With relief pitching being a huge priority at the Major League Baseball trade deadline, the Atlanta Braves front office made several moves to strengthen their bullpen, acquiring Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and Mark Melancon. They could’ve used another frontline starting pitcher, but they still have a solid core, especially considering how they added three bullpen arms who can eat up innings, most notably Melancon and Martin.
Luke Jackson has stepped into the closer role this year, but has struggled, capitalizing on just 17 of 24 save opportunities. A reliable ninth-inning arm became a necessity, and they got just that in Greene. Although he blew his first save with the Braves in an eventual 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night, Greene has been absolutely stellar this year with a 1.38 ERA and 22 saves in 26 opportunities.
Atlanta’s rotation has been decent, but not great this season, sporting a 4.44 ERA. Their top three of Mike Soroka, Dallas Keuchel, and Julio Teheran have all pitched well, but the backend of their rotation, which has consisted of Kevin Gausman, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz, has been subpar. One common trend of their rotation is that no one really pitches deep into games.
That’s exactly why bringing in these three quality relievers was so important for the Braves, especially with Melancon and Martin — who can be a bridge between the starters and relievers to get the ball to Greene in the ninth inning.
A Closer Look at the New Arms
Atlanta acquired the 6-foot-8, hard-throwing Martin from the Texas Rangers, who is sporting a 3.00 ERA in 39 innings this season. The right-hander has also struck out 44 hitters in the process, while giving up just four walks. Martin is a strike-throwing machine, relying mostly on his four seamer and sinker that both sit in the mid-to-high 90s. He has been mostly a one-inning guy this season, so he should be a great set-up man for the Braves moving forward.
Melancon was 4-2 with a 3.42 ERA before coming over to Atlanta from the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. The veteran righty has struck out 44 hitters in 47 innings this season, mostly serving as the eighth-inning guy. Melancon was once a dominant closer with the Pittsburgh Pirates a few years back and, if need be, can definitely jump into a closing role for the Braves. He doesn’t have the same mid 90s cutter he once had, but the 34-year old is still effective when he takes the mound. Considering how dominant Melancon and Martin have been this season, I’d imagine they will both share innings in a set-up role if they continue to throw the ball efficiently.
Greene, who was acquired from the Detroit Tigers for a pitching prospect, was the Braves’ biggest pickup. The All-Star closer has been lights out all year, posting a 1.38 ERA with 43 strikeouts in just 39 innings. He doesn’t throw overly hard, but his sinker and cutter have filthy movement, and he really hits his spots well. Pair those two offerings with a wipe-out slider, and Greene provides Atlanta with an elite closer.
These three arms give the Braves a lot more options in their bullpen. Their staff has a 4.82 ERA since the All-Star break, and it’s clear that it was a necessity to add more depth.
Consistency From Their Pitching Staff Will be Key
The Braves offense is relatively solid and has been consistent for most of the season. They have so many key pieces in their lineup, from Josh Donaldson, to Ronald Acuna Jr. to Adam Duvall, who has been smashing the ball, as of late. It looks like a foregone conclusion that Atlanta will win the National League East for the second straight season, but if they seriously want to contend when the postseason arrives, they need more consistent outings from their pitching staff.
I seriously believe this team has what it takes to make a World Series run, but to get past a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who currently have the best pitching staff in baseball, Atlanta will have to be firing on all cylinders.
Adding these three veteran relievers will, without a doubt, help the Braves go on a deep run in October.