Braves' Top Players to Target and Avoid at 2023 MLB Trade Deadline
With a 61-32 record entering play on Thursday, the Atlanta Braves have been baseball's best team, and they've done it with some key injuries to their starting rotation and a bullpen that has been shaky at times.
Upgrading the bullpen should be their top priority, while finding some sort of starting pitching depth would also be wise. That doesn't necessarily mean they need to swing for the fences, but a solid middle-of-the-rotation veteran could go a long way.
The front office has been willing and able to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline the last few years, and it would be surprising if they didn't make at least a few additions to a bona fide World Series contender.
Ahead, we've highlighted two players the team should target and taken a quick look at two guys they would be wise to avoid.
The Braves rank third in the majors with a 3.58 ERA from the bullpen, so to call the relief corps a glaring weakness would be a stretch.
However, with Raisel Iglesias (30 G, 16/18 SV, 4.23 ERA) and A.J. Minter (44 G, 10/13 SV, 4.91 ERA) both putting together less-than-dominant seasons, and Minter now on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, the club could use another proven late-inning reliever.
Scott Barlow has been one of the best in the business since the start of the 2021 season, posting a 2.79 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 with 51 saves and 20 holds in 174 appearances for the Kansas City Royals.
The 30-year-old is controllable through 2024, and the Royals have given every indication that he will be the next to go after trading away rental reliever Aroldis Chapman already this summer.
The Braves could swing for the fences with their bullpen addition and go all-in on the 2023 season by trading for San Diego Padres closer Josh Hader, assuming he is made available in the coming weeks.
The five-time All-Star won't come cheap, even as a two-month rental with free agency awaiting for the first time this offseason, but he could legitimately be the piece that pushes the Braves over the top.
The 29-year-old has been virtually unhittable in the late innings once again this season, posting a 1.03 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 13.4 K/9 with 22 saves in 26 chances, while limiting opposing hitters to a .134 average with only two extra-base hits in 140 plate appearances.
The Braves have one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball, and there would be no shortage of suitors for Hader's services if he does hit the trade block, but it would be a price worth paying in pursuit of another title.
RHP Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians
The Braves already have a pair of banged up frontline starters with Max Fried (forearm) and Kyle Wright (shoulder) both shelved since early May with arm injuries, so steering clear of Bieber should be a relatively easy decision. The 2020 AL Cy Young winner was recently placed on the injured list with elbow inflammation, and he has not had the same swing-and-miss stuff all season.
LHP Eduardo Rodríguez, Detroit Tigers
Rodríguez poses some of the same injury question marks after missing nearly six weeks earlier this season with a ruptured finger pulley. The left-hander had a 2.13 ERA through 11 starts and looked like the AL Cy Young front-runner at the time of the injury, but he has allowed nine hits and seven earned runs in nine innings across two starts since returning to action.
The risk may be worth it for some contender, but the Braves would be better off targeting his teammate Michael Lorenzen.