Braves Trade Scenarios: 10 Moves Atlanta Must Make Before All-Star Break
With the Braves looking very solid since the addition of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, there are only a few holes left to fill. Obviously there isn't a place to put a big-time hitter, but a solid hitter that can play third base or left field and fill in off the bench would be nice, especially with Chipper Jones needing extra rest.
That isn't the only hole the Braves have, as they can certainly firm up the back end of their rotation and adding another reliever to the bullpen could solidify that unit as well.
This article takes a look at 10 moves that the Braves should make before the All-Star break to help keep them in the hunt for the NL East. Eight of the moves are trades, but the other two are different types of moves that would help the team as well.
Trade for Carlos Quentin
Without a regular spot in the lineup the Braves aren't likely to chase a big-time bat. However, that doesn't mean they will rule out trading for a solid hitter with some pop. That's why Carlos Quentin may be a good fit for the Braves.
The Padres are Quentin's current employer, and are obviously not going anywhere this season. Quentin is a free agent at the end of the year and due for a raise. The Padres may not be willing to pay Quentin what he is looking for on the open market, and have talented prospect Rymer Liriano hitting well in High-A this year. Trading Quentin would be a smart move in this situation.
The Braves don't have everyday time, but Quentin could still help. Chipper Jones will need extra rest for the remainder of the year, so the Braves can move Martin Prado to third when Chipper sits so that they can play Quentin in left. Quentin could also spell Prado and Jason Heyward in the outfield as well as provide power off the bench.
Quentin has been red-hot since returning from the disabled list, and in 10 games he is hitting .429 with five homers and 10 RBI. He isn't a top player, so he won't cost the Braves a ton in return for a two-month rental. For a B-list prospect or two, the Braves could make their offense both more dangerous and more versatile.
Call Up Julio Teheran and Send Down Mike Minor
This is an obvious move even though it would mean that the Braves would not have a left-handed pitcher in their rotation. The rotation hasn't pitched as well as many had expected heading into the season, so a change needs to be made. Finding the pitcher who will give the Braves the best chance to win should be the most important factor in deciding on how to alter the rotation.
Mike Minor has struggled for the last month and a half, and when he starts a game, the Braves have to know they they will need to score a bunch of runs to win that night. Even in his one start where his final line looked decent, he struggled badly with his control and the outcome could have been much worse.
Julio Teheran on the other hand was dominating the Blue Jays through four innings in his season debut. He may have ran into some trouble in the fifth inning, but he wasn't pitching badly even though he got an early hook from manager Fredi Gonzalez.
The Braves would be very smart to give their top prospect an extended chance to help them now while allowing a talented, but struggling Minor a chance to work through things in the minors.
Trade for Joe Saunders
Part of the reason the Braves may be hesitant to send Mike Minor down is the fact that he is their only left-handed starter. Trading for Joe Saunders could help solve that issue and give the Braves a solid veteran with plenty of playoff experience.
Saunders pitches for Arizona, and despite their recent strong play, he could be available. The reason he may be available is because Trevor Bauer is an elite prospect who is ready for a spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation. Arizona also has Tyler Skaggs not too far behind. This is in addition to having a big league rotation with young, but talented Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill and rookie Wade Miley.
Saunders doesn't seem like a big addition, but he is a former All-Star who won 33 games between 2008 and 2009. His career record is 73-56, so he knows how to win games even if it isn't always pretty. He has also made four postseason starts.
Another reason he could be a target is because he isn't likely to be very expensive. Obviously the free agent to be is just a rental, but the Braves can certainly use a solid veteran lefty.
Deal for K-Rod
A year ago the New York Mets dealt closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers were trying to solidify their bullpen to make a playoff run, and they decided to bring in a talented veteran like K-Rod to serve in a setup role for closer John Axford.
Fast-forward a year and the Brewers appear like they aren't going anywhere after losing Prince Fielder in free agency. K-Rod is on a one-year deal for $4M and still pitching in a setup role.
K-Rod first rose to fame in 2002 at age-20 when he helped pitch the Angels to a World Series title. Since then he has racked up 292 saves, four All-Star selections and three finishes in the Top Four in Cy Young voting.
While he hasn't been the same pitcher since leaving the Angels following the 2008 season, he is still able to get hitters out. Since leaving the Angels he has a 3.05 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with a K/9 rate of 9.8, which are well below his Angels' totals of a 2.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 11.7 K/9.
The Braves could use K-Rod in a role similar to the one that Kris Medlen pitched in. He would provide a veteran presence with plenty of big-game experience as well as allowing the Braves to not over-use Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and even Craig Kimbrel.
Get Seth Smith and Grant Balfour from Oakland
Heading into the season the Oakland A's made it clear that they were in full rebuilding mode based on the moves that they had made. General manager Billy Beane isn't shy about dealing players, even stars, when he is in rebuilding mode. That is why outfielder Seth Smith and reliever Grant Balfour could be available.
Smith, the former Colorado Rockie, is a guy that the Braves have had rumored interest in for a long time. He posted a .275/.348/.485 line in four seasons with the Rockies, but was more of a platoon player. In Oakland his numbers are a bit down, as expected since he has departed the thin air of Denver, but are still a respectable .259/.372/.405.
Smith is a platoon player, one that hits lefties at just .204 with a .597 OPS in his career. However he really hits right-handers hard with a career average of .287 and OPS of 871. He would be a nice bench player to have, as he plays both corner outfield positions. He also provides an upgrade over Matt Diaz in a platoon situation because there are more righties than lefties, and he hits righties better than current specialist Eric Hinske.
