Rich-Rod, Duvall deals cap Braves' busy day

Atlanta also adds veteran Rosario to new-look outfield mix

July 31st, 2021

ATLANTA -- With a flurry of moves before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos upgraded his depleted outfield mix, added a high-leverage option to his maligned bullpen and created hope for his club to win a fourth consecutive National League East title.

“It's wild how fast it all happened,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “[President of baseball operations] Alex [Anthopoulos] called me a couple times today to just kind of let me know what was going on. I’m excited about getting all those guys.”

All those guys include right-handed reliever and three veteran outfielders -- , and . These four additions have the potential to improve an offense that misses Ronald Acuña Jr. and an underperforming bullpen that has been the team’s weakest link.

Still, even though the lineup has been depleted and their bullpen has been far too leaky, the Braves entered Friday just four games back in the NL East. They haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. But the upgrades could push Atlanta past the Mets and Phillies over the season’s final two months.

“We've had our challenges, that's probably a nice way to say it,” Anthopoulos said. “But at the same time, every club has. The one fortunate thing for all of us in the NL East is that we're playing in the NL East in 2021.”

Here’s a breakdown of the trades the Braves made on Friday:

Acquired Duvall in exchange for Minor League catcher Alex Jackson
Duvall has hit .229 with 22 homers and a .755 OPS over 339 plate appearances for the Marlins this year. He served as Atlanta’s primary left fielder when he produced an .833 OPS and hit 16 homers in just 209 plate appearances in 2020.

Given Duvall had hit .368 with five homers and a 1.237 OPS in 43 plate appearances against the Braves this year, Anthopoulos provided a light-hearted response to this trade.

“The real appeal is that he doesn't have to play against us now,” Anthopoulos said. “We probably win a lot more of those Miami games if he wasn't there.”

The Braves non-tendered Duvall when it appeared his arbitration cost might exceed $7 million this past winter. But they still attempted to bring him back at a lower price with the thought he might platoon with Joc Pederson, who has served as Atlanta’s right fielder since being acquired from the Cubs on July 15.

Now Duvall and the left-handed-hitting Pederson are part of an outfield mix that will also include the right-handed Soler and left-handed-hitting Rosario. The Braves have said they could use some platoons and also play Pederson instead of Guillermo Heredia in center field on some days.

“We really haven’t had a chance to digest it yet and see what everybody thinks, but we definitely have options,” Snitker said.

Duvall has uncharacteristically struggled against left-handers this year, but he and Soler will likely be used whenever an opponent starts a southpaw. Pederson’s .354 on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers this year provides reason to argue he should continue being used as an everyday player.

Duvall arrived in time to serve as the Braves' starting left fielder in Friday’s series opener against the Brewers.

The cost: Jackson was once a top prospect within the Mariners’ system, but his star has quickly faded over the past few years. The Braves gave him a chance to begin the season as their backup catcher at the big league level, but he went 1-for-23 with 13 strikeouts and has spent the past three months either on the injured list or at the Triple-A level.

With talented catching prospects Shea Langeliers and William Contreras having passed him, Jackson didn’t have a future in the Braves' organization.

Acquired Rodríguez in exchange for RHP Bryse Wilson and RHP Ricky DeVito
Along with having a need to upgrade an offense that entered Friday having scored two runs or less in seven of the past 10 games, the Braves needed to improve a bullpen that ranks 10th in the NL with a 4.45 ERA.

So, there was a sense of relief when Anthopoulos completed the Rodríguez deal about four minutes before the deadline. The big right-hander posted a 2.82 ERA and converted 14 saves in 17 opportunities while serving as the Pirates’ closer this year.

Snitker made it clear he plans to continue using Will Smith as his primary closer. But Rodríguez gives the Braves a versatile high-leverage option to use until he is eligible for free agency following the 2023 season.

“He’s just another bullpen arm we can add to our depth,” Anthopoulos said. “There's certain days we have guys that just aren’t available. So, having more quality arms, and having that depth is pretty important.”

The cost: The recent success of Touki Toussaint and Kyle Muller allowed the Braves to feel better about parting ways with Wilson, who was given a chance to prove himself as a big league starter each of the past three seasons. The chance to stick at the big league level in Pittsburgh’s rotation may prove beneficial to the young hurler, who did at least shine when he started Game 4 of the 2020 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. DeVito was an eighth-round selection in the 2019 Draft and has posted a 2.66 ERA in five starts for High-A Rome this year.

Acquired Soler from the Royals for RHP Kasey Kalich
Soler has declined since hitting a career-high 48 homers in 2019. But as he has hit .192 with 13 homers and a .658 OPS this season, he has continued to have some success against left-handed pitchers. He has seven homers and an .836 OPS in 101 plate appearances against southpaws in 2021.

The Braves will likely use Soler in some platoon roles and allow him to add some much-needed power potential to their bench. He will become a free agent after his one-year, $8.05 million contract expires at the end of this year.

The cost: Selected in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, Kalich had a 3.26 ERA in 20 appearances for Rome. The Royals view the 23-year-old right-hander as a potential future closer.

Acquired Rosario from the Indians for INF Pablo Sandoval
Rosario has hit just .254 with seven homers and a .685 OPS in 306 plate appearances with the Twins this year, but he did average 24 homers per season while producing a 117 OPS+ from 2017-2020 for the Twins. The 29-year-old left-handed slugger is expected to miss a couple more weeks while recovering from a right abdominal strain sustained in early July.

The cost: Sandoval hit some big pinch-hit homers within the first couple weeks of the season and created some fun by donning a panda head and hugging teammates after they returned to the dugout after hitting a homer. But he had primarily served as a mascot-like figure while recording just one hit in his past 31 at-bats.

Cleveland promptly released Sandoval after making this cost-cutting deal. The Braves will be responsible for a majority of the approximate $2.8 million Rosario is owed.