ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves' flurry of moves Friday at Major League Baseball's trade deadline showed they haven't given up on the pursuit of a fourth straight division championship.
It also highlighted how fortunate they are to be in the National League East, where any team close to .500 is still relevant.
Though the Braves entered Friday with a 51-52 record, they were only four games behind the first-place New York Mets. Emboldened by the standings, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired outfielders Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, plus relief pitcher Richard Rodriguez — notable moves for a team that has yet to have a winning record in 2021.
"There's no doubt we've had our challenges," Anthopoulos said. "The one thing that's fortunate for us is we're playing in the NL East in 2021. We're all in it."
The Mets, second-place Phillies and Braves at least are still in the race. The Washington Nationals and the Miami Marlins — 7 1/2 and 10 1/2 games back, respectively, entering Friday — essentially bowed out, moving veterans for prospects at the trade deadline.
"From our standpoint, when talent leaves the NL East, we're certainly pleased about that," Anthopoulos said.
Duvall, acquired from the Miami Marlins for catcher Alex Jackson, was included in Friday night's lineup to start a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, playing left field and batting fifth. The other newcomers were not expected to arrive in Atlanta in time to play Friday.
The 32-year-old Duvall played for the Braves the past three seasons. He hit .229 and ranks among the top 10 in the National League with 22 home runs and 68 RBIs in 90 games for Miami this season.
The Braves obtained Rosario and cash from the Cleveland Indians for infielder Pablo Sandoval. Rosario, 29, is on the injured list with a strained right oblique but is hitting .254 with seven homers and 46 RBIs this season. He hit 32 homers for the Minnesota Twins in 2019.
The Braves will pay a portion of Rosario's $8 million salary.
Soler was acquired from the Kansas City Royals for minor league right-handed pitcher Kaley Kalich, a 2019 fourth-round draft pick who will be assigned to Class A Quad Cities. Kalich had a 3.26 ERA with five saves in five opportunities for High-A Rome this season.
Soler, 29, was hitting .192 with 13 homers this season. He led the American League with 48 homers in 2019, the only full season he has played in the majors.
Finally, the Braves acquired Rodriguez, a 31-year-old right-hander who had a 2.82 ERA and 14 saves with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said Will Smith, who had 21 saves in 23 opportunities this season entering Friday, will keep the closer's role.
"He's probably one of the top guys in terms of save opportunities and saves," Snitker said.
The Braves traded two right-handers — Bryse Wilson, who is 2-3 with a 4.83 ERA in Atlanta this season, and minor leaguer Ricky DeVito — to Pittsburgh.
Duvall, Rosario and Soler join Joc Pederson, acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 15, in Atlanta's new-look outfield. Snitker said Pederson, who has been the regular in right, could play in center, where Guillermo Heredia was the starter for Friday night's game.
The Braves needed to revamp their outfield to remain in the chase. Atlanta's playoff hopes took a major hit when All-Star right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. was lost to a season-ending knee injury during a July 10 game against the Marlins.
Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who was on the injured list, is facing domestic violence charges after an arrest at his home in May and has not played since. Atlanta rookie Cristian Pache, who opened the season as the starting center fielder, hit only .111 in 22 games. The team released three-time Gold Glove winner Ender Inciarte on Thursday.
The Braves first acquired Duvall at the 2018 trade deadline. He was an All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds in 2016, when he set career highs with 33 homers and 103 RBIs.
Snitker said he spoke with Duvall on Friday.
"He's going to fit right in because he's going to feel like he's one of our players," the manager said.
Anthopoulos hopes the revamped outfield can give the team's offense a boost
"I felt like this was one of the most active trade deadlines that I can recall," Anthopoulos said on a day when the deals seemed to keep coming around the majors right up until the 4 p.m. Eastern stopping point. "We thought we were able to improve the ballclub.
"We haven't gone on a streak really all year. We feel like if the offense can step up an little bit, adding this depth ... hopefully we can get going."