Atlanta Braves Trade Rumors: Latest Updates and Reaction

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterJuly 8, 2012

Atlanta Braves Trade Rumors: Latest Updates and Reaction

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    Last year, the Atlanta Braves made one of the biggest moves at the trade deadline, picking up center fielder Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros. Can general manager Frank Wren pull off a similar deal this year? 

    Going into the final day before the All-Star break, the Braves hold third place in the NL East, five games behind the Nationals and a half-game back of the Mets. Considering how productive Atlanta's offense has been this season, however, that's a bit disappointing. Going into Sunday, the Braves have scored the fourth-most runs in the National League.

    So, Wren is very likely looking for a starting pitcher. Brandon Beachy is out for the season with an elbow injury. Jair Jurrjens has pitched well since returning from the minors, but three starts isn't much to go on. At the back end of the rotation, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado have been inconsistent.

    To keep up with the latest Braves trade rumors, check back here frequently for the newest information available. Just click over to the first slide, and you'll get the most recent buzz we've found for you.

Braves Get Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson from Cubs

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    Posted: Tuesday, July 31 at 8:00 a.m. ET

    It took a week longer than originally planned, but the Atlanta Braves got the starting pitcher they've been pursuing for weeks. 

    Late Monday night, as reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution's David O'Brien, the Braves acquired left-hander Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson from the Chicago Cubs for Triple-A pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman. 

    This comes a week after the Braves thought they had a deal with the Cubs for Ryan Dempster, only for the veteran to invoke his "10-and-5" rights (ten years in the majors, five with the same team) to veto the trade. Dempster reportedly prefers to be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    While Maholm may not be the No. 1 starter type that Braves general manager Frank Wren reportedly wanted for his rotation, the left-hander has had an impressive season for the Cubs.

    Overall, his record is 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 21 appearances covering 120.1 innings. But Maholm has been particularly outstanding in his past seven outings (six of them starts). In those seven appearances, Maholm is 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA. 

    Maholm has a $6.5 million team option for 2013, giving the Braves an additional year of club control that they wouldn't have had with prospective free agents Ryan Dempster or Zack Greinke. 

    With Johnson, the Braves get an outfielder who can back up Martin Prado and Michael Bourn when needed. In addition, he provides a right-handed bat off the bench. 

    Dealing Vizcaino might be a surprise, in that he underwent reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in March. But apparently, that didn't scare off the Cubs. 

    "It's a little bit unusual taking an injured guy,'' Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said to reporters, including USA Today's Bob Nightengale. "Of course, we think it's worth the risk.''

    In a quick progression from high Single-A ball to the majors last season, Vizcaino threw a combined 117 strikeouts in 114.1 innings. The right-hander was called up to the majors in mid-August, finishing with a 1-1 record, 4.67 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings. Nine walks demonstrated that he was hardly a finished product, however. 

    Chapman has pitched in 40 games for Triple-A Gwinnett this season, compiling a 3.52 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. 

Red Sox Called Braves About Josh Beckett

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    Posted: Monday, July 30 at 11:30 a.m. ET

    Could Josh Beckett be the ace starting pitcher the Atlanta Braves are seeking? Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan tweeted that the Boston Red Sox checked with the Braves and Texas Rangers to see what interest they might have in the right-hander. 

    According to Passan, the Red Sox rung up the Braves and Rangers because they believe Beckett would waive his "10-and-5" rights (ten seasons in the majors, five with the same team) and not veto a trade to either of those teams. 

    However, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports that the Braves aren't interested in making a deal for Beckett because they don't want to take on the $37 million that remains on his contract through 2014. Even if the Red Sox were to pay some of that salary, the money is apparently too rich for the Braves.

    It's no wonder the Red Sox want to ditch Beckett. He's 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA, and as his 82 strikeouts in 108.1 innings demonstrate, he's not throwing nearly as hard as in past seasons. Additionally, attitude has to be a concern, as Beckett was involved in last year's fried-chicken-and-beer fiasco and has shown little regard for public perception of him. 

    Atlanta did show interest in another of Boston's starting pitchers, however.

