1. Braves’ latest move underscores 40-man challenges that await
Left-hander Andrew Albers had rejuvenated his career this summer at Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 2.61 ERA that was third in the International League. He’s also in the top seven in strikeouts (115) and WHIP (1.15).
So, why did the Braves trade Albers to the Mariners on Friday night for cash considerations instead of bringing him up to a pitching staff that’s 29th with a collective 4.1 WAR and has a 4.70 ERA (23rd)?
John Coppolella and Co. simply have got a case of the 40-man problems.
Albers had been dominant, but he’s also 31 and the Braves didn’t have room for him, and creating room this late in the season would have of include either releasing another player, transferring another to the 60-day disabled list or designating for assignment a player who might be part of Atlanta’s long-term plans. That would then mean opening them up to be claimed by another team.
Is that a worthwhile endeavor for a squad that’s 18 games out of the National League East and 13 behind in the Wild Card race? In the case of Albers, whose track record includes a 4.41 ERA in 17 MLB games across three seasons with the Blue Jays and Twins, the answer was clearly no.
He simply didn’t fit Atlanta’s plans, and Coppolella was able to find a team in need in the Mariners — who are down two starters in James Paxton (pectoral injury) and Felix Hernandez (shoulder bursitis) — to give them value for a player that wasn’t likely to get a shot for the Braves in the majors.
The fact of the matter is weighing the short-term benefits of finding room for Albers is nothing compared to the 40-man decisions that are to come with December’s Rule 5 Draft looming.
Among those currently not on the roster that could be plucked by another team include 21-year-old left-hander Luiz Gohara — 2.77 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 37 walks in 104 innings — Travis Demeritte — the infielder, 22, is slashing .216/.295/.398 with 15 home runs — outfielder Dustin Peterson — also 22, he’s hitting .265/.332/.343 — and Ricardo Sanchez, a 20-year-old lefty with a 4.98 ERA.
Those are prospects that come in seventh (Gohara), 14th (Demeritte) and 17th (Peterson) in FOX Sports South’s composite rankings, while Sanchez is 26th in MLB Pipeline’s top 30.
Righties Enrique Burgos and Armando Rivero would seem vulnerable when it comes to clearing space for them. The Braves have Jacob Lindgren and Dan Winkler on the 60-day DL, meaning they aren’t eating up 40-man spots, but what machinations will they pull to attempt to keep them? What about struggling arms like Ian Krol (5.75 ERA), Jason Motte (3.68) or Mauricio Cabrera, who has a 6.82 ERA and 35 walks to 26 Ks in the minors?
The balancing act of protecting the future and keeping tangible pieces is about to make the guessing game over who the Braves leave dangling figures to be riveting.
Mark J. Rebilas Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports