When the Atlanta Braves entered into the All-Star break, uncertainty was afoot in Truist Park. Ronald Acuna Jr., the franchise’s star and a top ten player in the sport, suffered a freak season-ending injury. Marcell Ozuna, another of their big bat outfielders, was facing criminal charges for domestic abuse. On top of it all, they got off to a tepid start in a weak NL East division.

Most teams in their position would look at their surroundings and decide to stand pat come the trade deadline. Some teams might’ve seen such a start as an opportunity to sell short-term pieces and punt. The Braves picked the third and honestly best option: go for it. Nobody has grabbed the division by the reigns, so why not make some moves and climb back up the ladder?

Obviously, their plan worked. One Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, and Adam Duvall later, they’re champions of baseball. These aren’t huge splashes but ones that clearly made Atlanta better in the short term. It cost them little and it threw them right back in the fray. Other teams need to start taking notes.

The Atlanta Braves Made Smart, Not Sexy Moves

Jorge Soler wins World Series MVP for the Atlanta Braves.

Coming into this offseason, there’s been plenty of discourse already about tanking and its effect on the sport. Players are actively looking to combat such anticompetitiveness in the CBA discussions and super-agent Scott Boras publicly blasted teams for cheaping out. Sadly, it takes some mental gymnastics to even say half of the league is willing to give a damn. It’s this culture of giving up before the starting gun that makes the Braves World Series win all the more important.

Teams often seem to think of the trade deadline as an opportunity to make massive, landscape-changing moves. At the very least, they see trades as costly. Take the Dodgers for example. Just last year, they picked up superstars Trea Turner and Max Scherzer in a deal with Washington. Prior to that, they traded for Manny Machado back in 2018. Those moves require substantial prospect capital to change hands, something that, for a team on the fringes, is a bit scary. Especially for a rental.

The Braves, however, demonstrated how to improve at the margins. None of their outfield acquisitions cost them much more than minor prospects. Rosario, the NLCS MVP, only cost them Pablo Sandoval AND they got cash considerations back too! Their WORLD SERIES MVP cost them a guy who, at best, projects to be a solid late-inning reliever. Not all of their trades hit (see Richard Rodriguez), but these marginal changes were clear improvements on their roster while giving up little. Moreover, they took advantage of a weak division to wrest control of their destiny. It’s a direct counterargument to all the teams that find trying to be not worth the effort or too expensive.

Sometimes, Trying is Enough to Win it All

Atlanta Braves on World Series parade bus.

It’s a cliche, but sometimes you just need to get into the tournament to win it all. More often than not, a team like the Braves will lose when faced with a mighty team like the Dodgers. It’s all about giving yourself the chance to win and the Braves laid out the blueprint for that.

Baseball (and all sports really) is better when more teams give it their all. Given the value of prospects and salary considerations, every team going out for big names all the time isn’t realistic. Yet, so many teams could’ve pulled off the trades the Braves did. The Phillies could’ve had Rosario playing in center instead of opting for a dumpster fire. The Mariners could’ve given at-bats to Soler or Duvall instead of Jake Fraley who posted a brutal 56 OPS+ in the second half. The fact is, your team could’ve made the moves the Braves made.

For those teams way out of contention, obviously, it doesn’t make sense, but for any teams on the fringes, it’s a missed opportunity. It’s not just the deadline that should be treated like this either. Why not pick up those marginal improvements in the offseason? If there’s a chance to win the division, it’s a foolish move to sit on your hands when there are cheap, easy opportunities to improve. That next marginal move could be your eventual World Series MVP.

Thank you for reading! Check out Belly Up’s MLB content for more baseball coverage. If you want to keep up with me follow me on Twitter.

About Author

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a recent graduate from Eureka College and contributor to FanSided's Cubbies Crib. He's a diehard Chicago Cubs fan and roots for the Windy City in everything except football where he defects to Green Bay.

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