Braves could trade young ace-in-the-making despite Spencer Strider injury

The Atlanta Braves are 11-5, two games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies (10-8) in the NL East. Atlanta’s early success has come despite a rash of concerning injuries, most notably in the bullpen. Spencer Strider, who finished fourth in Cy Young voting last season, is out for the remainder of the 2024 campaign after undergoing UCL surgery on his right elbow.

It was a heartbreaking blow for the Braves, who got nine innings out of their ace before he was shelved. Atlanta has enough depth to cover for Strider in the meantime, with Max Fried, Charlie Morton, and Chris Sale all capable of pitching in high-pressure moments. But, even with the early success of Darius Vines and Reynaldo Lopez, the Braves’ pitching depth feels precariously thin for a true contender.

Atlanta continues to develop quality options in their farm system. The Braves aren’t loaded with high-ranking prospects, but several promising arms populate Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi. Heck, Bryce Elder made the All-Star Game last season, and we’ve seen promising flashes from A.J. Smith-Shawver at the big-league level.

Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep are the Braves’ only top-100 prospects at MLB Pipeline, but neither has impressed much early in the minor league season. So, despite the wealth of upcoming pitchers at Atlanta’s disposal, there’s still motivation to trade for a more establshed top-line starter before the playoffs. The Braves are in position to push all their chips in with the current roster.

ESPN’s David Schoenfield believes Atlanta could trade a pitcher to get a pitcher, citing High-A Rome Braves ace Owen Murphy as a potential deadline mover.

“The Spencer Strider injury points to one potential trade direction: starting pitching. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranked the Braves’ farm system just 28th entering the season, however, so any deal for a decent starter would likely be a 3-for-1 type of transaction… [Owen] Murphy was the No. 20 pick in 2022 and will likely have to improve his velocity to become an impact starter, but he came out of the gate with 6⅔ scoreless innings in High-A and was an athletic two-way player in high school.”

Braves could trade Owen Murphy to boost MLB pitching staff short term

Owen Murphy is off to an excellent start for High-A Rome. He is 1-1 through two starts with a 0.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 12.0 innings pitched, with 16 strikeouts. It’s hard to perform much better. The 2022 first-round pick has a chance to rise through the Braves’ farm system quickly. At 20 years old, he still has a ton of time to improve velocity and elevate his stuff.

Atlanta is in a position to make shortsighted moves. Murphy could blossom into an excellent MLB starter down the line, but he’s at least two or three years away from even sniffing the majors. The Braves need to paper over the Strider absence right now, lest their bullpen sit one more injury away from true catastrophe.

There are plenty of appealing and financially feasible options around the league. Alex Anthopoulos is notoriously stingy when it comes to trading for and extending pitchers, but if Atlanta can find a reasonably affordable arm with postseason merit, it’s worth the risk. The Braves are going to miss Strider no matter what, but the right trade can decrease the sting of his loss significantly.

If it costs Murphy, well… that’s the price of fielding a winner in the MLB.

This article was originally published on fansided.com as Braves could trade young ace-in-the-making despite Spencer Strider injury.

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