SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The word around Cooperstown on Sunday was that the Atlanta Braves aren’t apt to do much of note before today’s trade deadline arrives and might do nothing at all. I still think they’ll offer up a little something, mostly because I don’t believe John Coppolella is capable of inaction.
The Braves’ general manager was at Sunday’s Hall of Fame inductions to honor the GM who’d hired him away from the Yankees a decade ago. Coppolella’s presence shouldn’t be read as an admission that he’d punted on any/all trades. Cellular coverage is available in New York state. Dayton Moore, another John Schuerholz disciple, was likewise in the audience, and his Royals re-acquired that Atlanta favorite Melky Cabrera from the White Sox on Sunday.
(We also note, not for the first time, that Kansas City is where all former Braves land, sometimes more than once.)
This much remains true: Having traded Jaime Garcia (since re-gifted by the Twins to the Yankees), the Braves mightn’t be selling anything anyone wants to buy. Nobody has a crying need for Matt Adams, the Yankees having partially addressed their first-base concern by moving Chase Headley across the infield after acquiring Todd Frazier from the White Sox, who are selling to beat the band. Nobody is desperate to rent Brandon Phillips for two/three months.
Every contender always wants relief cover, but Jim Johnson has gone so wrong — he’s no longer closing for the Braves — that he has become a harder sell, and his contract isn’t the same as when Braves traded him to L.A. in 2015. He was a rental then. This time he’s owed $4.5 million next season. There’s still a chance somebody will take him, but it’s a lesser chance than we figured it’d be.
The Braves wouldn’t mind clearing right field for Ronald Acuna — I saw him play Friday night in Dansby Swanson’s Triple-A debut and color me impressed — but who wants Nick Markakis, who’s owed $11 million next season? Matt Kemp is on the disabled list and has a big contract, so he’s surely beyond moving. Kurt Suzuki will be a free agent, so I guess he’s a possibility.
A year ago, the Braves were asking a windfall for Julio Teheran, which is why he went nowhere. Were they to trade him today, they’d be getting pennies on the dollar, and Coppolella hates selling low even more than he loathes sitting still. After that awful showing in Philadelphia, Teheran’s ERA is 5.09. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) is ever worse. If this keeps up, the Braves will have gone from having a fairly cheap upper-part-of-the-rotation pitcher to having an overpriced No. 5 starter.
As noted last week, this would seem the wrong time to move Teheran. If the Braves can’t get his issues sorted over the next two months, they’ll face a difficult offseason decision. But this decision shouldn’t be made in haste.
Oh, and this much needs saying: With Swanson’s fizzle, the Braves will surely be that much more determined to hang on to Ozzie Albies, and they’re not trading Acuna for anybody. Nothing surprises me, but I’d be utterly shocked if they made a prospect-heavy-on-their-end trade. They’re not at a place where they need to do that yet.
Or so it would seem. Ahead of the trade deadline, nobody — borrowing again from the screenwriter William Goldman — knows anything. But we will know something by 4 p.m.
Dispatches from the Empire State (not the building):