The MLB Trade deadline is less than two weeks away. The Atlanta Braves opened the second half with another disappointing loss but remain four games out thanks to a Mets loss. Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this week that the team’s focus was on adding to the roster for right now, but with a difficult schedule ahead, that could change. So here is the first of four roundtable discussions with the Talking Chop staff in a trade deadline series. Up first is our thoughts on what the Braves should do at the deadline.
(Editors note: Most of these answers were collected before Atlanta acquired Joc Pederson, so keep that in mind.)
What path should the Braves take at the trade deadline? Explain?
Daniel - I would be selling all pieces that aren’t guys that they plan on having on the team after 2022. That means take what you can get for the guys on one year contracts (Morton, Martin, Smyly, etc.) and see if someone will take Smith. I would also shop Dansby because he just seems like he is what he is...which is not what you want on a team with high aspirations going forward. I also think they need to either feel highly confident in bringing back Freddie or trade him. I would try to keep Pederson with his mutual option.
Eric - So this is a tough one, because I think that they are all but toast in the division, at least in theory, and should sell off guys on the last year of the contracts with the probable exception of Freddie Freeman since there still seems some semblance of hope that an extension can get done (plus the qualifying offer may be a better return if not). However, they are still not that far out, so for the moment I am in favor of waiting and seeing how the next couple weeks go, explore trades for guys with multiple years of control, and go from there.
Ivan - On the minus side, selling sucks. That doesn’t change the fact that the Braves probably should sell, but it sucks. On the plus side, though, they don’t really have anything particularly interesting to sell that’s on an expiring deal, anyway, so if they don’t sell, it won’t matter too much. Morton may not wanted to be traded; Drew Smyly is not good enough to yield much. Relievers are relievers, and paying down Will Smith’s terrible contract with a prospect is just throwing good value after bad, in a way. The bench guys don’t really have any value, even if they’ve played well. I guess you could say that the Braves should do what they do in the offseason — stay opportunistic and try to extract value when making trades — but that’s an all-the-time strategy, not one specific to the Trade Deadline. (And yes, I’d trade Freeman if he were amenable to it for a still-not-that-interesting return, but the Braves have a much bigger calculus there than just the return, and I have no idea what the state of affairs is, communication-wise, between those two camps.)
Scott - I think you have to sell anyone who isn’t part of the young core, and if by chance an opportunity to improve the team in 2022 and beyond arises, you look at that option, too. The team unfortunately has zero chance — okay, maybe 2% — of making the playoffs at this point, and I’d rather look to the future anyway than try and contend for a meaningless couple extra wins in August and September. Charlie Morton is the obvious sell high candidate and should fetch a nice return with so many contenders in need of pitching. Bonus points if you can shed Will Smith’s remaining $20M in salary.
Demetrius - The Braves should be sellers. I think we all know that this season is likely going to be a wash for the Braves, so there’s no good reason to hang on to guys like Morton, Smyly, and anybody who isn’t going to be around for the long haul. I would say that they should shop Freeman (and for all we know, they could be listening to offers) but it seems like he really wants to stay with the Braves. I still don’t think he gets signed during this season but I would be shocked if he goes elsewhere. That’s a bit of a sidetrack on my part but yeah, basically they should just try to move any veterans who aren’t signed long-term that they can and start gearing up for 2022 and beyond.
Kris - The Braves should take a middle path when it comes to the trade deadline. If there is something that makes sense that can improve the team now and in future seasons, then they should act on it. I think the injury to Ronald Acuna Jr. takes them out of the market for any high priced rentals if they were ever there to begin with. If they get to July 30 and they are completely out of it, then they could look to shed some of their one-year contracts.
Brent - PECOTA has our odds of playing in the NLDS at around 4%. Fangraphs’ sunnier prognosis has us around 7%. By all means, give the team two weeks to see if something wild can happen and change those numbers, but losing your best player isn’t exactly a recipe for a turnaround. The Braves would need to make significant trades just to maintain those meager odds, much less improve on them. So, sadly, Atlanta should probably sell. Freddie has a unique situation, and I honestly think one would need to have sat at that negotiating table to know what’s best, but everyone else on an expiring contract - Martin, D’Arnaud, Smyly, Morton - should be available. Reload and let’s go get this thing done in ‘22.
Dillon - The Braves should be sellers at the deadline. This season has been an abject disaster with regards to injuries, ineffectiveness, lawfulness, etc. Betting on a major turnaround by expending capital for second-half rentals seems short-sighted, even with the Mets always being a decent bet for a collapse. The current state of the Atlanta outfield alone should be enough to warrant selling off assets, and the loss of Ronald Acuna for the season should be the last straw. Just nine months removed from a near-miss in the NLCS, it obviously hurts to say, but moving Morton, Smyly, Smith, d’Arnaud, and anyone else with an expiring deal would seem like the savviest course of action.
Shawn - The Braves should be buyers and sellers. Since June 1st, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies have been top five players at their respective positions and the starting rotation has been above average. Plus, they had Ronald Acuna Jr. They went 19-18 over that stretch.
It simply is not there for the Braves this year. Even if they were to overcome the Mets, there is not much hope in the playoffs. The Braves also have some clear uncertainty in all aspects of their roster beyond this year. Sell valuable vets to help restock the low minors, but also look at buy-low options. The Braves did that with Adam Duvall and Orlando Arica in the past,so they should explore if something makes sense to add another offensive piece with future control that could thrive in Atlanta.
Gaurav - With the loss of Ronald, I think it’s time to be sellers at the deadline. I say this mainly knowing that the core of this team is young, and big enough that if the Braves play their cards right in the off-season with free agents they could easily compete again next season. You can get some non-ML talent for players like Charlie Morton, and perhaps Will Smith. The second half of the season might get ugly pretty quickly, but the pieces are there to compete again next season with a fully healthy Ronald. Of course, this all is based on the Braves re-signing Freddie Freeman as well.
Matt - Sell everyone but Freddie and the young guys. If the team isn’t able to seriously compete against the Dodgers and Padres in the playoffs, it doesn’t make sense to play mediocre baseball or even make additions to try to prop up this version of the team. Time to think ahead to next year when things can improve and a fresh start will be available. If it means trading Will Smith’s money like the way we traded for Mark Melancon’s a couple years ago, moving Dansby to make a play for one of the shortstops in free agency(or trade as I wouldn’t be opposed to additions this year with 2022 in mind), Chris Martin, Charlie Morton, and even Travis d’Arnaud since he is in the last year of his deal. Even after the move for Joc I think this path needs to be the way to go as I personally see Joc being a bigger piece for 2022 than this year. I know it is a mutual option, but it’s very hard to see him turning that down with CBA uncertainty and his slightly down year.
Wayne - Sell! The Braves have too many holes to fill, and unless you unload the farm — and even then — you won’t get the pieces needed to make a run and compete in the playoffs. There is quite a bit of money — or future money, like Dansby Swanson for example — to shed and are still valuable enough to get some nice pieces in return.
AB - Let the market come to the Braves. I would sell, but the best expiring contract players (Freeman and Morton) are ones that I would like to see the Braves resign. If we get an absurd offer for Morton or one of our bullpen arms, I would take it. Otherwise, I would ride this team to 79 or 80 wins. I am not sure we could tank this team for draft picks. I don’t see us falling into the bottom five and would be horrified to see what that Braves team would look like. It would look like Jeff Francoeur and Melky and eww that’s enough.