Frank Wren and the Braves did not try to hide the fact that they wanted a left handed reliever before trade deadline. So, some 50 hours before the deadline, the Braves have the top available left handed reliever on their roster. You could see a deal happening soon, especially after Jose Veras was dealt to Detroit this morning and a Jesse Crain deal seems imminent as well.
So what does Atlanta get in Downs? He became a dominant lefty reliever in Toronto in 2007 after not being able to maintain a spot in the Jays rotation. He struggled in his last outing, taking the loss after giving up 2 runs to Oakland, but hadn't given up a run since May 1st before that. Now, Downs isn't a 7th/8th inning guy, but the Braves have those roles filled. He's a lefty specialist, rarely facing more than a batter or two. This way, Luis Avilan can maintain his role as the 7th inning guy, while Downs can be available to get out a lefty at any point in the 6th/7th/8th inning.
And with so many of the potential playoff teams featuring solid lefties, Downs can be used late in games to face these guys. The most notable team is Cincinnati, as the trio of Choo/Bruce/Votto has been tough on the Braves this season. The Dodgers feature Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier, the Cards have Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay, and the Pirates most dangerous hitter is lefty Pedro Alvarez.
What did Atlanta have to give up for a guy that will likely not top 25 innings pitched this regular season as a Brave? Cory Rasmus, a supplemental 1st round pick from 2006 out of Russell County High School in Alabama. He made his MLB debut this year for the Braves and has been dominant in Gwinnett as a reliever. The 25 year old is just about ready to be a big league reliever and can really run it up with his mid-90's fastball.
A good prospect, but that's necessary when acquiring a player the caliber of Scott Downs. Frank Wren was able to trade from a strength and improve that same strength at the same time.
This was a move that improved the Braves in the best way as no available starting pitcher was a good fit when it came to contract status. I see this team heading into August with excellent starting pitching, beginning with Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. Brandon Beachy returns tonight and Kris Medlen was sharp in his last outing.
Now, the bullpen is even better than before, when they were the best in the majors. And acquiring a reliever from the Angels worked last time with Jordan Walden, why not pluck another from them?