    As MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports, the Braves asked if left-hander Jon Lester might be available instead of Beckett. Not only is Lester four years younger than Beckett, but he also has approximately $25 million remaining on his contract, which apparently fits the Braves' budget better.

    Bowman also mentioned that a deal for the Cubs' Ryan Dempster could still be alive, but Atlanta may no longer be willing to include Randall Delgado in a potential deal. 

Braves Still Looking for Bullpen Help, Including Rafael Betancourt

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    Posted: Monday, July 30 at 11:00 a.m. ET

    Getting a top starting pitcher looks increasingly unlikely for the Atlanta Braves, barring Ryan Dempster changing his mind about blocking last week's trade. So general manager Frank Wren is looking to improve the team's bullpen instead. 

    One reliever that can apparently be scratched off the Braves' shopping list is Seattle Mariners closer Brandon League. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Braves were not among the teams in the mix for League, though Crasnick reported that the Mariners were close to making a deal

    However, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan tweeted that Atlanta is among four teams that have checked in with the Colorado Rockies about Rafael Betancourt. 

    Betancourt has been one of the few bright spots for the Rockies this season, compiling a 2.92 ERA and 17 saves this season. More importantly, he has 38 strikeouts in 37 innings (though his 10 walks should be a concern). 

    In addition, Betancourt is under contract through 2013 with a mutual option for 2014, so he could be under club control for another two seasons. That would surely be important to any time interested in trading for him.

    Betancourt would give the Braves' bullpen another right-hander to replace Kris Medlen, who's being moved to the starting rotation, and could serve as a backup closer when Craig Kimbrel needs a night off. 

Padres' Edinson Volquez Also on Braves' Trade Radar?

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    Posted: Sunday, July 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET

    Add San Diego Padres right-hander Edinson Volquez to the list of starting pitchers the Atlanta Braves are pursuing before the July 31 trade deadline. 

    MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that the Braves have shown interest in Volquez in addition to the Tampa Bay Rays' James Shields.

    Volquez has a 6-7 record this season but also a 3.30 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 128.1 innings. One red flag among his season statistics is his total of 73 walks, which leads the major leagues. 

    A look at advanced statistics (via Fangraphs) should also cause some concern. Volquez has a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 3.83 and an xFIP of 4.23, indicating that his numbers should be worse than his 3.30 ERA might lead you to believe. Pitching in a bigger ballpark like Petco Park has helped him. How well might he fare at Turner Field? 

    Volquez would be a cheaper option than pitchers like Shields or the Miami Marlins' Josh Johnson. He has one more arbitration-eligible season after being $2.24 million by the Padres this season. 

    Braves general manager Frank Wren has said he wants a No. 1 caliber starting pitcher for his rotation. Does Volquez really qualify? Yes, he's the Padres' top pitcher this year, but where would he slot in with a team that already has one or two top starters? 

    This would look more like getting a starting pitcher for depth, rather than a true upgrade. But perhaps Wren is willing to settle for that after losing out on Ryan Dempster and Zack Greinke.

Is James Shields the Braves' Current Starting Pitching Target?

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    Posted: Sunday, July 29 at 3:00 p.m. ET

    With two days until baseball's July 31 trade deadline, the market for starting pitchers is steadily shrinking for the Atlanta Braves.

    Ryan Dempster effectively killed the deal arranged between the Braves and Chicago Cubs early last week, using his "10-and-5" rights (ten years in the majors, five with the same team) to attempt to engineer a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers

    Zack Greinke was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, who offered a top-tier position player prospect that the Braves didn't really have in their system. (If only Tyler Pastornicky had worked out as a major leaguer, maybe a package could have been built around him or Andrelton Simmons.) Greinke was probably the top target for Atlanta general manager Frank Wren. 

    Since beginning his search for a starting pitcher, Wren has made it known that he wanted an ace-caliber starter. That eliminated someone like Wandy Rodriguez, viewed more as a No. 2 or No. 3, who was dealt last week to the Pittsburgh Pirates

    So who is left for the Braves to pursue? 

