The reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves have been surging in the NL East standings. They won 14 games in a row at the beginning of June, and now just sit 2.5 games back of the New York Mets in the division.
They are four games up on the Padres for the top spot in the National League Wild Card standings, and ZiPS’ updated projections give them a 98.2% chance of making the postseason.
A massive part of the Braves’ World Series run just a season ago were the trade deadline acquisitions the team made. Atlanta made moves for outfielders Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall, reliever Richard Rodriguez, eventual NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario, and eventual World Series MVP Jorge Soler before last year’s deadline, sparking the team’s run down the stretch.
The 2022 edition of the Braves will likely have a different approach heading into the deadline.
The team has one of the deepest rosters in all of Major League Baseball, and adding to that depth could help the Braves get back to the Fall Classic this season.
Since Ozzie Albies went down with a fractured foot on June 13, the Braves have gotten bottom-third production out of the position.
Between Orlando Arcia, Phil Gosselin and now Robinson Canó, Atlanta’s second basemen have a 0.0 fWAR, have only hit two home runs, and have combined for a 67 wRC+ since Albies went down.
Back in June, Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Albies should be able to return this season.
Despite having a tough start to the 2022 season, Albies will reclaim the second base spot when he returns from the IL, but in the meantime adding a second baseman who can both fill in and provide some playoff depth across multiple positions may be valuable to the Braves.
There are two AL Central players who should be able to fill this role: Detroit’s Jonathan Schoop and Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield.
Schoop has been struggling offensively for the Tigers so far this year but has maybe been one of the best defenders in the league, with an MLB-high 17.1 defensive WAR.
He would also be able to provide some versatility should the Braves need it from another spot in their infield. He has played 114 games at first and 40 total games across third and short. While that may not be a ton of experience, he’s proven this year to have the defensive ability that could transition to the left side of the infield.
Merrifield brings with him a tough offensive profile as well. But unlike Schoop, the 33-year-old brings the ability to play in the outfield as well.
He’s played over 250 games across all three outfield spots and may be a better fit in Atlanta, who may be looking for some corner outfield help as well to supplement the struggling trio of Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna.
Both the Braves rotation and bullpen have been among MLB’s best. Starting pitchers in Atlanta this season have generated 8.5 fWAR — the sixth most in MLB — with a 3.85 ERA, good for 12th best.
Atlanta may have the ability to say some of its biggest trade deadline additions are players from the IL. Mike Soroka and Kirby Yates threw bullpen sessions this week, and look to be on their way to returning to the field by the beginning-to-middle of August.
Adding these two would be a huge boost to the Braves bullpen, as Yates would be able to slide into a late-inning role if he returns to something resembling his 2019 self, while the return of Soroka could potentially shake up the quintet that’s starting for Atlanta.
Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, and Ian Anderson have been one of the best rotations in baseball, so the Braves would likely start Soroka in the bullpen when he returns, as he hasn’t thrown in an MLB game since August 2020.
Since both are coming off injuries and may not be the same pitchers they were when we last saw them, the Braves could add to an already deep bullpen by trading for one of the top relievers on the market.
Atlanta’s relievers have racked up an MLB-best 4.9 fWAR with the third lowest ERA (3.07). But as we learned in last year’s playoffs, you can never have too much talent coming out of the ‘pen.
One player that the Braves could add to give them another late-game option is Gregory Soto from the Tigers — maybe along with Schoop?
Operating as Detroit’s closer, Soto has picked up 18 saves with a 2.59 ERA and 9.19 K/9. The hard-throwing lefty would give the Braves five or six legitimate shutdown options at the end of games and would be able to give the starters the ability to hand the game off earlier when the postseason comes around.
The Braves are the hottest team in baseball right now and look poised to defend their title even without making any acquisitions at the deadline — anything they do end up adding will just make them that much more dangerous come October.
All stats courtesy FanGraphs and from before play on July 13th