Not long after Atlanta got torched by the Dodgers 8-2 on Thursday night, Alex Anthopoulos decided to make his first move of the trade deadline season. The Braves official Twitter account just sent this:
The Atlanta #Braves today acquired LHP Jonny Venters from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for an international signing slot.
Venters, 33, went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA (6 ER/14.0 IP) in 22 games, one start, for Tampa Bay this season.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 27, 2018
Jonny Venters is coming back home. I like to think Anthopoulos watched Sam Freeman do Sam Freeman things again tonight and finally said “nope.”
There’s a few angles to this one. First and foremost, Venters is a much needed upgrade to bullpen taking on serious water. In 14 innings with Tampa, Venters has posted a perfectly respectable 3.86 ERA with an accompanying 3.80 FIP. Those are fine numbers but my favorite thing about Jonny, the thing I’ve always loved about Jonny, is the batted balls against him live on the ground. He owns a 68% ground ball rate for his career and so far in 2018, that number is 70%. Tonight not withstanding, Atlanta’s infield defense is a strength of their team and Venters should benefit from it. He doesn’t miss the same number of bats as he used to and his average fastball velocity has gone from 95 to 93, but getting the ball on the ground makes up for a lot.
The Braves’ bullpen has been leaking oil for a couple months now, and it’s always been assumed, that if they did anything, they would address that. We don’t know the corresponding move yet but Sam Freeman may have thrown his last pitch for Atlanta. We’ll see.
Another angle to this is simply the story itself. Venters has undergone 3 1/2 Tommy John surgeries since the last time he pitched for Atlanta. Three and a half. The amount of time, effort, blood, and tears he’s put into being a big league pitcher again is literally a movie in waiting, and now, here he is, back where he started. It’s an incredible story.
As for what Atlanta gave up, they are sending 250K in international slot money to the Rays to complete the deal. It’s long been rumored that Atlanta would use their slot money in trades rather than signing players and that’s exactly what’s happened. And probably not for the last time.
Venters isn’t the elite reliever Atlanta fans may remember from 6 years ago, and hopefully, no one expects him to be. But he is a quality, veteran bullpen piece having a solid year and Atlanta needs that more than ever. They needed the upgrade and got it. And maybe not the last one. The fact that it’s awesome story is just a bonus.