    Perhaps the top starting pitcher available, if he is indeed available, is Tampa Bay Rays right-hander James Shields. Shields isn't having a great season, compiling an 8-7 record and 4.52 ERA in 21 starts this season.

    But according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, many major league executives believe that Shields would benefit from having a better defense behind him and getting away from tougher AL East lineups. 

    Rosenthal lists the Braves as one team still showing interest in Shields, along with the Dodgers, Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. The Angels were interested as well, but got their man with Greinke.

    Do the Braves have what the Rays are seeking in exchange for Shields, however? CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the Rays are looking for a better package than the Brewers received for Greinke. The Angels traded top infield prospect Jean Segura, along with Double-A pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena. 

    Yet Shields has two team options (worth a combined $21 million) after this season. Being under club control through 2014, as opposed to being a free agent after this season like Greinke, has a great deal of worth to a team and the Rays obviously intend to get full value for that. 

Braves' Deal for Ryan Dempster Appears to Be Dead

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    Posted: Wednesday, July 25 at 4:00 p.m. ET

    It's not official until Ryan Dempster ends up with another team or is still with the Chicago Cubs after July 31. But it appears that the trade the Atlanta Braves arranged with the Cubs is all but dead.

    Braves general manager Frank Wren called a Dempster trade "highly unlikely," according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's David O'Brien.

    Wren went on to clarify that the deal hadn't officially fallen through, but with Dempster delaying his decision to approve the trade, the Braves have opted to move on and pursue other deals. 

    In an interview with an Atlanta radio station, Wren said that "certain parameters" in the deal expired on Tuesday, though he declined to clarify exactly what those parameters were.

    Perhaps the availability of Randall Delgado was one of the aspects of the deal that changed. With Dempster refusing to approve the trade, the Braves might be offering Delgado to other teams instead. Zack Greinke has reportedly been the Braves' top target all along. And now it appears that the Miami Marlins are willing to trade Josh Johnson. 

    It's looking increasingly improbable that the Cubs will be able to trade Dempster. Dempster's preference is to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the Dodgers and Cubs haven't been able to reach agreement on a deal.

    The Dodgers don't want to give up a top prospect for Dempster when he can be a free agent after the season. It certainly appears that the Cubs wouldn't receive a pitching prospect at the level of Delgado, which has to chap Cubs president Theo Epstein. 

Sorry, Braves: Ryan Dempster Prefers to Play for Dodgers

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    Posted: Tuesday, July 23 at 2:00 p.m. ET

    Sometimes, the simplest explanation turns out to be the correct one. It's the concept of Occam's Razor, right? 

    Why didn't Ryan Dempster approve being traded to the Atlanta Braves on Monday? The Braves and Chicago Cubs came up with a good deal. The Cubs were getting an excellent pitching prospect in Randall Delgado. What was the hold-up? 

    Did Dempster want a new contract from the Braves? Were the Braves hesitant to finalize a deal without signing Dempster to a long-term extension?

    Was Dempster "blindsided" by the trade, as ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweeted, because news of the trade leaked out before Dempster was told about it? 

    Yet the simplest explanation was that Dempster just didn't want to go to the Braves and was exercising his 10-and-5 rights (by virtue of playing 10 major league seasons, five with the same team) in vetoing the trade. 

    As it turns out, that's exactly what happened here. 

    According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Dempster prefers to play with the Dodgers. The Cubs were under the impression that the Braves were Dempster's second choice, and if a deal couldn't be arranged with the Dodgers, he would be okay about going to Atlanta. Evidently not. 

    Dempster is going to stand his ground, hoping that the Cubs and Dodgers can still work out a trade in the week leading up to the trade deadline. Whether he realizes it or not, however, Dempster has effectively killed whatever leverage the Cubs had.

    Why would the Dodgers surrender a top prospect now, knowing that Dempster will veto a trade to any other team? The Cubs almost certainly won't get a pitcher as good as Delgado.

    By the way, if you're the Braves, do you pull Delgado off the table now? Are you renewing efforts to get Zack Greinke? 

