Last night, it was the Toronto Blue Jays, and today it’s the Atlanta Braves.
You can add the Braves to the group of teams that pretty clearly want to trade for Ian Happ, and maybe in another one of those combo deals:
So, left field is a priority. And there are several attractive options on the trade market, led by the Cubs’ Ian Happ, a switch hitter and All-Star this season who’s having one of his best years in terms of contact and walk rates, batting .282 with 25 doubles, nine home runs, 44 RBIs and a .367 OBP and .812 OPS.
Happ, who had 25 homers in 2021, is a solid if unspectacular defender. A big plus from the Braves’ view is he’s under contractual control through 2023, making a modest $6.9 million this season and likely to command about $10 million in his final year of arbitration before free agency.
The Cubs are expected to move a lot of players before the deadline, including closer David Robertson and relievers Mychal Givens and former Brave Chris Martin, who will all be free agents after the season. While the oft-injured Martin isn’t likely to draw interest from the Braves, Givens (2.72 ERA in 39 appearances) and especially Robertson would be good fits for Atlanta.
As O’Brien goes on to note, a combination deal for Happ and Robertson would be awfully pricey. I’m not sure the Braves are a good fit in that regard.
O’Brien suggests pitching prospect Kyle Muller as the centerpiece, with some others included. The 24-year-old lefty has dominated at Triple-A, but hasn’t quite gotten over the hump at the big league level. He’s 6’7″ and battles some control troubles, but he’s got a four-pitch mix and there is big league starter upside there. His prospect standing depends on who you ask – MLB Pipeline does indeed have him the top prospect in the Braves’ system right now, but he’s not a top 100 guy. And FanGraphs projects him, ultimately, as a reliever. Oh, and he’s also currently recovering from a broken bone in his non-pitching hand.
Not exactly the kind of expected centerpiece in a trade for two of the most valuable chips on the market this year – especially given the apparent league-wide interest in Happ.
None of this is to say there’s not a trade there to be had with the Braves, but, after years of aggressively buying and promoting, it’s not a great farm system right now. The Cubs would have to have a particular affection for a large volume of less-heralded prospects in the Braves’ system for this to make sense (the Braves are known for having quality amateur starting pitching prospects, though, so it’s not like I’d rule out the team entirely).
Also of note: the New York Mets are known to have a strong interest in David Robertson, so it’s always nice to play division rivals off of each other.