The July 31 trade deadline is fast approaching.
While the Atlanta Braves sit only a few games behind the first place Washington Nationals, the Milwaukee Brewers are barely holding onto fourth place in the NL Central—seven games under .500. The general feeling around baseball is that the Milwaukee Brewers will be sellers before the end of the deadline.
Their biggest and most prized trade chip is Zack Greinke.
Greinke is due to hit free agency at the end of this year because the Brewers do not have the capital to re-sign the ace pitcher and address other holes. The Brewers would be looking to receive a trade similar to last year's Mets/Giants trade, which involved Carlos Beltran. The Mets were able to net a top pitching prospect in Zach Wheeler, and the Giants were able to give a significant boost to their offense during their playoff run.
Unlike the Giants and Beltran, the Braves will only trade for Greinke if they are able to sign him to a long-term extension. The Braves do not want a rental player. They are looking to lock down one of the game's elite pitchers.
With Chipper Jones retiring and Derek Lowe's contract ending, the Braves have $29 million coming off the books in 2013. According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, the Braves will spend money from the 2013 players budget for this season if they feel the need to pick up another piece via trade.
One of the Braves' greatest strengths as an organization is their farm system. One of the Brewers' biggest needs is young talent. They gave up a sizable portion of their farm system when they acquired Greinke, but with the their star pitcher nearing the end of his run in Milwaukee, they have an opportunity to replace some of the pieces they lost.
The Brewers desperately need of a good shortstop. With the recent promotion and success of Andrelton Simmons, the Braves now have an extra MLB ready SS prospect in their farm system in Tyler Pastornicky.
At just 22 years of age, Pastornicky's road back to the majors as a member of the Braves appears to be in doubt—thanks to the sensational play of Simmons. However, the Brewers need a legitimate SS, so the two organizations line up nicely.
The Braves will probably have to come off one of their young arms in addition to Tyler Pastornicky to land Greinke. Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson will probably be out of the question, as well as super prospect Julio Teheran. However Mike Minor, Randall Delgado or Sean Gilmartin may be moved to help facilitate this deal.
The strong starting pitching trio of Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman for the Washington Nationals almost demands the Braves make a move to solidify their rotation. With Brandon Beachy's injury, the Braves find themselves needing for another true ace.
While the savvy veteran leadership of Tim Hudson has been a strong boost to the top of the rotation, the inconsistency and growing pains of Mike Minor and Randall Delgado are too volatile for the organization to put together consistent winning streaks. Both youngsters have displayed flashes of brilliance in their starts, but the Braves cannot hope to compete for the entire season without an upgrade at the top of their rotation.
Zack Greinke is that upgrade.
Greinke is a top-flight pitcher who is only 28 years old. The only starter in 2011 with a better K/9 ratio than Greinke's 10.54 K/9 was Brandon Beachy with 10.74 K/9. In his last 11 starts, Greinke has given up a total of 18 ER, while only walking 13 batters and striking out 72.
The Atlanta Braves trading for and signing the mild-mannered ace makes sense for both parties involved. According to Bowman, the Braves are very interested in Greinke, and it seems that the two teams are positioned to satisfy each other's organizational needs.