Not Done Yet: Dempster Deal on Hold for Braves Pending Player Approval

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    Posted: Tuesday, July 24 at 8:30 a.m. ET

    Apparently, we were all a bit hasty in declaring that Ryan Dempster was now a member of the Atlanta Braves.

    The Braves and Chicago Cubs agreed to a deal on Monday afternoon, which would send Randall Delgado to the Cubs in exchange for Dempster. But Dempster is exercising his "10-and-5" rights (10 years in the majors, five with the same team) that allow him to veto a trade if he so pleases.

    So as of Tuesday monring, the trade isn't official, with both the Cubs and Dempster calling it "speculation," according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer.

    However, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a theory based on his reporting. It might not be Dempster that's holding up this deal. It might be the Braves.

    Braves general manager Frank Wren was hesitant to trade for a pitcher who could become a free agent after the season. Giving up a promising young pitcher like Delgado for 2-3 months of Dempster would be tough to digest for almost any major league club. Rosenthal believes it's possible that the Braves aren't pulling the trigger on the trade until Dempster agrees to a contract extension. 

     

    Who's holding up the trade?

    Rosenthal's theory is intriguing and seems entirely plausible. But I'm guessing Wren knew there was a strong chance he would be trading for a 2-3 month rental. Impending free agency is the reason pitchers like Dempster, Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels are presumably available. 

    Dempster reportedly wouldn't mind playing for the Braves. They're apparently his second choice after the Dodgers. But maybe he's hoping the Dodgers make one last push for him and that's why he's invoking his 10-and-5 rights. Or maybe he's hoping to get a new contract out of the Braves.

    It's a curious development. Dempster benefits by playing for a playoff contender. The Braves benefit from adding a top starting pitcher to their rotation. Yet the two sides can't agree on a deal yet? 

Braves Get Ryan Dempster in Exchange for Randall Delgado

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    Posted: Monday, July 23 at 3:00 p.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves got their man. General manager Frank Wren made a deal for the starting pitcher the team needed to add its rotation.

    MLB.com's Mark Bowman was the first to report that the Braves acquired Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs. The full details still haven't been announced, but Bowman went on to report that rookie Randall Delgado is expected to go to the Cubs in the other half of this deal. 

    Dempster had a 5-4 record for the Cubs in 15 starts but leads the majors with a 2.11 ERA. His streak of 33 consecutive innings ended on Friday night versus the St. Louis Cardinals. He also spent time on the disabled list this season due to a lat muscle injury. 

    Delgado, 22, showed promise in his first full season with the Braves but hadn't yet displayed the consistency to be a reliable part of the starting rotation. But in his past two starts, Delgado allowed five earned runs in 12 innings. His record with Atlanta this season was 4-9 with a 4.42 ERA. 

     

    Why did the Braves trade for Dempster and not Zack Greinke?

    Up until recent days, it appeared that Wren's preference was to trade for Zack Greinke. The Milwaukee Brewers right-hander definitely fit the profile of a No. 1 starter that could fill the top of the rotation.

    However, trading top prospects (more than they would've had to give up for Dempster, according to Bowman) for a player two to three months from free agency held little appeal for Wren.

    In addition, Bowman says it doesn't appear that the Brewers are ready to trade Greinke just yet, while Dempster was immediately available. The Braves felt some urgency to get a pitcher with how badly Jair Jurrjens pitched on Sunday and likely made the move they felt could be made now. 

    Dempster is set to be a free agent after the season too, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution's David O'Brien reports that the Braves feel like they have a good chance at re-signing him due to Dempster, Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez being familiar with each other from their days with the Miami (then Florida) Marlins.

    If it doesn't work out, perhaps Greinke will be available as a free agent during the offseason and the Braves can get him then. 

Add Jon Lester to Braves' Starting Pitcher Shopping List

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    Posted: Monday, July 23 at 2:00 p.m. ET

    While the competition for Ryan Dempster heats up and Zack Greinke apparently falls out of favor with potential suitors, the Atlanta Braves are casting a wider search for a top starting pitcher to add to their rotation.

