While the Miami Marlins have made an attempt to charge up the NL East standings in recent weeks, the division is really a two-horse race between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. Both teams made trades before Thursday’s deadline, and while neither move was especially attractive or flashy, both teams were smart to address pressing needs. So, whose roster improved more Thursday: Atlanta’s or Washington’s?
The Braves acquired switch-hitting utility man Emilio Bonifacio and left-handed relief pitcher James Russell from the Chicago Cubs for minor league catcher Victor Caratini, Atlanta’s 2013 second-round draft pick (65th overall). Atlanta addressed a couple crucial needs by adding Bonifacio, who can play in center field for B.J. Upton or give Tommy La Stella rest at second base, while also providing speed off of a Braves’ bench that desperately needed help. Bonifacio has made most of his starts in 2014 in center field, but it’s yet to be seen just how the Braves utilize the speedster. He’s slashing .279/.318/.373 this season and will be a great bench upgrade for Atlanta. Regardless of how Bonifacio is utilized in Atlanta, the bottom line is that he improves the team as a whole no matter where he plays.
Atlanta also addressed a major need in the team’s bullpen by adding left-hander Russell. Russell doesn’t boast great numbers this season (3.51 ERA in 33.0 IP), but he has been incredible against right-handed batters. In 58 at-bats against righties, Russell has allowed just six batters to get hits, an astounding .108 average-against. He will bolster an Atlanta bullpen that has already been pretty solid in 2014, but the group undoubtedly needed another solid left-handed arm and will get that in Russell. Per usual, Atlanta didn’t do anything flashy at the trade deadline. The team did, however, address some needs to improve playoff chances going forward.
The Braves’ NL East rivals, the Nationals, also made some noise before Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline. The Nats added Cleveland Indians‘ middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to address the team’s need for infield production. Cabrera is slashing .246/.305/.386 this season and will significantly bolster the Nats’ infield. Anthony Rendon will be moved to third with the addition of Cabrera, who will likely see the majority of his time in Washington at second base. Ryan Zimmerman has manned third for stretches of 2014, but he’s shelved with a hamstring strain and there has been no timetable set for his return. The Nats traded 24-year-old shortstop Zach Walters to land Cabrera, a move that many have dubbed smart for both parties involved. Washington undoubtedly improved its chances at the 2014 NL East crown, but will it be enough?
Atlanta added a utility man with speed and a left-handed reliever who shuts down right-handed batters, while Washington significantly improved its infield.
Both teams improved, but whose move was better?