Braves make flurry of trades looking for another title run
ATLANTA (AP) — Looking to replicate the deals that helped carry them to a World Series title in 2021, the Atlanta Braves added another starting pitcher, bolstered their bullpen and bulked up the outfield ahead of the trade deadline Tuesday.
After acquiring corner outfielder Robbie Grossman from the Detroit Tigers late Monday, general manager Alex Anthopoulos started the day finalizing a deal that brought right-hander Jake Odorizzi from the Houston Astros in exchange for former Atlanta closer Will Smith.
Then, barely beating the clock before the 6 p.m. EST deadline, the Braves landed Los Angels Angels closer Raisel Iglesias for reliever Jesse Chavez and pitching prospect Tucker Davidson.
The flurry of trades, which also included Monday’s less-prominent deal that brought Washington infielder Ehire Adrianza back to Atlanta to help fill in while Ozzie Albies recovers from a broken foot, was reminiscent of the moves Anthopoulos pulled off at the 2021 deadline.
The Braves can only hope they lead to the same result.
A year ago, with the outfield plagued by injuries, off-field issues and failed expectations, Anthopoulos was able to assemble a whole new unit with deadline trades for Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall, combined with the acquisition two weeks earlier of Joc Pederson.
All four played major roles in the Braves capturing their first World Series title since 1995. Rosario was MVP of the NL Championship Series, while Soler claimed the honor in a World Series victory over the Astros.
The deal for Odorizzi cost the Braves another big part of their championship team.
Smith had 37 saves for the Braves during the 2021 regular season and a dominant postseason, tossing 11 scoreless innings with six saves over 11 appearances.
But Smith willingly gave up the ninth-inning slot when the Braves signed longtime Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen during the offseason, and the lefty faltered in a less-prominent role.
In 41 appearances, Smith was 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA and five saves, giving up 35 hits — including seven homers — and 21 walks over 37 innings for a WHIP of 1.514.
In his last four appearances with the Braves, Smith surrendered six runs in three innings. He is making $13 million in what is likely the final year of his contract, which includes a $13 million club option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout.
Despite his struggles, it was hard for manager Brian Snitker and the rest of the bullpen to see Smith go.
“He was a big part of this team,” Snitker said. “When you go through what we went through last year all together and come out on top, there’s a bond there. There’s a spot in your heart for guys like that.”
Atlanta, with the third-best record in the NL and going into Tuesday trailing the East-leading New York Mets by 3 1/2 games, was willing to give up Smith to provide another option for the rotation.
Ian Anderson has struggled and former All-Star Mike Soroka appears unlikely to contribute much this season after two major Achilles’ tendon injuries. Also, there are concerns that 13-game winner Kyle Wright, in his first full big league season, and rookie sensation Spencer Strider could tire down the stretch.
Smith was expendable with three more effective lefties — A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Dylan Lee — in a bullpen that could receive a further boost from former Padres closer Kirby Yates, who is closing in on his return to the big leagues after Tommy John surgery.
It seemed the Braves were done dealing, but Anthopoulos pulled off a last-minute trade for another reliever with extensive experience as a closer.
The 32-year-old Iglesias held that role over four seasons in Cincinnati before moving to the Angels in 2021. The right-hander matched his career high with 34 saves, and added 16 more this season despite some struggles. He has a 4.04 ERA, a WHIP of 1.065 and 48 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.
“It came together late, with like two minutes to go,” Anthopoulos said. “We were afraid it wasn’t going to get done.”
The Braves pulled off the deal with a team mired in a dismal season, even though it meant picking up the bulk of the $58 million, four-year contract Iglesias signed before the season. He is set to make $16 million each of the next three seasons.
“It surprised me,” Iglesias said of the trade. “I wish we could be in a better place right now. Hopefully I can help the Braves win. I will prepare. It will be great being with that team and to compete.”
The 38-year-old Chavez pitched effectively for the Braves after being acquired from the Cubs in April, going 1-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 31 appearances. Now he’s moving on to his third team of the season, paired in a deal with a 26-year-old lefty whose biggest claim to fame was getting a surprise start in last year’s World Series.
Davidson lasted only two innings against the Astros, and he’s spent most of this season in Triple-A. In four appearances with the Braves, he was 1-2 with a 6.46 ERA.
The 32-year-old Odorizzi was an All-Star with Minnesota in 2019, when he had a career-best 15 wins. He went 4-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 starts for the Astros this season, missing extensive time with a lower left leg injury.
In his latest outing, Odorizzi surrendered two hits in seven scoreless innings against Seattle.
The Braves could use six starters on an upcoming three-city road trip that includes a pair of doubleheaders. After that, Odorizzi might become a spot starter to give everyone additional rest ahead of the postseason, or step into a regular spot if someone falters.
The 24-year-old Anderson is 9-6 with a 4.99 ERA, though he did bolster his chances of staying in the rotation by giving up only one hit over six scoreless innings against the Nationals in his last start.
Odorizzi has a $6.5 million player option for 2023 and minimum buyout of $3.25 million that could grow based on innings pitched over 2021-22.
Grossman, a switch-hitter who has been much more effective against left-handers, gives the Braves an outfielder who can platoon with the lefty-hitting Rosario and serve as a replacement for Duvall, who recently underwent season-ending wrist surgery.
“What a team they have here, and I’m lucky enough to be a part of it,” Grossman said before a game against the Phillies. “I’m just going to come in here and be me and do whatever I can to help this team win.”
AP Sports Writer George Henry contributed to this report.
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