MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Braves made four trades in a five-day span leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline. They are, at least on paper, a better team now than they were last week.
Let’s start with the bullpen. The Braves first got Jonny Venters, who had not pitched in the big leagues for six years until he returned with Tampa Bay earlier this year. With Sam Freeman struggling as a lefty reliever, it’s doubtful Venters could be worse. And if Venters is half the pitcher he was when he was with the Braves before, it’ll be a great trade. Venters is not the same pitcher he was back at the start of the decade. He’s had two more Tommy John elbow surgeries and he actually needed another one but opted to avoid a potential career-threatening fourth T-J procedure. Venters doesn’t throw as hard, but he can still pitch.
And then the Braves got Brad Brach from Baltimore. He’s not had a great season, but Brach has been a solid reliever for several years with the Orioles. He’ll be an improvement over Peter Moylan, who has struggled a bit. Both Venters and Brach came over for basically nothing. The Braves didn’t have to give up prospects for those two, but instead traded international slot money. They’ve decided to not go crazy in the international market this year, so the Braves could afford to include that in these trades.
Then the Braves got Adam Duvall from the Reds on Monday night. He’s averaged 30 home runs and 100 RBI his last two seasons. Duvall will play left field against left-handers, moving Ronald Acuna over to center and sending Ender Inciarte to the bench. Inciarte has just not had a good season, and now he’s basically in a platoon. Duvall is also a very good fielder, and the Braves value good defense. Plus, he can play first base and third base.
Then the Braves got Kevin Gausman from Baltimore. He’s a 27-year old right-hander who has not blossomed yet with the Orioles. The stuff is there, but Gausman has just not gotten over that hump – sort of like how Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb have this season. The Braves checked in with Dom Chiti, their farm director, and Dave Wallace, a minor league pitching instructor, on Gausman. Those two were on Baltimore’s staff until a few years ago, so they were there when Gausman came up to the big leagues. If they had said, “Don’t get this guy,” the Braves would have said no. But they obviously encouraged general manager Alex Anthopoulos to make the deal. If Gausman’s former pitching coaches signed off on the deal, I’m fine with it. The Braves just need Gausman to turn the corner and getting out of the American League East might help more than anything.
Gausman will join Folty and Newcomb, Julio Teheran, Max Fried and Anibal Sanchez in the rotation. The Braves are better. They will be in this race for the rest of the season. They’ve survived a rough stretch and even though they didn’t have a great month of July, they’re still within shouting distance of first place.
Give the front office credit. Anthopoulos did his job to make the roster better, and now the players just have to go play better baseball in August. The Braves are ahead of schedule, but since they have played this well, they might as well try to go out and make the postseason.
And the new players acquired the last few days could help make that happen.