Let’s not waste any time with the short-term analysis of this trade between the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs. For Atlanta, this is a definitely a short-term win. Joc Pederson is going to slot in and serve as some good help for the time being. If the change of scenery from Chicago to Atlanta results in Pederson reaching something near the levels of his best days with the Dodgers, then he’ll easily be the best outfielder for the Braves in their currently-woeful outfield situation. That’s still not particularly saying a lot and I don’t have a lot of hope that this is going to significantly move the needle for the Braves, but it is definitely a sign that the Braves are not going to just roll over and capitulate just yet.
However, this is still a very, very interesting trade from a couple of standpoints. When it comes to the market in general, it’s an indication that the Cubs are probably about to enter into “Everything Must Go” mode and it’s anybody’s guess as to where the big names remaining on their squad are going to end up by the time the trade deadline comes and goes. When it comes to the Braves, it’s an indication that they’re going to be in a tentative position of adding at the moment. If you don’t believe me then here’s Alex Anthopoulos saying it:
Alex Anthopoulos says “Right now our focus is on adding”— Kris Willis (@Kris_Willis) July 16, 2021
While it means that the Braves aren’t going to just go ahead and give up on the season just yet, it doesn’t mean that things can’t change. At first glance, it’s definitely understandable that the Braves would continue to keep at it as far as the 2021 season is concerned. Their chances for this season did take a major (and some would say fatal) blow when Ronald Acuña Jr. went down, but they’re also only four games behind. The division-leading Mets haven’t been particularly mind-blowing at the top of the NL East and the rest of the division also appears to be just as underwhelming.
I think we’ve all been waiting for the past 89 games now to see if the Braves could finally get things together and go on a run. The longer the Mets continue to simply float around instead of leaving the rest of the division in their wake, the better a chance the Braves have of figuring out a way to wake up. I’m not really too enthused about Joc Pederson being the one to load up the Braves’ rocket ship and fire this thing to the moon, but at this point it wouldn’t hurt to see what could happen — especially considering what it cost in terms of just one prospect.
That’s where Bryce Ball comes in. The Cubs will be getting a decent prospect coming into their organization, but he likely won’t be a top-tier first baseman once he arrives at the major league level. He may have a decent amount of power in his bat but I wouldn’t say the Cubs were trying to get the heir apparent to Anthony Rizzo (and likewise, this doesn’t mean that this is a sign that the Braves know they’re keeping Freddie Freeman. Let’s keep some perspective, here!). With that being said, they appear to be in tear-it-down mode at the moment and they could also use a decent first base prospect in their system, and Bryce Ball fits the bill. There was some intrigue here but I’d say that the Braves are not going to feel to bad about sending Ball over to the Cubs when they’re getting a solid outfielder with a mutual option in his contract in exchange.
The real intriguing part about this trade is the idea of where the Braves could go with Joc Pederson himself, going forward. There are a few timelines that I could see going down here: Pederson could find his prime Dodgers form and start raking, but the Braves could continue being snake-bitten and start really falling away by the deadline. If that’s the case, then the “right now” portion of what Alex Anthopoulos said about adding to the team could be put to the test and that could result in the Braves shopping Pederson and flipping him to an actual contender at the deadline.
There’s also a timeline where the Braves are convinced that they can do what the Cubs couldn’t do and turn him into a consistent and productive outfielder. If that’s the case, then maybe he’ll stick around. Now of course, that scenario could lead to Joc deciding to test free agency so the “mutual” part of that option would be dead on arrival, but it’s a possibility. The main thing is that the Braves have options here, and this is a trade that allows the Braves to buy without really buying in.
With that being said, it’s definitely kind of interesting that the Braves have picked this situation to make a legitimate addition to the squad. In 2020, the Braves were in dire need of pitching and decided to find that help in the form of Tommy Milone. That trade went so “well” that Milone was released a month later on September 30. Now granted, 2020 was a very weird season but it’s strange that last year’s big acquisition for a first-place team with a clear weakness was to add a journeyman innings-eater and this year, the team has started off their business in a worse situation as a third-place team by trading a pretty decent prospect (or at least one that was good enough to not be a “Player To Be Named Later”) for some actual help in the outfield. It’s a tiny bit perplexing but hey, that’s why I’m on here writing about it on the internet and not doing something about it in a front office somewhere.
Either way, I do have to commend the Braves for not simply rolling over. It would’ve been understandable after the absolute hell of a half-season that they’ve already had here in 2021, but they’re not folding in their hand just yet. That’s all you can really ask for as a fan of the team — maximum effort. We’ll see if it pays off and they will have an extremely tough task ahead of them if they plan on turning things around but at least now we know that the front office could be active as the trade deadline approaches — for better or worse!