The Atlanta Braves finished off their first series of the second half of the season on Sunday with disappointing results, as the team lost 3-1 to the White Sox on Sunday, failing to take two out of three from the team stationed in last in the AL Central.
Although the results of one series—that also saw B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward stay out of the lineup—are hardly enough to start panicking, it may have been enough to cause general manager Frank Wren to start considering making a trade prior to the MLB deadline, which is Wednesday, July 31st.
While the offense has been the most questionable piece of this year’s puzzle, I am fairly certain that we will not see any of the Braves’ big bats get moved or replaced due to some acquisition that is made in the next ten days. As off as certain parts of the lineup may seem from time to time, there’s just no justification to make a move for a new A) shortstop due to Andrelton Simmons’ outstanding play in the field B) center field due solely to B.J. Upton’s $75 million deal or C) second base due to Dan Uggla’s propensity to hit the ball out of the park (despite a .199 batting average he leads the team with 19 HRs).
Since the offense is out of the question, the focus of this article will instead be on the pitching staff, both in regards to the bullpen and, due to some concerns as of late, the starting rotation. It is clear that Atlanta’s focus in making a deal at this point has to be the bullpen, which has been severely hurt by the season-ending injuries to Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters. Although the team has had several players step up during their absences (namely Luis Avilan and David Carpenter), the bullpen as a whole has not necessarily played well enough to put a trade out of the question.
So, who are some relievers the team may consider? Here’s a few players that I could very well see Frank Wren make a trade for this year:
Jesse Crain, Chicago White Sox: The thirty-one year old has been outstanding playing for a struggling White Sox squad, posting an impressive 0.74 ERA with two wins and 46 strikeouts so far this year. Crain’s contract situation is ideal for the White Sox to move him, as his status of being in the last year of a $13 million deal means he should be highly targeted by a squad focused on a deep run in October; what’s not ideal, however, is his current status on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder. Chicago manager Robin Ventura makes it sound like Crain is still a few days away from returning from the DL, which makes his situation in regards to being moved prior to the deadline completely up in the air.
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers: Axford’s numbers with Milwaukee this season have not been exactly breath-taking (3.63 ERA with 3 wins and 41 strikeouts), but he is capable of coming to the Braves and becoming a go-to setup man to help keep the game under control before Craig Kimbrel comes out for the 9th inning. The Brewers are currently 18.5 games out of first in the Central, so my guess is if Atlanta doesn’t make a run at Axford, somebody else will.
Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs: Gregg may be a tough sell for Chicago due to his career 4.29 ERA, but he has been fairly productive for the Cubbies this season, holding onto 18 saves and 35 strikeouts with 34.1 innings under his belt. Gregg has the experience (now in his eleventh season) and the know-how to help bolster a team’s bullpen, which is exactly what the Braves need at this juncture in the season.
As if concerns with the bullpen were not enough for Atlanta, the team has had several issues with their some of their starters lately, mainly with Paul Maholm, whose abysmal 4-7 record and 6.03 ERA in games not played at Turner Field has the makings of the Mississippi native to be moved out of the rotation, whether that means a role pitching out of the pen, a demotion, or a move to another team. Because Maholm (and Tim Hudson, for that matter) has left the starting rotation on less-than-solid ground, Atlanta may consider trading for another arm despite Brandon Beachy returning to the team in the upcoming week or two. The market may not be very strong for starters this summer, but here are a few Atlanta may very well make a move for:
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers: Gallardo has been with Milwaukee since the team took him in the second round of the 2004 draft, but it may be time for the Brewers, who look like they are in the middle of a long rebuilding process, to move Gallardo while he is still highly desired and could bring the team a few prospects with considerable potential. Gallardo’s numbers this season have not been quite as good as fans are used to seeing (8-8 with 96 K’s and a 4.58 ERA), but his tendency to be a quality starter who will put up a ton of strikeouts (recorded at least 200 strikeouts every season from 2009 to 2012) may be enough to convince teams that he’s worth making a deal for.
Bud Norris, Houston Astros: The Astros are for all intents and purposes a minor league squad for the rest of Major League Baseball, and Norris is arguably their most valuable piece. A twenty-eight year old from Greenbrae, California, Norris has pitched fairly well for the worst team in baseball, holding a 6-9 record with 83 strikeouts compared to 40 walks and a 3.91 ERA. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is reporting that there is “big activity” concerning Norris from the Braves as well as the Toronto Blue Jays, so it looks like at this point we should definitely keep our eyes on Norris.
Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs: With Garza’s trade to the Texas Rangers apparently now dead, it’s very possible that Atlanta takes a look at the former stud for the Rays. Garza’s time with the Cubs has not lived up to expectations, but he has posted respectable stats in just 11 starts this year, posting a 6-1 mark with 62 strikeouts and a 3.17 ERA. It’s not clear if Garza is capable of being the same pitcher that posted 197 strikeouts just two seasons ago; include that and an injury report that is not by any means favorable, and the result is the Braves needing to buy low if they buy at all.
It’s hard to pick the mind of Frank Wren from the outside looking in, but if I had to make an educated guess, I would say that the team does indeed makes a deal for a reliever, but ultimately decides to stick with the current rotation knowing fully well that Beachy will soon to be back with the team.
Should the Braves make a trade for another starting pitcher? Who should they target? Leave a comment and share your opinion