1 early-season trade Braves must make

The Braves need some lefties in the pen.

Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos asking, "Got any lefties?"

The Atlanta Braves came into the season as a World Series favorite. With a loaded roster that boasts a lineup featuring Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, and Matt Olson, among a rotation with Chris Sale, Max Fried, and Charlie Morton, how could they not be favorites for the Fall Classic? The Braves have hit a bit of a skid as of late, however.

The Braves began the season at an impressive 17-6. But once the calendar started creeping up on the month of May, the team has sputtered. The competition has gotten a lot better against Atlanta, where they faced division leaders that started with the Cleveland Guardians back on April 26, followed by a six-game west coast road trip to face the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners. In those three series, the Braves went 3-6. Before that, they had won 10 out of their last 11 games.

No longer are the Braves the leaders of the National League East, with that honor being bestowed on the Philadelphia Phillies now, who have a 2.5-game lead over their rivals. Even after a sweep by the Dodgers, who outscored the Braves 20-6 in their series, it’s way too early to panic one week into the second month of the season. However, it’s not too early for the Braves to be considering trades to help bolster their team.

Let’s now look at one early-season trade the Braves should consider.

Braves need a left-handed reliever

Apr 1, 2024; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek (68) pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the ninth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The Braves haven’t exactly liked what they’ve seen from a returning Tyler Matzek. The lefty reliever is coming off Tommy John surgery from 2022 but has yet to find his magical 2021 form that helped the Braves win the World Series that season. In 11 appearances this season for Atlanta, Matzek has ballooned his ERA up to 9.90, which is second-to-worst in all of MLB for lefty relievers. He’s given up 11 runs, all earned, three home runs, three walks, striking out 10. Hitters facing Matzek have a .356 batting average, which is third worst for lefties in relief.

Outside of Matzek, the Braves throw out there on a nightly basis AJ Minter, Dylan Lee, and Aaron Bummer to combat a majority of right-handers. Minter is obviously the stalwart of the group — minus that bomb to Shohei Ohtani on Sunday — and has been for a number of seasons for Atlanta as far as middle relief goes. But Bummer is still proving himself after 12 games and a 4.79 ERA. Meanwhile, Lee, who is coming off shoulder surgery last season, is just getting started for the Braves this season. However, in nine appearances thus far, he looks pretty much back to form.

While the Braves may look for some short-term answers with some of their minor league arms to alleviate their bullpen problems, Alex Anthopoulos likely has his eyes on the potential reliever market, as he’s already acquired one arm in the Los Angeles Angels right-hander Jimmy Herget. But it could be wise for Anthopoulos to look eastward at lefty Tim Hill.

Braves need to make a trade for White Sox reliever Tim Hill

Apr 22, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago White Sox pitcher Tim Hill (54) delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins in the fourth inning at Target Field. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
In case you don’t know, the Chicago White Sox are one of the worst teams in all of baseball. If not for the Colorado Rockies, who tie them with an 8-26 record, they would be the worst. So, it’s highly unlikely this team goes on a massive win streak and recovers. That puts them as automatic sellers at any time this season.

The Miami Marlins, the Braves’ division rival, have already started off-loading their talent, and they are currently two games better than the White Sox. If Chicago wants to do the same, the Braves should at least inquire about lefty reliever Tim Hill, one of their better pieces in the bullpen.

Hill, who was released by the San Diego Padres over the winter, ending his four-year run there, has seven years of service in the majors, dating back to 2018. In 13 appearances this season, Hill is currently sporting a 3.38 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched. He’s given up 14 hits, just four earned runs, no homers, and four walks.

The question, though, is what do you give up for Hill? The White Sox are in a massive rebuild it seems and will be looking for some players who will likely be able to contribute in the near future. Seeing as how the White Sox signed Hill to just a one-year deal for $1.8 million this offseason (per ESPN’s Jeff Passan), that wouldn’t give Chicago a ton of leverage.

Would RHP Darius Vines, the club’s 14th-ranked prospect, along with maybe anoter lesser arm or position player, be an option for Anthopoulos to consider trading to the Windy City? Vines has already been called up to the Braves’ rotation this season to help out with Strider’s absence. Don’t expect guys like AJ Smith-Shawver or rookie Hurston Waldrep to be considered, at least not in this type of deal. Seeing as how seven out of the Braves’ top 10 prospects are all pitchers, one of those arms is likely going to be asked about from Chicago.

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