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National League

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Signed 1B-L James Loney to a minor-league contract. [5/18]

Acquired 1B-L Matt Adams from St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for 3B-R Juan Yepez. [5/20]

Acquired RHP Enrique Burgos from Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations. [5/20]

When word came down that Freddie Freeman would miss substantial time with a broken wrist, things went from dark to midnight for the Braves. The team had made a valiant effort to remain surface-level competitive without badly damaging their long-term rebuilding plans, adding a laundry list of moderately-priced veterans to shore up a roster that was, to be honest, pretty gross.

But without Freeman—the solid spine of an otherwise flaccid lineup—the Braves are likely to flop around and flail, without even enough structure to put up much of a fight. A temporary acquisition of James Loney, who now holds a reputation as a professional understudy and ground-into-double-play machine with limited power and defense, would have been simply sad, but this trade for Matt Adams might give just a bit of a boost and just a touch of hope.

Upon acquiring Adams, the Braves granted Loney his release. And for the record, that’s the second formerly-good National League first baseman the team cut ties with without ever cracking the bigs. (Ryan Howard, we definitely knew ye.) But Adams is a cut above the 2017 versions of Loney and Howard, even though he hasn’t quite progressed into a super-slugging everyday first baseman.

Oh sure, he can slug a bit, but the challenge is both staying healthy and staying away from bad pitches. He swings at a lot of pitches outside the zone (almost 40 percent for his career), and his contact rate on all pitches just isn’t great. He’s very tough on right-handed pitchers, and might best be used in a platoon role, though his 2016 splits were much more equitable against both types of hurler.

While general manager John Coppollela was out shopping, he also picked up the equivalent of an Us Magazine at the register along with his side of beef: Burgos. A reliever of mild consequence for two seasons in Arizona, Burgos has been what we think most middle relievers are: tons of strikeouts, but a walk rate so severe that would make Carlos Marmol blush.

This season, toiling with the Reno Aces, Burgos’ control slipped even further afield, and he’s walked 11 batters in 11 appearances. If the Atlanta player development crew can help tweak his command, then he could be something. It is more likely that he’s just a scratch-off ticket that won’t pay off, a depth arm for the Gwinnett-to-Atlanta ride.

That’s not Adams—he’s an asset that can be worthwhile even after Freeman comes back as a bat off the bench or a trade chip until he hits free agency in 2019. The downgrade from Freeman to replacement level is steep as can be, but the downgrade to Adams is just a bit more palatable. No one can replace Freeman, but Adams is average with a chance to replicate at least a little of the Braves’ best player’s thunder. That’s quite a step up from the abridged Loney era, and a sight better than Adonis Garcia spending time at first. —Bryan Grosnick

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Placed RHP Jered Weaver on the 10-day disabled list. [5/20]

Recalled RHP Dinelson Lamet from Triple-A El Paso. [5/25]

With the Jered Weaver Experiment reaching a crescendo after a third start in four turns in which the ”soft-tossing” right-hander allowed at least seven runs, the Padres shuffled him off the major-league coil for an indeterminate timetable, and decided to call on the most big league-ready of their cache of 4,832,612 pitching prospects to take his rotation spot.

Lamet boasts one of the odder origin stories for an international prospect making his debut on the biggest stage. Already a late bloomer by Dominican standards when he popped up on the Phillies’ radar in 2012 as a 19-year-old, visa issues further delayed the ink on his first professional contract. San Diego ultimately swooped in and locked him down for $100,000 in a largely unheralded signing at the tail end of the next signing period, nearly two years later.

The big right-hander has made up for lost time in the three years since, rising at a rapid if not quite meteoric rate through San Diego’s system. When I caught him on a frigid April evening last spring the fastball already looked big league-ready. It’s a bowling ball of a pitch in the mid-90s, with heavy boring action to run into the kitchen of right-handed hitters and stay off the barrels of lefties. While it lacks “sink” of the manipulated kind, the pitch comes in at a steep angle out of a high three-quarter slot.

He pairs it with a hard slider in the high 80s that, coming as it does from his elevated release, takes on an almost split-like appearance at times, with late vertical bite to dive below the zone. He’ll get on the side of it and sweep it as well, though that variant takes a rounder, softer path. He has attempted to incorporate a changeup along the way as well, though it remains by account a development pitch with squinted eyes required to see future fringe-average utility.

That last point is the punchline for takeaway, as the question remains wide open regarding just how effective we can expect Lamet to be against the best left-handed hitters in the world. He has continued to struggle mightily against fairer-handed opponents at Triple A this season, and ultimately his lot will probably end up being one of situational right-on-right relief, where his devastating fastball-slider combination could prove highly valuable in a setup role. For now, though, a bad Padres team will have the luxury of confirming scouting suspicion firsthand, all while killing some time and innings and procuring valuable experience for the youngster in a starting role. —Wilson Karaman

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Acquired 3B-R Juan Yepez from Atlanta Braves in exchange for 1B-L Matt Adams. [5/20]

The Braves scooped up Yepez at the start of the 2014 international signing period, and after he acquitted himself reasonably well in a 2015 stateside debut, bumped him up to an extremely aggressive full-season assignment to the Sally League out of extended spring training last year. Unfortunately he lasted all of 11 games before suffering a nasty little oblique strain that cost him nearly all of the next three months, effectively robbing him of the developmental year. St. Louis liked what they saw out of him this year, however, at least enough to take a flier on him on the back end of a salary dump.

He’s got some strength and maturity as a young hitter, with an aggressive approach, albeit one that tends to remain the good kind of in-zone aggressiveness. There’s some bat speed here, and while his is a longer stroke that’ll result in its share of empty hacks, he’s got above-average raw power that could very well settle into plus range as his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame matures. He’s fringy with the glove at third base already, though decent mobility for his size and a strong arm at least leaves the door theoretically cracked for him to stay on the left side. It’s not a profile that pans out on the regular, but there’s a non-zero chance he develops into something a bit more than your typical Quad-A corner bat. —Wilson Karaman