    MLB.com's Mark Bowman reported over the weekend that the Braves called the Red Sox about Jon Lester, but Boston isn't ready to become a seller at this point. 

    Lester is having a bad season for the Red Sox, compiling a 5-8 record and 5.46 ERA. Particularly concerning are the 138 hits he's allowed in 120.1 innings. He's also striking out fewer batters per nine innings (7.5) than he has during the past three seasons.

    However, this might be a classic case of a player needing a change of scenery. Lester might just need to get out of Boston after being associated with the fried chicken and beer clubhouse escapades last year. The Red Sox have never really gotten past that and the collapse of their season, and it seems to have lingered over this year's team.

    Red Sox GM Ben Cherington might really need to clean out that clubhouse to give manager Bobby Valentine a chance to assert his authority over the team. Brooming out Lester—as was done with Kevin Youkilis earlier this season—could be beneficial to both sides.

     

    Should Jon Lester be the Braves' top target?

    I believe Lester would definitely benefit by getting out of Boston. Also, getting a player who has succeeded against AL East competition and bringing him to the National League is extremely appealing. 

    However, the Braves should be concerned about Lester's struggles this season. Why is he pitching so poorly? Is it more mental? Is Lester just bogged down by the pressure and scrutiny that comes with playing for the Red Sox? Or is he dealing with physical or mechanical issues that might not be fully addressed this season?

    The Braves should probably go for the surer thing. Especially since the Red Sox wouldn't give up Lester easily. Dempster has been excellent this season. Atlanta knows what it will be getting in a trade for him. The same generally goes for Greinke, though his recent struggles have raised some questions. 

Braves Front-Runner to Get Ryan Dempster?

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    Posted: Monday, July 23 at 1:30 p.m. ET

    Are the Atlanta Braves now considered the favorite to make a deal for Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster? 

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have generally been viewed as the front-runner to get Dempster. But according to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine, the Dodgers are hesitant to give up prospects for a pitcher who will be a free agent after the season and thus a two- to three-month rental. 

    Because of that, the Dodgers are reportedly more interested in Dempster's teammate, Matt Garza, who is under club control through 2013 with one more arbitration-eligible season. 

    That led Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi to report that the Braves are the leading contender to trade for Dempster. Dempster's preference is to stay in the National League, and the Fox Sports duo list the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals as the other teams in position to make a deal.

     

    Do Braves look like the most likely to get Ryan Dempster?

    If Dempster is the most likely starting pitcher to be traded and the Braves are the team chasing harder after a starting pitcher than any other, this looks like the best match. 

    I still wonder if Dempster is the No. 1 type of starter that Braves GM Frank Wren reportedly wanted for his rotation. My guess is that Zack Greinke is still Wren's top choice. But in the NL, Dempster is a No. 1. 

    Another reason to get Dempster, though I doubt it's the top reason on Wren's list, is to keep him from going to the Washington Nationals. With the Braves and Nats so close in the NL East standings, this is the trade that could tip the balance of power. Wren can't let the Nats improve while they scramble for a piece that helps them stay competitive.

Is Anibal Sanchez on the Braves' Radar?

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    Posted: Friday, July 20 at 5:00 p.m. ET

    With the Miami Marlins 10 games out of first place in the NL East and all but officially out of the division title and wild card playoff races, it's time for the team to think about which players to deal off at the trade deadline.

    The name drawing the most attention is Hanley Ramirez, and USA Today ran a whopper of a rumor Thursday, saying that the Marlins were considering trading him to the Red Sox

    According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, however, the more likely name to be dealt by the Marlins before the July 31 trade deadline is pitcher Anibal Sanchez. He's a free agent after the season and Miami apparently wants to get something in return for him before he walks. 

    USA Today's Bob Nightengale added that the Braves have shown interest in Sanchez. Would the Marlins make a trade within the division like that? 

     

    Should Anibal Sanchez become the Braves' top target?

    My guess is that Braves general manager Frank Wren wants Zack Greinke above any other starting pitcher. That's certainly what most of the recent trade buzz indicates. 

