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Braves acquire infielder Nicky Lopez from Royals

Atlanta doesn’t have very many needs ahead of this year’s trade deadline, but they continue to tinker on the margins.

Nicky Lopez of the Kansas City Royals hits an RBI single off Aaron Civale of the Cleveland Guardians during the fifth inning at Progressive Field on July 25, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

The MLB-leading Atlanta Braves don’t have a ton of needs ahead of this year’s trade deadline, but they continue to upgrade at the margins. After acquiring reliever Pierce Johnson earlier this week, Atlanta has now reached a deal with the Kansas City Royals for 28-year-old infielder Nicky Lopez. Reliever Taylor Hearn, who the team purchased from the Texas Rangers on July 24, will head to K.C.

Lopez isn’t much to write home about at the plate; with a career .628 OPS, he’s slashing .210/.322/.280 so far this season with no homers and four steals. But the Braves are shopping for October, not September, and he’s the sort of player contenders really like to have around come postseason time. The lefty is an excellent baserunner (he’s 39-for-45 in stolen-base attempts over the last three seasons) who can credibly play just about everywhere on the diamond aside from catcher and center field, ideal as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement in late-game situations.

Already 28 years old and about to hit arbitration, Lopez didn’t have a ton of value to a Royals team still deep in its now years-long rebuild. The lefty Hearn has struggled mightily in the bullpen this season for both the Rangers and Braves, with a 14.73 ERA.