Maybe the Braves should do what the Blue Jays just did

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

-Clint Manry

Almost exactly a month before the 2021 trade deadline, the Blue Jays and Marlins initiated a rather insignificant trade yesterday, although it was a type perhaps the Braves should consider. 

Toronto gets: Adam Cimber (RHP), Corey Dickerson (OF), cash

Miami gets: Joe Panik (INF), Andrew McInvale (RHP)

Like I said, nothing featured here is necessarily earth shattering as the only player part of this deal that’s both healthy AND performing well in the majors this season is Cimber, and other than his unique delivery on the mound, he’s not exactly your traditional headliner. 

However, though they are in a much better position contention-wise at the moment, the Blue Jays’ purpose in this deal lines up pretty well with that of the Braves in a potential 2021 trade. Like Atlanta, Toronto is in the market for outfield help, primarily due to George Springer’s unavailability as he’s dealt with a quad injury this year. And also similar to the Braves (though, again, not nearly as bad), the Blue Jays bullpen has at times caused some problems. 

So to address those two needs, Toronto acquired both Dickerson and Cimber. 

Now admittedly, while Dickerson has had himself a nice nine-year MLB career as an outfielder with a solid bat, it is a bit of a questionable move by the Blue Jays to have traded for a player currently on the injured list and in a walking boot. The 32-year-old Dickerson was placed on the IL back on June 15 for a “foot contusion”, and according to the initial MRI he could very well miss the rest of the regular season. The Marlins are obviously unloading an inactive player in moving Dickerson, which is great for them. But I’m not really sure what the attraction is here for Toronto. But the point still stands: the Jays needed an outfielder, even if it’s a conservative improvement, and they traded for one. And who knows… maybe Dickerson returns in time to make a contribution this season.

Along with Dickerson, as alluded to above, Cimber isn’t a very flashy reliever with gaudy strikeout numbers. In fact, he is the exact opposite, currently sporting a K rate of 6.5 strikeouts per nine in 34 ⅓ innings so far this season. But the value in Cimber, other than of course his funky, side-arm delivery and his incredible pick-off move, is that he keeps his walks down and very rarely allows the home run. For his career, Cimber has walked just 2.58 batters per nine, and his homer-rate is at 0.63 HR/9, both above-average marks. What’s also great about the 30-year-old Cimber is the fact that 2021 is his first season of arbitration and he won’t be a free agent until 2024, so the cost is extremely affordable.

But perhaps what’s most exciting about this deal, at least in the context of this being a type of deal the Braves could potentially execute in the coming weeks, is how little the Blue Jays gave up. 

Joe Panik had a few strong seasons while with the Giants from 2015-17, essentially as a 2.5-WAR player capable of a 115-120 wRC+ at the plate while providing above-average defense up the middle. Well, now at 30, he’s not that guy anymore. In 2021, Panik’s glove is still average at second… but that’s about it. With what little power  he did have with the bat, nearly all of it is gone as well. And as of Wednesday he’s sporting a 75 wRC+ in only 42 games this season as his role with Toronto has dwindled drastically. Surely the Braves have a few Panik-like players to choose from that should garner a similar package? That would be a… YES.

And then there’s McInvale, the young pitcher who was drafted way back in the 37th round in 2019. The 24-year-old isn’t a prospect in the Blue Jays system, and up until this season in Double-A he had mostly struggled during his time in the minors. Although he does rack up strikeouts and occasionally reaches the upper-90s MPH with his fastball. McInvale could be something interesting down the road, but it’s already pretty evident his role is most likely in the bullpen, given he has all of two starts as a pro pitcher… and those came in rookie ball two seasons ago. The Braves and its surplus of pitchers-probably-soon-to-be-MLB-relievers is practically what they are known for at this point (albeit a little unfairly), so surely they could spare one for a trade like this. 

The point is, the Braves need to do something to address its weaknesses if they have any hope of making the postseason in 2021. We know this and have known this for quite some time now, hence the almost daily articles and Twitter threads regarding moves we all think the team should make. Although the unfortunate truth is that very rarely does Atlanta pull off the types of deals we hope for. In fact, it essentially never happens, no matter how much sense they make or how much they would improve the club. The Trevor Story and Kris Bryant trades?… yeah, those probably aren’t going to happen. 

Although I have absolute faith GM Alex Anthopoulos is going to do something to help the Braves at the deadline. We may not think it’s enough (and we may be right), but historically he has at least tried. And if a big blockbuster deal isn’t in the cards, hopefully Anthopoulos can at least pull off something similar to the Blue Jays-Marlins deal from Tuesday. It wasn’t anything spectacular, and in the end, it may not even really help Toronto. But at the bare minimum, the deal addresses some needs for the Blue Jays, while costing very little. And at the end of the day, that’s all we can expect the Braves to do as well. 

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