Another reason why Oakland could be an attractive trade partner is because they have a good reliever on the trading block. Grant Balfour, who is set to be a free agent at the end of the year unless the club picks up a $4.5M option, is likely available.
Balfour is a veteran right-hander who is having a solid year. Overall this year he has a 3.34 ERA and 1.18 WHIP to go with seven saves, and those numbers are in-line with his career 3.55 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.
Balfour is a strong setup man who has some closing experience in his career. He is also a 34 year old veteran who has pitched in 15 postseason games, and reached the World Series with Tampa Bay in 2008.
For the right piece in return, the Braves could have both Smith and Balfour. While neither player alone will make a major difference, improving a pair of key roles will certainly provide a boost for the team.
Trade for Brandon League
Brandon League had a huge season as the closer for Seattle last year, but he has fallen back to Earth this year. A year after posting 37 saves with a 2.79 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, League has posted a 4.18 ERA and 1.54 WHIP with just nine saves.
League's fall is because he is better in a setup role than a closer, a role he inherited when David Aardsma was out for the season last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. League's slip this year has dropped his value, and the fact that he is about to hit free agency after this season makes it almost necessary for the Mariners to deal him.
The Braves bullpen has been solid, but it can use another solid arm. Sure Craig Kimbrel has been an ace in relief, but both Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty haven't been pitching at their 2011 levels and the Braves are using Chad Durbin and Livan Hernandez a bit more often than they should.
League would likely not cost an elite prospect and could help give the Braves a solid presence in a setup role to help replace Kris Medlen, who has been moved to the starting rotation.
Acquire Shawn Camp
The Chicago Cubs aren't going anywhere this year. New general manager Theo Epstein is trying to rebuild the club, so the odds are that all of the veterans on the roster will be available. Sure, guys like Alfonso Soriano are available, but cost-wise that isn't likely to happen for the Braves.
One Cub that the Braves could use is Shawn Camp. Camp is a 36-year-old right-handed reliever that has been used in a setup role in the past, but could make a strong middle reliever capable of going multiple innings if needed.
Camp is having a great year, as he is 2-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 29 appearances for the Cubs. He has a 4.31 career ERA, but was very strong in 2009, 2010 and then again this year after being hit hard between 2005 and 2007.
Camp is a cheap option to help out the bullpen that will be able to pitch well. I'd prefer the Braves give Cory Gearrin a real look, but if they don't have the confidence in Gearrin then Camp is a solid choice.
Trade for Chase Headley
A rumor out there says that the Padres could be willing to deal Chase Headley because he is about to cost the club more money to keep and they have a potential replacement hitting well in Triple-A with Jedd Gyorko. Headley would be an intriguing trade target for the Braves.
Headley is a 28 year old in the middle of his fifth season in the big leagues. The third baseman is currently hitting .273/.383/.444 with seven homers, 30 RBI and seven steals. For his career he is a .269/.347/.397 hitter, but also had an on-base percentage of .374 last season.
Headley is a guy that would be attractive to Atlanta because he would allow Chipper Jones to get all the rest he needs in his final year, as well as give the club a potential replacement for Jones in 2013. Even though he doesn't produce big power numbers, his on-base skills would also make him an attractive bench bat.
Headley is probably the least likely of the trade options listed because he is likely to cost the most other than Quentin and doesn't offer the power Quentin does. Still he could be a nice fit going forward.
Get Marlon Byrd
When the Red Sox decided to get rid of Marlon Byrd by designating him for assignment, he became a cheap option for the Braves to consider. At age 34, Byrd isn't the same guy that hit .293 with 39 doubles in an All-Star season with the Cubs in 2010.
Byrd never got started with the Cubs in 13 games this year prior to being dealt to Boston, but after being dealt he helped a struggling Boston club find some stability. Byrd hit .270 in 34 games with the Red Sox, while playing mostly center field along with some right field as well.
Byrd isn't a big piece, but he is a veteran presence. He is a career .278 hitter who has spent most of his career in the National League. He hits right-handed pitchers as well as left-handers and does the little things well. Having a role player like Byrd could be an addition that helps the Braves more than it would appear on paper.
Fire Fredi Gonzalez
This move is certainly a different type of move than all of the others, but it is needed. After almost a full season and a half I can say that I firmly believe that Fredi Gonzalez just doesn't seem like the manager that will bring home a World Series title to Atlanta.
Gonzalez was the man at the helm a year ago for the Braves' epic September collapse that cost the team a playoff berth. He's the same man that makes managerial calls that are second-guessed at the time of the move as well as after the outcome of said move.
For example, just last weekend Gonzalez lifted starter Julio Teheran for Livan Hernandez in the fifth inning. Sure the rookie was in trouble, but he was looking better after struggling early in the inning and was throwing good pitches that were being fouled off. Obviously Livan came in and allowed all three stranded runners to score.in addition to allowing five runs of his own.
Pulling a young pitcher that wasn't pitching that poorly was a mistake in that situation, and for two different reasons. The first reason is that Teheran was not struggling as badly as the situation showed, and he deserved a chance to try to get out of the inning since he had only allowed one runner to cross the plate before he exited the game. Then there is the fact that pulling Teheran sends the message to the young pitcher that Gonzalez does not have confidence in him to clean up his own messes.
When the Marlins fired Gonzalez in 2010 they were 34-36, but their young team seemed to play better after Gonzalez was gone even though they only played .500 ball the rest of the way.
The Braves may not get a big-name manager to replace Gonzalez this year, but they owe it to themselves and their fans to dump Gonzalez and bring in someone that makes better decisions.