    However, Sanchez wouldn't be a bad consolation prize. While he may not be the No. 1 starter type of pitcher that Wren reportedly wants, Sanchez is a pitcher capable of pitching 200 innings and racking up 200 strikeouts in a season, as you can see from his career stats.

    I doubt trading Sanchez within the division would be an obstacle for the Marlins. Even if they had to face him later this season, he wouldn't really come back to haunt them unless he signed with the Braves long term.

    Actually, perhaps the Braves would be wary of trading a top pitching prospect to an intra-division rival. That's a move that could come back to bite Atlanta. Yet if Sanchez gave them a push to the postseason and the World Series, Wren could surely live with that. 

Braves Looking for Bullpen Help, in Addition to Starting Pitching

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    Posted: Thursday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. ET

    All of the recent trade rumors surrounding the Atlanta Braves have focused on starting pitching. General manager Frank Wren wants a starter, and he doesn't just want any guy. He wants a starting pitcher for the top of his rotation.

    However, the Braves are looking for pitching help in other areas too.

    According to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, Atlanta is also pursuing a reliever as insurance for Jonny Venters, who's been on the disabled list with an elbow injury. 

     

    Are bullpen upgrades available for the Braves?

    If the Braves are interested in a closer who could pitch as a middle reliever, plenty of options are available.

    Huston Street of the Padres is a possibility. The Astros' Brett Myers is another closer who surprisingly hasn't been mentioned in many trade rumors. Oakland's Grant Balfour is almost certainly trade bait right now. Jonathan Broxton is reportedly attracting interest from other teams seeking bullpen help, like the Mets and Giants.

    Maybe the best guy available would be the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez. He's a former closer but has been pitching as a setup man. At least he was until manager Ron Roenicke took John Axford out of the closer role and made Rodriguez the ninth-inning man again. 

    With the Braves already pursuing Zack Greinke, could they put together a much bigger deal with Rodriguez included? 

Braves Among 10-Team Cluster Chasing Ryan Dempster?

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    Posted: Tuesday, July 17 at 11:00 a.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves are clearly looking for a starting pitcher, so how would the major league leader in ERA interest them? 

    As it turns out, Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster would interest the Braves very much. Atlanta is one of 10 teams reportedly showing interest in the Cubs' right-hander, according to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine

    Is Dempster the "top of the rotation" pitcher that ESPN's Jayson Stark says the Braves are seeking? While he may not be Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels, Dempster is the Cubs' top starter and has pitched extremely well all season in the National League.

    Stark's tweet seemed to be aimed more at rumors of the Braves showing interest in mid-rotation pitchers like Francisco Liriano and Jason Vargas. 

     

    Do the Braves really want Ryan Dempster?

    Braves general manager Frank Wren is surely interested in adding a pitcher like Dempster to his rotation. The question is whether or not he considers Dempster a true No. 1 ace. 

    Judging from reports, Wren's preference is Greinke. But he's not going to trade one of the Braves' top pitching prospects unless he can sign Greinke to a contract extension, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. If Greinke is as eager to explore free agent as Hamels seems to be, that could prevent a trade from happening. 

    Wren probably isn't thinking "Greinke or bust," however. Not with the Braves' need for starting pitching. It feels like trading for Dempster would be settling for a lesser pitcher, in the Braves' view. 

    With the organization's depth in starting pitching, the guess here is that Wren will eventually pull the trigger on a deal for Greinke, even without a contract extension in hand. If one team can afford to give up a starting pitcher for a three-month rental, it's the Braves.

Braves Get Paul Janish from Reds to Fill in at Shortstop

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    Posted: Monday, July 16 at 6:30 a.m. ET

    In case you missed it over the weekend, the Atlanta Braves found a shortstop to fill in for Andrelton Simmons while the rookie recovers from a broken right hand.

    As reported by MLB.com's Mark Bowman on Saturday, the Braves acquired Paul Janish from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Triple-A pitcher Todd Redmond.

