Thursday, July 15, 2010

Second Half: Where To Go From Here?

Now that the Braves have seemingly addressed an inefficiency, at least offensively, at the shortstop position with the trade for Alex Gonzalez, will there be any more moves by the Braves before the trade deadline? For at the past couple months there have been rumors that the team might be interested in a leftfielder or centerfielder, particularly one with some pop. Things might depend on how well Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth perform following their return from the DL. If a move is needed, a number of possible candidates are out there and while the Gonzalez acquisition has somewhat lessened the need for a power bat, the Braves have plenty enough minor league pitching depth should a potential deal make sense. Good players require good players in return, but I think the Braves should be hesitant to include Freddie Freeman, Mike Minor or Julio Teheran in any package. Freeman looks to be the first baseman of the future, Minor is the only near-ready Braves true lefty starter and Teheran might be the best pitching prospect in the game. Frank Wren was burned in the Mark Teixeira to Texas deal, so we can probably expect him to be a bit more careful this time.

The most recent rumors have centered around Cody Ross from the Marlins. There was similar talk about Ross this time last year as he’s relatively young (29) and has shown some power, hitting 22 and 24 home runs in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The Marlins outfielder shouldn’t require too much of a return since he’s a free agent after the season and has been having a bit of a down least in terms of the power that the Braves are looking for (7 HRs, .748 OPS). Ross probably wouldn’t be much of an improvement over the outfield options Atlanta already has.

One of the more exciting trade possibilities would have to be Matt Kemp. There might have been a small chance for this a couple weeks ago when Joe Torre benched the young star for a few games following an argument with the Dodgers bench coach, but the Dodgers are in the playoff hunt and talk has subsided since he cleared the air with Torre. Kemp would require quite the haul from the Braves, likely including at least one of the Minor, Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado quartet. Kemp’s also set to make $6.95m in 2011, so a subsequent outfield move would likely have to be made if Kemp were acquired.

Some other options, including Toronto’s Jose Bautista, Milwaukee’s Corey Hart and Washington’s Josh Willingham, are having at or near career years and would probably require the Braves to ‘buy high.’ Tampa Bay’s BJ Upton and Arizona’s Chris Young are budding superstars who would cost a significant group of prospects and/or current major leaguers. Kansas City’s David DeJesus and Jose Guillen round out the list of known trade possibilities.

While a high profile trade might not be necessary at this point, my money would have to be on another move being made. The team hasn’t sniffed the playoffs since 2005, Bobby Cox and Billy Wagner have announced their upcoming retirement after the end of this season and Braves icon Chipper Jones seems close to joining them. I see Frank Wren making the moves necessary for a serious run at the World Series to send them out as winners.

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