Braves land reliever Martin from Rangers

July 31st, 2019

WASHINGTON -- A little more than an hour before their top two relievers extended their recent woes in Tuesday night’s 11-8 win over the Nationals, the Braves strengthened their bullpen by acquiring from the Rangers in exchange for .

“I don’t know [Martin],” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’ve seen the numbers. I got a couple of texts after the game about him. Everything was really positive. People really like this guy. He’ll be a big addition for us.”

Snitker does not anticipate Martin arriving in time to be available for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale at Nationals Park. But he is looking forward to the late-inning value he should soon receive from the 33-year-old right-hander, who has been one of baseball’s most effective relievers over the past two months.

Martin has posted a 3.08 ERA over 38 appearances this year. The reliever has produced a 1.45 ERA and limited opponents to a .228 on-base percentage while recording 24 strikeouts and issuing just one walk over 18 2/3 innings (19 appearances) since May 24.

Despite Martin having less than two years of service time, his contract allows him to become a free agent when his two-year deal expires at the end of the season. His status as a rental allowed the Braves to gain potential short-term value at the low cost of Allard, whose prospect value has drastically dropped since Atlanta took him with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.

“We’ve been following [Martin],” Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “Obviously, we’ve been active on the relief market. There are obviously a lot of other names out there. Chris might not be as well-known as the others with longer track records and careers, but we felt he had as much upside as anybody in the trade market.”

Martin’s 2.7 percent walk rate (the third best in MLB among relievers) would make him a welcome addition to any bullpen. The Braves will certainly appreciate the efficiency he could bring. Their bullpen entered Tuesday with the game’s second-worst walk rate (11.0 percent).

“He’s somebody we think can really emerge for us at the back end of the bullpen,” Anthopoulos said. “Snit will make the decision in terms of roles.”

Martin converted four saves for the Rangers this year, and he served as a closer while playing in Japan from 2015-17. He stands as a candidate to replace Luke Jackson as Atlanta’s closer. But Anthopoulos could find an additional candidate as he attempts to further strengthen his suddenly concerning bullpen before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline.

"Martin has done an unbelievable job for us all year," Texas manager Chris Woodward said. "Coming into Spring Training, we had hopes of him doing what he did and taking on a much bigger role at the back end of the bullpen. I can’t say enough about what he did for us. He pitched big innings for us pretty much every time out all year. We are going to miss him, for sure.”

After top setup man surrendered two runs while recording just two outs in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s win, Jackson allowed the Nats to tally three more runs in the ninth. The Braves have produced MLB’s second-worst bullpen ERA (7.00) since the All-Star break.

“Any opportunity we feel is a good baseball trade and it makes sense for us, we’ll look to do it,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that sounds pretty generic, but it’s really accurate.”

While the Braves could use another front-line starter, their rotation concerns have at least been lessened by the recent success of , who posted a 1.48 ERA in five July starts. ’s two-homer performance in Tuesday’s win might have reduced the likelihood Atlanta will attempt to acquire an outfielder before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. ET Deadline.

Even with the addition of Martin, there are still concerns about the bullpen. Jackson has produced a 4.88 ERA and allowed one run in 12 of his past 26 appearances. Swarzak allowed one run in his first 21 appearances with the Braves, but he’s yielded at least two runs in both appearances that have followed.

The Braves have the rich prospect resources that would be necessary to acquire a top closer like the Pirates’ or the Padres’ . But Atlanta might simply focus on acquiring quality depth in the form of somebody like Martin, who can provide value in a variety of high-leverage late-inning roles.

“I’m glad we made [a move] to strengthen our bullpen,” Snitker said. “When you make a move like that, I don’t put any stock in whether we’re first or last [to make a move], I’m just glad we did.”