Baseball’s trade deadline, and the weeks leading up to it, is always a fun time of the year. It’s the chance for a deal to be made that could impact the pennant race for the final two months of the season.
The Braves made a move Monday that will make a team strength even stronger. Lefty Scott Downs is a solid veteran, and the bullpen is the last thing to worry about on this team right now. The quartet of Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan and Downs is arguably the best in baseball.
Atlanta would benefit from another bat for the bench, particularly with Reed Johnson now on the disabled list and Jordan Schafer still maybe a week away from returning. Emilio Bonifacio and Placido Palanco are two players who could be targeted before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline. They are both versatile and can provide offense in a pinch.
Don’t expect the Braves to get a starting pitcher, even with Brandon Beachy less than spectacular in his return Monday. It was not a shock that he was rusty, and the hope will be he’ll get more comfortable as he gets more innings. If Beachy continues to struggle, Atlanta will look around for more help on the waiver wire in August. But for now, unless the prices come down on the available starters, they’ll go with who they have in the rotation.
You also have to watch the other teams in the NL to see what they might do to improve. The Braves are in great shape to win the division. It would be an even more monumental collapse than what we saw two years ago for Atlanta to blow this huge lead. But you also have to wonder how the teams the Braves might face in October could get better with a move or two.
St. Louis, who looked awful this past weekend in Atlanta, could go after another bat for the middle infield or another arm. Pittsburgh is in desperate shape for another hitter, with Alex Rios of the Chicago White Sox a potential addition. And the Los Angeles Dodgers, the rich kids on the block, are always dangerous to pull off another move for a big name. If the Arizona Diamondbacks get Jake Peavy, they might be playing in October.
During the past two decades, the Braves have had numerous trades near the trade deadline help push them into the playoffs. It was 20 years ago that Fred McGriff joined the Braves, and we saw perhaps the best stretch of baseball when Atlanta went on a remarkable 54-19 second-half run.
But the Braves have had other smaller acquisitions who have mattered just about as much as McGriff did that season. Remember when Atlanta got Mike Devereaux in 1995? He was just a backup outfielder, but he was the NLCS MVP with a great series against Cincinnati. Devereaux helped the Atlanta win the World Series that season, and even though he was a Braves player for two months, he’ll be forever remembered for his contribution.
Luis Polonia was acquired on two different occasions in late-season trades and helped both times. Even look back three years ago when Atlanta acquired Rick Ankiel from the Royals. He filled in admirably in the outfield when Nate McLouth was hurt and ineffective.
There have been several relievers acquired late in the season, but none more important than Alejandro Pena in 1991. The Braves had no true closer that season. Juan Berenguer had been decent, but he was not a dominating pitcher out of the pen. Despite his unfortunate 10th inning in Game 7 of the World Series in Minnesota, Pena was a huge reason the Braves made it that far.
Perhaps Downs will get a big strikeout or stop a rally in the playoffs, and we’ll know the relatively minor trade was well worth it for Atlanta. Sometimes it’s the little trades that can make a huge difference in October. So the action before Wednesday’s deadline might be as important as what takes place on the field.
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