The Atlanta Braves have slipped of late, dropping their last four games and falling further away from contention in the NL East. As difficult as things have looked recently, the road ahead could look a lot more bleak now that the Braves are down a solid arm in the bullpen.
Atlanta closer Jason Grilli was lost for the season on Saturday, when he crumbled to the field with a ruptured Achilles. The 38-year old hurler was enjoying a solid 2015 season with 24 saves, and was a major bright spot for a Braves defense that was otherwise extremely shaky. A unit that already had given up 374 runs on the year could now struggle immensely to close games, and will need to find a suitable replacement for Grilli. That not only renders them short on reliable arms, but naturally negatively impacts their overall pitching depth, as well.
It’s still possible the Braves could recover from the tough blow, as Jim Johnson is slated to take over as the team’s new closer. Johnson has recorded five saves on the year and hasn’t allowed a single run since June 8th. With that solid run, it’s somewhat arguable the Braves could be in a better spot with Johnson as their new main closer. Regardless, a weak Braves defense takes a hit to their depth and may need to add an arm off the street or via trade to bolster their depth.
Atlanta probably wasn’t a great pick to make a run at first place in the AL East, but still are just six games back behind the Washington Nationals. If they can find a way to tighten things up on the defensive end and provide a spark in their lethargic offense, they could always turn things around and be a real threat. For now, though, Atlanta remains a weak bet to storm the top of the division and isn’t likely to make a playoff run, either.