if we are being honest he is more of a lottery ticket than a top prospect at this time. There was plenty to like, and I admit I was a big supporter, but there was plenty to work on including defense and on base skills.

Brett Cumberland seems to have made some recent strides with the bat, and while the bat had some promise it was hard to see him ever being a starting catcher because of his defensive concerns. He can now go to the AL and play some first and DH while backing up at catcher, enhancing his value. Cumberland is a guy with some potential, but he wasn’t a guy that was hitting for enough average or power to be valuable in Atlanta as a bat first backup catcher.

Evan Phillips is a decent relief prospect, but it was clear that Snitker never trusted him to give him a real chance during his time on the 25 man roster. That’s not anything against Phillips, but he was in a tough spot here and finds himself in a better situation in Baltimore.

Bruce Zimmermann came out of no where last year as the former small school senior sign moved to Double A quickly in his first full year as a pro. I didn’t see Zimmermann as a guy likely to be more than a lefty on lefty reliever because of how his stuff played against right handers, but he was a good story and fun to watch.

Grade: B/B+

This is an easy trade to like. Baltimore gets some guys that were further down the depth chart in Atlanta and some money the Braces can’t use, while the Braves buy low on a talented pitcher and take on a pricey short term reliever- who could potentially help in 2019.

It’s not an A because it’s not Archer, and Gausman will need some time to adjust if the leaving Baltimore for another organization factor works out for him. So the immediate help in the rotation isn’t deserving of an A grade, but if I was grading this longterm I would see it as more of a B+ since he could really take off here.

Overall: B+

Anthopoulos has an eventful trade deadline. No matter how you view the moves you have to admit he improved the left handed relief role as well as the fourth outfielder/bench bat role. That’s two clear upgrades, even though both are smaller roles.

Then there are the two gambles. Gausman hasn’t been great this year, but he’s no worse than a back of the rotation arm with a chance to be quite a bit more. The level of help from Brach is a question mark, but he’s got the potential to do something here.

Anthopoulos found two upgrades, potentially two more, and may have helped the 2019 team with O’Day and he didn’t give up a single guy considered to be a longterm piece. It’s hard to say this is a true home run, but it’s a solid double with a chance to become a home run depending on how well the pieces adapt.