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Braves bolster bullpen with Greene, Melancon

Catcher Murphy also added at busy Trade Deadline
@mlbbowman
July 31, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Further strengthening their attempt to do more than win a second straight National League East title, the Braves significantly improved their bullpen by acquiring Shane Greene and Mark Melancon before Wednesday afternoon’s Trade Deadline. Greene was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for two Minor Leaguers -- left-handed

WASHINGTON -- Further strengthening their attempt to do more than win a second straight National League East title, the Braves significantly improved their bullpen by acquiring Shane Greene and Mark Melancon before Wednesday afternoon’s Trade Deadline.

Greene was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for two Minor Leaguers -- left-handed pitcher Joey Wentz (Braves' No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and outfielder Travis Demeritte. The need to include Wentz was necessitated when the Dodgers and Nationals made a late push for Detroit’s closer. Atlanta had initially hoped to get this deal done at the cost of Demeritte and Minor League catcher Alex Jackson.

Melancon was acquired from the Giants in exchange for right-handed reliever Dan Winkler and right-handed prospect Tristan Beck (Braves’ No. 17 prospect).

The Braves also added catching depth by acquiring John Ryan Murphy from the D-backs for cash considerations. Murphy will spend time with Triple-A Gwinnett and possibly come to the Majors when rosters expand in September.

Greene will most likely replace Luke Jackson as the closer within Atlanta's suddenly upgraded bullpen, but Melancon is also capable of filling that role. The addition of these two veterans extended the bullpen reconstruction that Braves executive vice president and general manager Alex Anthopoulos began Tuesday, when he acquired Chris Martin from the Rangers in exchange for Kolby Allard (Braves' No. 10 prospect).

“We feel confident we’re a better club,” Anthopoulos said. “How much better? That’s still hard to say. Even if you are better, you still have to play between the white lines and things need to break right. You need the other parts of the club to do well. At the minimum, we feel we made the bullpen a lot stronger today.”

In exchange for three significant and much-needed bullpen upgrades, the Braves had to part ways with just three of their top 30 prospects. To get Melancon at this price, they assumed responsibility of the approximate $18.7 million he is owed through the end of the 2020 season.

Like with Melancon, the Braves will have control of Greene through the end of the 2020 season. Greene is owed approximately $1.3 million over the remainder of this year. His current $4 million salary will increase this winter, when he prepares for his final arbitration-eligible season.

While it’s nice to get a head start on constructing next year’s relief corps, the Braves made these moves to make immediate and necessary improvements to a bullpen that has posted MLB’s second-highest ERA (7.11) since the All-Star break.

Atlanta’s new top bullpen trio -- Greene, Melancon and Martin -- have combined to allow 36 earned runs over 122 1/3 innings this year. The Braves former top relief trio -- Jackson, Anthony Swarzak and Sean Newcomb -- have combined to allow 15 earned runs over 18 innings since the All-Star break.

Greene has posted a 1.18 ERA while recording 43 strikeouts and issuing 12 walks over 38 innings for the Tigers this year. The 30-year-old right-hander has converted 22 of 25 save opportunities. He has limited opponents to a .153 batting average and .227 on-base percentage.

Melancon has produced a 3.50 ERA over the 46 1/3 innings he has completed over 43 appearances this year. The 34-year-old reliever has surrendered just one run while limiting opponents to a .114 batting average and .139 on-base percentage over his past nine appearances dating back to July 6. He agreed to waive his no-trade clause.

“It’s a winning team and they got a lot of young talent, a lot of upside there,” Melancon said. “It just came down to the opportunity there.”

After Jackson and Newcomb combined to blow a two-run ninth-inning lead against the division rival Nationals on Wednesday, the Braves pulled out a 5-4 victory that gives them a 6 1/2-game lead in the National League East race.

While Atlanta had to fix its bullpen, the attempt to strengthen its rotation seemed to be a softer need. But with top potential targets like Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler and Mike Minor staying put, Anthopoulos said he never got close to a deal for a starting pitcher.

“At the end of the day, where we thought there were deals that made sense for us, we felt the bullpen made the most sense,” Anthopoulos said. “We definitely tried with different areas.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.