    Janish had been with the Reds' Triple-A team in Louisville, but has four seasons of major league experience. Last year, he appeared in 114 games with Cincinnati. 

    He won't provide much offense for the Braves, compiling a .591 OPS during his big league career. But Janish can play defense, which is what Atlanta wants at the position. He played half as many innings as a regular starter would have, but according to Fangraphs, Janish rated as the eighth-best defensive shortstop based on Ultimate Zone Rating. 

     

    Was Janish a good pick-up for the Braves?

    Atlanta needed a shortstop, with Simmons out for six weeks. Jack Wilson isn't a full-time player anymore and Tyler Pastornicky hasn't shown he can be a major league starter at the position. He's viewed more as a utility player now. 

    Unlike last year, the Braves have a productive offense this season. They're eighth in the majors in runs scored. This team can get by with mediocre offense at shortstop, especially when it gets more from second base than most clubs, thanks to Dan Uggla. 

    However, the pitching staff needs a good defense behind it. Pastornicky may ultimately have been demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett because of his bat, but his defense was poor too. Simmons had been a huge boost to the team with his hitting and defense. If the Braves can at least get a good glove for the next six weeks, they should be able to get by. 

Will Braves Get in the Justin Upton Bidding?

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    Posted: Friday, July 13 at 4:00 p.m. ET

    Starting pitching has reportedly been the priority for the Braves leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. But could Atlanta also be in the mix for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, who figures to be the top position player on the market if he's made available?

    ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that the Braves might be a good fit for a deal because Martin Prado would be the third baseman that the D-Backs have been seeking. Atlanta also has a deep pool of pitching prospects that could be included in a trade. 

    On the Braves side, Olney believes that Upton would provide balance to their lineup with a right-handed power bat to go with lefty sluggers Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. Additionally, Upton is signed through 2015 and would prevent the Braves from having to re-sign Michael Bourn and perhaps devote their available resources toward Brian McCann. 

     

    Are the Braves going to pursue Justin Upton?

    Honestly, until Olney mentioned it, I hadn't really considered Upton a possibility for the Braves. Their offense is already strong, and I presume that general manager Frank Wren wants to get a top starting pitcher to anchor his rotation. 

    However, Upton is a good fit for Atlanta for the reasons Olney mentioned. My only question would be who plays center field next year. Obviously, Bourn mans that position through the end of this season.

    Would the Braves ask Upton to play center next year? Heyward has played center, but do the Braves really want him there full-time? Could he handle the position full-time? Or would Wren end up bringing in another center fielder, one presumably cheaper than Bourn figures to be?

Do Braves Need to Trade for Shortstop After Simmons Injury?

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    Posted: Monday, July 9 at 6 p.m. ET

    The Braves got bad news to begin the All-Star break as shortstop Andrelton Simmons broke a finger on his throwing hand while sliding head-first into second base.

    As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore reports, Simmons suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal, otherwise known as the pinky finger. He'll have to wear a cast for four weeks and the hand will be re-evaluated after the cast comes off. 

    Vivlamore reports that such an injury typically takes four to six weeks to heal, and that's if surgery isn't required. Doctors won't know that in Simmons' case until the cast is removed. 

    With the Braves in the NL East race, can they afford to go at least four weeks without a starting-caliber shortstop? Perhaps they can get by with Jack Wilson and/or call Tyler Pastornicky back up from Triple-A Gwinnett to hold down the position. Or, as the AJC's Carroll Rogers points out, the Braves could trade for a shortstop before July 31. 

     

    Will the Braves trade for a shortstop?

    There will be shortstops available on the trade market. None of them will give the Braves what Simmons did. But the ideal scenario is that they just need a stopgap until Simmons' hand heals. 

    One name that immediately jumps to mind is Marco Scutaro, who looks to be the most popular target for any team in need of a middle infielder. If Simmons is out for longer than four weeks, this is probably the guy the Braves should pursue. 

    Once Stephen Drew returns from his rehab assignment, the Arizona Diamondbacks will have a logjam at shortstop and might want to deal away Willie Bloomquist or John McDonald. Bloomquist is owed slightly more money, so maybe that's the guy the D-Backs would prefer to trade. 

