1st of a series
Buyers or Sellers
They sure aren’t selling. The Braves only real competition in the NL East is the Washington Nationals, over whom they hold a 6.5 game lead. But they’re unlikely to take that lead for granted. Last year they won 94 games – and got knocked out in the one-game Wild Card playoff. The year before they collapsed down the stretch, losing eight of their last ten games (including their last five), finishing one game out of the playoffs. This is not a franchise (or fan base) that is going to feel like they’re all set.
What They Need
Which is a little weird, because they’re just about all set, as the Twins learned when they were swept by them earlier this year. The Braves starting pitching ranks 2nd in the NL in ERA. Their offense ranks 4th in runs, but they’re that “low” because their big free agent acquisition, BJ Upton, has just a 594 OPS. That isn’t going to last.
However, there have been multiple reports of the Braves evaluating others teams' relievers. That’s a little odd, because Craig Kimbrel has been fantastic as their closer. However, they lost two left-handed setup men Eric O’Flaherty and Tommy Venters to Tommy John surgery in the same week in May. That’s left Luis Avilan, whose numbers look good, but 18K in 33 IP don’t inspire confidence. Neither do the 13 walks that go with them.
What Might Work
Last year at the deadline, and indeed in the offseason, there were lots of rumors about the Braves and Twins talking about a deal. That was because the Braves needed a center fielder (which they filled by signing BJ Upton) and some right-handed power (which they fixed by trading for his brother Justin).
However, the Twins have three effective left-handers in their bullpen right now. Caleb Thielbar is unproven, but has been deadly against lefties. Brian Duensing represent a more senior option that would still not require a king’s ransom. And Glen Perkins would give the Braves the best lefty-righty combo to lose games in Major League Baseball. As the Braves evaluate relievers, they’ll certainly approach the Twins.
On TwinsDaily.com, we're also listing a few sleeper targets the Twins might target from the Braves organization and one "Dream Target." You can find them here.