Image credit: Kevin Gausman (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
The Braves, by most accounts, have arrived a year early. They’re battling with the Phillies for the top spot in the National League East, and in the hours before the non-waiver trade deadline made a deal with the Orioles to enhance their starting pitching down the stretch.
They added righthander Kevin Gausman to a rotation that already features Braves stalwart Julio Teheran, as well as Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb, both of whom have had breakout seasons. They also acquired the rights to reliever Darren O’Day, who won’t pitch for Atlanta until next season due to a season-ending hamstring injury suffered earlier in 2018.
Gausman has been inconsistent at best this season, and is coming off a particularly rocky July. He adds to the Braves’ July haul, which also includes landing Adam Duvall from the Reds for a trio of depth pieces and adding relievers Brad Brach and Jonny Venters from the Orioles and Rays, respectively, for international slot money.
The move continues the teardown for the Orioles, who traded Manny Machado (Dodgers), Jonathan Schoop (Brewers) and Zach Britton (Yankees), as well as Brach, Gausman and O’Day before this year’s July 31 deadline.
Kevin Gausman, RHP
The Braves recently recalled lefthander Kolby Allard from Triple-A Gwinnett for a July 31 spot start against the Marlins, and it appears the team is still trying to figure out the back of its rotation—currently filled by Anibal Sanchez and Max Fried—in preparation for the last two months of the season. In Gausman, they add a righthander who has remained remarkably consistent over the last few seasons. He’s allowed nearly identical figures in hits and and home runs per nine innings, but has seen his walks and strikeouts drop this year. He’s also been extremely durable, having taken the ball for a league-best 34 starts last season. More than that, he’s young and controllable, too, with his first shot at free agency not until after the 2020 season.
Darren O’Day, RHP
O’Day is out for the remainder of the season after having surgery on his left hamstring, but he is under contract for $9 million in 2019 and will provide experience to a primarily youthful bullpen come next season.
Brett Cumberland, C
The Braves’ supplemental second-round pick in 2016, Cumberland had long earned a reputation as bat-first catcher and has lived up to that billing so far in pro ball. Scouts laud Cumberland for his ability to control the strike zone, but warn that there are holes in his swing that could pose problems as he reaches the upper levels. He’s an OK defender, with no plus tools or severe minuses either. He recently earned a promotion to Double-A Mississippi and has a future as backup catcher in the big leagues.
Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B
In his first taste of full-season ball, Encarnacion has shown well and could wind up being the wild card of this trade. Scouts who saw him this year with low Class A Rome came away intrigued with the raw power in his bat and his strong arm at third base. Even so, his path to the big leagues in Atlanta was blocked by up-and-coming Austin Riley, so he was an easily expendable part in the Braves’ effort to upgrade themselves as much as possible before the deadline.
Bruce Zimmermann, LHP
The Braves’ fifth-rounder in 2017 out of Mount Olive (N.C.), Zimmermann was one of the best performers in Atlanta’s system this year. He leads the system in wins (nine) and is second in the organization in strikeouts (125) as he departs for his new organization. He throws four pitches, none of which rank as plus, for strikes and heads his arsenal with a low-90s fastball. If everything comes together, he could be a back-end type of starter or a swingman in the big leagues.
Evan Phillips, RHP
The Braves took Phillips out of North Carolina-Wilmington in the 17th round of the 2015 draft and he has made a methodical climb up the ladder ever since. He made his big league debut this year and got roughed up in his first few outings. He’s got a live arm that pumps fastballs consistently in the mid-90s, which he couples with a slider and a changeup in the upper-80s. He’s run into control and command problems at the upper levels that he will have to iron out if he is to carve out a full-time niche in the big leagues.