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Braves pursued J.T. Realmuto in Trade Deadline talks, per report

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And some other updates from reporter Mark Bowman

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images

Earlier this evening, reporter Mark Bowman dropped some salient Braves-related tidbits in his mailbag feature, which you can read right here:

Below, we run down the various items.

Braves pursued Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto in Trade Deadline talks

Many teams have been linked to Realmuto since this past offseason, when the Marlins’ new ownership group dismantled essentially their entire offensive core. The Braves were likely among the suitors, but no team could apparently meet Miami’s asking price, as Realmuto remained a Marlin through the start of the season, and then through last week’s Trade Deadline.

Realmuto has been an absolute monster this season, with 3.7 fWAR (already a new career high) in just 361 PAs. His 135 wRC+ is incredibly impressive and leads all catchers this season, as does his fWAR mark.

Bowman indicates that a deal for Realmuto might entail one of the Braves’ top pitching prospects (Bowman names Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, or Ian Anderson), plus a top position player prospect (Cristian Pache or Austin Riley, per Bowman), plus another piece. From my perspective, as Realmuto will only have two relatively-expensive arbitration years left before he hits free agency, such a trade proposal may be overkill, though I have few doubts that the Marlins are willing to set their asking price this high. If Realmuto is valued as a 4-win player and experiences modest salary growth that pays him $12 million or so over his next two seasons, he would be estimated to accrue about $56 million in surplus value. That suggests something like Wright and Riley (with perhaps much lower-value, throw-in piece) could be an appropriate price point, but it remains to be seen whether the Braves will have much interest in paying such a price. They could, of course, go for the quantity angle and include additional pitchers to avoid the cost of dealing one of the system’s few advanced hitting prospects, but it remains to be seen, what, if anything, Atlanta will be comfortable offering.

For what it’s worth, Realmuto has been a fairly awful framer for his career — it’s a substantial but sometimes-overlooked flaw in his overall incredibly productive game. This fact should lower his market value, but it’s not clear that it will.

The Braves may not re-sign both Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers

The Braves’ current catching duo hits free agency at the conclusion of this season, and Bowman speculates that the Braves may retain one, but not both. What’s unclear is how a potential Realmuto acquisition would alter this calculus.

After a 2017 season where the Flowzuki timeshare gave the Braves the best overall production at backstop, the veteran duo has not been able to replicate their success this year. Flowers has endured injuries and some poor ball-in-play luck (.380 xwOBA, .328 wOBA); his framing is still above-average but nowhere near the sublimely ridiculous marks he put up each of the last two years. Suzuki, meanwhile, has been awful offensively for the last five weeks after a solid first half, and like Realmuto, gives up some value with poor framing.

Bowman also speculates that failing a Realmuto acquisition, the Braves would look into signing current Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal to a free agent deal in the offseason. Grandal is currently second to Realmuto in catcher production across MLB and has been the majors’ best framer in 2018, per Statcorner, but will be 30 years old next year and will require an inflated price tag (though, so will Realmuto, in trade) due to his career year in 2018.

Touki Toussaint may be the next Braves prospect to debut in Atlanta

Bowman notes that had Max Fried been required to work longer out of the bullpen, Toussaint may have been promoted to take a start during one of the two games of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Washington. Toussaint put up a 3.51 FIP and 3.50 xFIP during his 16 starts at Double-A this season before being promoted to Gwinnett, where he is currently rocking a 2.52 FIP (3.71 xFIP) in five starts.

The Braves are still futzing around with a six-man rotation as they prepare to endure this brutal stretch of consecutive games (including two doubleheaders) that starts tomorrow, but Toussaint could make a difference out of the bullpen, if the Braves can find room for him. With Trade Deadline acquisitions Brad Brach and Jonny Venters in the fold, the bullpen picture has gotten slightly crowded, though the Braves have plenty of room on the 40-man and even the 25-man should they need to make another move to shore up their relief corps with Toussaint’s live arm.

The Braves wanted a platoon option for third base to give them the flexibility to start Camargo at shorstop

This has been speculated here and there, but might set off another firestorm — as Bowman reports:

The Braves were looking for a right-handed-hitting third baseman whose presence would give them the option to sit Swanson and use Camargo as the shortstop in games against a left-handed starting pitcher. But when facing a southpaw or a tough right-handed pitcher over the past week, manager Brian Snitker has instead simply opted to utilize Charlie Culberson as his shortstop.

If you think it’s weird that the Braves were looking for a right-handed hitter to replace another right-handed hitter in the lineup against southpaws, I’m right there with you. It’s no secret that Swanson has struggled offensively this year and hasn’t done much against lefties in 2018 either, but it’s hard to judge the desirability of such a potential move without seeing the name(s) in question.

In any case, count me as one of those that doesn’t think Charlie Culberson (career 67 wRC+, career -5.7 Def) is any kind of solution to this problem, so it’s interesting to think about what else the Braves may have been exploring.

Arodys Vizcaino may (or may not) return in September

The Braves’ erstwhile closer has been out since mid-July with a shoulder issue, and Bowman reports he’s “at least a week away” from throwing. The scuttlebutt from Bowman is that Vizcaino may return by September, but may not be able to endure the rigors of a regular, high-leverage workload until after an offseason of rest. Shoulder ailments are tricky that way.

Vizcaino has had serious success already in 2018 (1.65 ERA, 41 ERA-, 1.02 WPA), but his peripherals (77 FIP-, 98 xFIP-) suggest he was fairly fortune in accruing those stats. In his absence, the Braves have used A.J. Minter to close out games; Minter has been pretty lights-out (28 ERA-, 65 FIP-, 65 xFIP-) in eight outings since Vizcaino has been sidelined, but has been prone to the occasional clunker so far this year, including a blown save on Sunday against the Mets and a meltdown against the Blue Jays in July. For the season, his WPA is only 0.11.