JUST IN: Atlanta Braves just involved in surprising trade discussions…

Braves Rumors: Anthopoulos surprise, Braves trade assets, Cease package.

Cincinnati Reds v Atlanta Braves

Could the Atlanta Braves be targeting a surprise free-agent starter? Also, grading some Alex Anthopoulos trade assets and a Dylan Cease package.

Atlanta Braves rumors: Grading a possible trade package for Dylan Cease

After missing out on Sonny Gray and Aaron Nola, the Atlanta Braves are on their third option to improve their starting rotation. Most backup plans are underwhelming. However, Dylan Cease is anything but that, as I wrote this week.

“Much of Anthopoulos’s urgency to acquire a high-end starting pitcher this offseason is due to the likelihood that the Braves lose both Charlie Morton and Max Fried next winter. Fried will be a free agent, and extension talks have not gone according to plan thus far, despite an injury suffered by Fried this season which kept him out several months. Morton is on the wrong side of 40 and just opted into the final year of his contract, but any commitment beyond that is anyone’s guess.”

Cease is coming off a down year by his standards, but he’s just a season removed from being the AL Cy Young runner-up. He has two years left on his current contract, as well, which makes him a controllable asset for Anthopoulos. If the two sides can agree to an extension, then it provides the Braves with a roadmap for life after Morton and potentially Fried.

Sports Illustrated put together a mock trade package for Cease, which included AJ Smith-Shawver, Dylan Dodd, Vaughn Grissom and Owen Murphy. Assuming the White Sox prefer a prospect-laden trade package to ramp up their rebuild, this is likely the Braves can offer without including Hurston Waldrep.

It’s unclear if the names involved would be enough from Chicago’s perspective, but if not, there’s no trade to make here.

Braves Rumors: Which players could be traded at the MLB Winter Meetings?

It’s no secret that the Atlanta Braves are involved in trade discussions. Just like every offseason, the best executives always have their ear to the ground, and Alex Anthopoulos is legendary as it pertains to pulling off unexpected moves. Tyler Glasnow and Dylan Cease stand out as two potential upgrades at starting pitcher. Heck, even Brewers ace Corbin Burnes is reportedly available for the right price, and the Braves have a recent trade history with Milwaukee (William Contreras).

With that in mind, Atlanta doesn’t have many young trade assets remaining. Most of them were mentioned in the last slide. Grissom would start for most up-and-coming teams, as his bat is too productive to keep out of the lineup. Smith-Shawver is a top-100 prospect and perhaps a high-usage relief pitcher or even starter in the making. One player not mentioned, though, is designated hitter Marcell Ozuna.

Braves insider Mark Bowman discussed the possibility of trading Ozuna while his value is high in an article this week:

“At different points over the past couple years, the Braves tried to swap Ozuna for the likes of Patrick Corbin or Madison Bumgarner, a pair of left-handed pitchers with negative value. Now, instead of swapping bad contracts, they actually could trade Ozuna to help gain something in return,”Bowman wrote.

Ozuna’s value has rarely been higher. He has a year left on his deal (plus a club option for 2025), and he hit 40 home runs in 2023. He’s also had some off-field issues the Braves should be weary of at this point, including a DUI and domestic violence arrest.

I’m not saying a trade is likely involving Ozuna, but Atlanta is lacking MLB-ready assets. Designated hitter is a position of strength for them, as either Travis d’Arnaud or Vaughn Grissom could fill that slot.

Braves Rumors: Could Alex Anthopoulos acquire Shota Imanaga?

The Braves clearly need some rotation help this offseason. Charlie Morton is a year old, Max Fried is coming off injury. Bryce Elder is a candidate to regress to the norm after a breakout season. While Atlanta has been linked to some big names like Dylan Cease, Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray (the latter two they did not sign), perhaps a more modest pickup is in order as well.

Atlanta’s in a division loaded with left-handed power bats. Yet, they only possess one lefty starting pitcher in Morton, and he’s over 40 years old. Could left-handed pitcher Shota Imanaga — who was posted just a short while ago — be the answer?

Fred Owens over at The House That Hank Built did a great job outlining Imanaga’s stats, and even comparing him to former MLB starter Trevor Bauer, who played on the same teams as Imanaga in NPB.

“He (Imanaga) isn’t a top-of-the-rotation arm like Yamamoto; he’s more of a pitchability lefty who attacks batters with strikes all around the zone using a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball, curve, cutter/slider, and splitter,” Owens wrote.

The Bauer comparison is striking, as Imanaga actually outranks him in several key categories.

“In 2023, he pitched to a 2.80 ERA, 1.054 WHIP, striking out 174 and walking 24 in 148 IP over 22 starts…(Bauer) pitched to a 2.76 ERA, 3.03 RA/G, 1.148 WHIP, striking out 130 and walking 31 in 130 2/3 IP over 19 starts,” Owens continued.

There would surely be a learning curve for someone like Imanaga, who relies heavily on his control. However, his ‘pitchability’ — as Owens notes — should translate quite easily.


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