Please Fredi, stop using your worst relievers in close games

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Let’s rank the Braves’ relievers in order from best to cannon fodder, shall we:

Craig Kimbrel
Jonny Venters
Eric O’Flaherty
Kris Medlen
Cristhian Martinez
Livan Hernandez
Chad Durbin

There’s nothing controversial there, right. One could argue about the order of the last two, but really, no one can possibly be that bored.

Now let’s look at the innings those seven guys have thrown during the Braves’ 0-4 skid to start the season:

Craig Kimbrel – 0
Jonny Venters – 1
Eric O’Flaherty – 1
Kris Medlen – 3
Cristhian Martinez – 2
Livan Hernandez – 3 2/3
Chad Durbin – 2

Isn’t there something wrong with that picture? Every game the Braves have played has been close at some point. They lost the first 1-0, the second 4-2 with Hernandez giving up a run in the seventh, the third 7-5 after a gallant comeback attempt in the seventh and eighth innings.

It was Monday night’s game that manager Fredi Gonzalez employed a particularly atrocious strategy. The top three relievers are all rested and ready to go, yet down 4-3 to the Astros after five, Gonzalez picked Hernandez, who gave up two runs in two innings. Durbin then came in during the eighth and gave up two more runs to finish any hopes of a late comeback.

And that’s just ridiculous. No, the Braves never did score again tonight, so looked at that way, Gonzalez didn’t cost them anything by going with his worst arms. Still, it’d be nice if he started playing to win one of these days.

Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp in five-player trade with Braves

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The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.

Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.

Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.