The 2012 MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, and teams will be shopping players in rapid fashion in order to enhance their team's chances of reaching the postseason.
The Atlanta Braves will be one of those teams, and there are several different directions the Braves could go to improve the squad.
One of the areas the Braves will explore is the starting pitching staff. The Braves have a good rotation and have a bunch of talented young arms.
They do, however, lack a true ace on the staff now that Tim Hudson is nearing the end of his career.
Let's look at the obvious choices before getting into a prediction on who will be on the staff after the deadline barring injury.
Hudson and Tommy Hanson will both be in the rotation. The Braves will not trade either of them, and they've proven over time to be consistent options.
That leaves Randall Delgado, Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor as the guys in the current rotation who are not locks.
Delgado and Minor are both young guys who haven't yet proved that they are everyday starting pitchers. Jurrjens just simply hasn't pitched well enough this season.
So my fearless prediction of what the Braves' rotation will look like after the trade deadline is Hudson, Hanson, Delgado, Zack Greinke and Ben Sheets.
The Braves are in desperate need of an ace on their staff, and Greinke would be that guy.
The Brewers don't have much of a chance in the NL Central Division and have a small chance of being able to re-sign him in the offseason.
The Braves have pieces to be able to pull Greinke away from the Brewers. They have young pitching prospects in Minor, Delgado, Julio Teheran and Sean Gilmartin.
I see the Braves trying to dump Minor in a package to get Greinke. He looks like he'll top out as a No. 3 starter in the major leagues, and the Braves have enough arms they can afford to get rid of him.
Would the Brewers want Teheran in a deal?
That's very possible, but if the Braves are assured they can lock up Greinke for four to five years, they'll be willing to make that move.
Greinke is a sure thing, while Teheran is still a work in progress. With Chipper Jones retiring, as well as Michael Bourn being a free agent, the Braves will have some money to work with to make that happen.
The Braves had a scout in attendance at Greinke's start on Monday, so there is definite interest and is worth monitoring moving forward.
The Braves just recently signed Sheets to a minor-league deal in hopes he can return to his Milwaukee form.
General manager Frank Wren watched Sheets throw a bullpen session on Sunday and was clearly impressed with what he saw.
Will the Braves acquire Zack Greinke?
Sheets threw 91-92 with his fastball and impressed with both his curveball and changeup during a five-inning simulated game.
Sheets will not be an ace at this point of his career but is still a smart, low-risk, high-reward signing.
He will start in Double-A Mississippi on Wednesday in hopes to begin his journey back to the majors.
This move would make Jurrjens the odd man out. He has not been the same this year and is a free agent at year's end.
At this point, there is little to no chance the Braves will re-sign him. Sheets brings better stuff to the table if he can come back healthy.
Jurrjens doesn't get enough swings-and-misses, which means he has to be almost perfect with his pitches.
Keep your eye on Sheets and Greinke as the deadline approaches. Greinke would no doubt help the Braves in making the postseason this year and stabilize the rotation for years to come.
Sheets will be in the minors for a few weeks to manage his pitches and control his stuff.
There is no doubt Hanson and Hudson will be in the rotation, but I think they'd be willing to part with both Minor and Jurrjens. Delgado has shown promise in his first full season as a starter, and the Braves will want to see more before deciding where he fits into the equation.
That's why I project the rotation after the trade deadline to be Hudson, Hanson, Delgado, Greinke and Sheets.