    MLB Trade Rumors has a list of other shortstops that might be available, any of whom could be a short-term solution for Atlanta. 

Orioles Competing with Braves for Zack Greinke?

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    Posted: Sunday, July 8 at 4 p.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves have been the team most attached to pitcher Zack Greinke in recent trade rumors, but if they want the Milwaukee Brewers' right-hander, they'll reportedly have to contend with a competitor that wants him badly.

    A major league executive told The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly that the Orioles are "the most aggressive suitor" for Greinke. However, Connolly reports that talks between the two teams are preliminary at this point.

    According to Connolly, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has the support of ownership to take on extra payroll this season, if necessary. However, there's no word on whether or not the O's would be willing to make a deal for Greinke if he didn't agree to a long-term contract extension first. 

    The Orioles definitely have a need for starting pitching. It's rather amazing that they've continued to hang with the Yankees in the AL East despite demoting a handful of starters to the minors. The most recent pitcher to be sent to Triple-A Norfolk is Jake Arrieta, who was 3-9 with a 6.13 ERA. Brian Matusz was demoted a week ago. Prior to that, the O's sent Tommy Hunter to Triple-A. 

     

    Should the Braves be worried about the Orioles?

    The Orioles may want to trade for Greinke but may not have the necessary prospects to get him. As Connolly points out in his report, the O's aren't going to give up top prospects Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado in a deal. But after those two, there might not be enough in the Orioles system to interest the Brewers. 

    Duquette's best hope for making a deal might be convincing Brewers GM Doug Melvin that a pitcher like Matusz, Arrieta or Zach Britton might benefit from the ol' change of scenery in Milwaukee. But if Melvin is looking for more upside, he'll probably find whatever the Braves offer more appealing. 

    Greinke would be a great fit for the Orioles, but would he really make a difference in the AL East? Would he drastically close the gap between the O's and Yankees? It doesn't seem likely. However, Duquette might feel some pressure to seize an opportunity this year. Will the Orioles be this close again next year?

    Looking over the Orioles' top prospects listed at sites like Baseball America, it's pretty clear that Baltimore doesn't have the same level of talent or depth in its minor league organization that the Braves do. If Melvin ends up dealing with the O's instead of the Braves, it's probably an indication that he feels he has to trade Greinke to get something in return for him.

Braves Showing Strong Interest in Zack Greinke

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    Posted: Sunday, July 8 at 3 p.m. ET

    The general perception seems to be that the Braves would be the best fit for Zack Greinke, given that Atlanta isn't a big market like New York or Los Angeles. Personally, I think that's overblown. But if teams like the Yankees believe it, then perception is reality, because they won't trade for him.

    A friend and former teammate of Greinke's told CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman that the pitcher likes the Atlanta area, especially because it's close to his Orlando, Fla., home. 

    But the more relevant concern surrounding Greinke is whether or not he would agree to a long-term contract extension with the team that trades for him. The market for a top right-handed starting pitcher has drastically changed over the past three months since Matt Cain signed a six-year, $127.5 extension with the Giants

    Would the Braves make such a deal without making sure they had Greinke locked up long term? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien believes they would, as a contract paying out $20 million per season is more than the team is willing to offer. 

     

    Will Braves trade for Greinke without agreeing to an extension?

    The Braves haven't given top-dollar, big free-agent contracts since Liberty Media bought the team in 2007. This past offseason, Atlanta needed a left fielder, but didn't chase after one with big money. 

    If ownership decides to change that approach this year, it seems more likely to do so with re-signing Michael Bourn or a replacement center fielder. Atlanta has enough starting pitching depth in its organization that it doesn't have to break its budget for Greinke. 

    But that starting pitching depth could be a reason why the Braves are willing to make a deal for Greinke without the assurance of a long-term contract extension. Wren can afford to part with a couple of young arms for a three-month rental and also could offer the Brewers a shortstop they need. Tyler Pastornicky's future with the Braves looks pretty limited after losing his job to Andrelton Simmons.