The Braves need to bring in Zack Greinke to make a playoff run this season.
After sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies on the road the Atlanta Braves are heading into the All-Star Game on a four-game winning streak. That has helped to put the Braves in second in the NL East, four games behind the Washington Nationals. It also has them in position for one of the two wild card spots.
The Braves heading into the second half of the season in position to potentially make a run at their first NL East title since 2005. However in order to do that general manager Frank Wren and the front office may need to make a move or two as the pitching staff has not been very consistent as a whole.
This weekend CBS Sports writer Jon Heyman wrote the Braves could be a major player in the hunt for Greinke. This article takes a look at 10 reasons why the Atlanta Braves must go out and make the big deal to bring in Zack Greinke for a pennant race that could go down to the end.
The Braves need to win the NL East to assure themselves of a "true playoff spot."
The first reason that the Braves need to go out and get Zack Greinke is to win the NL East, due to the new playoff format. Under the new format the two teams with the best record in the National League that have not won their divisions will face off against each other in a one-game playoff.
What this means is that the best team in the league that doesn't win a division is no longer "really in the playoffs." This means that the Braves could be the top runner-up in the NL and five games better than the New York Mets, or whoever else wins the second wild card spot. This would then make the Braves play the Mets just for the right to play in a National League Division Series.
While this would have been a good thing for the 2011 version of the Braves, this is not something the team will want to worry about this year.
An off-game could happen at any time, as the best teams in baseball typically lose about 60 games every year. Losing this game to a team the Braves are superior to is very possible, so instead of just being down one game in a best-of-five series the Braves would be going home early. That would give the fanbase a very similar feeling to the one they experienced after the collapse last September.
Adding Zack Greinke would indicate that the Braves are serious about not letting that happen again. The addition of a pitcher like Greinke would be a major upgrade to the front and back of the Braves' rotation. It also would add pressure to the Nationals, who are likely to lose top starter Stephen Strasburg down the stretch due to an innings limit.
An injury to Brandon Beachy has magnified the need for help in the rotation.
The loss of Brandon Beachy in June is a major loss that the Braves still need to overcome, Beachy had been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in the first half, going 5-5 with a 2,00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 13 starts. He was tied for the National League lead in ERA and was holding batters to just 5.4 hits per nine innings.
Losing Beachy in June really hurts the Braves for two reasons. The first is that he was the club's best starting pitcher this season. The second is because of the struggles at the back end of the rotation all year.
While missing your best pitcher always hurts, it may be the issues with the back of the rotation that hurt more. This injury forced the Braves to bring Jair Jurrjens back from the minors. Jurrjens had been awful at the start of the season before being sent down, and had some mixed results in the minor leagues.
Jurrjens has been better since being called up and has an ERA of 2.13 in four starts. Though that number alone is tough to judge him by, he does have a WHIP of 1.15, which is much better than his career mark of 1.31. Jurrjens has also only given up four walks in 25.1 innings since returning, which is much better than the 10 he gave up in 16.1 innings earlier in the year.
Still the Braves have to worry about Jurrjens pitching like the guy who had a 5.18 ERA in 10 Triple-A starts this year, and doesn't even get into the struggles by the remainder of the back of the rotation.
The addition of Zack Greinke to the Braves rotation would have a similar impact to getting Beachy back, as Greinke is that good.
Getting Zack Greinke could give Chipper Jones one last shot at World Series.
In case you haven't heard, Chipper Jones is set to retire after this season. Jones has been the face of the Braves for years, and has done so much for the team. In parts of 19 years with the Braves the future Hall of Fame third baseman has won an MVP, World Series title, batting title and two Silver Sluggers while being a part of 12 division championships (including 1993 when he debuted).
Jones has meant even more than that though, as he has played through numerous injuries for the good of the team. He's come up with countless clutch hits, especially in 1999 against the Mets. He's also played wherever the team has needed him, meaning he has logged time at shortstop, left field and right field in addition to third base in the last decade.
The Braves want to send Chipper out a winner, which means that means they will need to make a trade to upgrade the current roster. Adding a pitcher like Zack Greinke could potentially help make the difference between a team that misses the last spot in the playoffs by a game and a team that gets to the World Series.
Zack Greinke would give the Braves a true ace.
Simply put, the Atlanta Braves do not have an ace at the front of their rotation. Brandon Beachy was starting to become that pitcher, but he is out for the rest of the season after requiring Tommy John surgery. The Braves have a trio of other very good pitchers, but none of them is an ace.
Tommy Hanson has the potential to become an ace, but he hasn't looked like one this year after battling shoulder issues last season. Tim Hudson was an ace earlier in his career, but is now 36-year-old and more of just a strong veteran pitcher that knows how to win. Jair Jurrjens, when he is on, is another quality pitcher but has never been an ace other than the first half of the 2011 season.
The playoffs are when having an ace matters most. Rotations are shorter, so you face an opponents' top pitchers more often. The Nationals have Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. The Mets have Johan Santana. The Phillies have Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Even the Marlins have an ace when Josh Johnson is pitching well. That's just the NL East.
A look at other contenders in the National League shows the Reds with Johnny Cueto, Pirates having James McDonald, Cardinals being led by Adam Wainwright, Giants having Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, and the Dodgers having reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
Right now not having an ace isn't going to hurt the Braves too badly, but if/when the Braves make the playoffs it will really show up. Sending out Tim Hudson or Tommy Hanson against one of these guys will give the other team the edge on the mound, but when you can send out Zack Greinke it evens the playing field.
Kris Medlen pitches out of the bullpen because of the all of the other options in the organization.
If the Milwaukee Brewers are going to trade Zack Greinke they are likely going to want some pitching pack in the deal. That's why the Braves are such a good fit for Greinke, as the organization has so much pitching depth throughout the system.
In addition to the pitchers already on the big league roster the Braves have a bunch of promising prospects, led by Julio Teheran. Teheran has the potential to become a front of the rotation arm, and based on his minor league performance at a young age should at least be a solid middle of the rotation starter.
Behind Teheran the Braves have 2011 top pick Sean Gilmartin, a nearly big league ready left-hander. JR Graham has looked great ever since being taken in the 2011 draft. The Braves also used this draft to add pitchers with their top two picks, Lucas Sims and Alex Wood. Then there more pitchers like Zeke Spruill, Cody Martin and Dimaster Delgado. This doesn't even get into the electric, but injured, Arodys Vizcaino or the young talent in short-season ball like Mauricio Cabrera and Luis Merejo.
The Braves have so much pitching talent that they have Kris Medlen pitching out of the bullpen right now. There's just no way the club will be able to get all of these guys into their rotation if they all work out, and if they don't there is nothing wrong with selling while they have value.
The Braves could lose Michael Bourn after this year.
After struggling with the leadoff position for years ever since Rafael Furcal left town, the Atlanta Braves finally found an answer when they dealt for Michael Bourn last year. Bourn hit .278 with 30 runs scored and stole 22 bases last year in 53 games after the trade, but the Braves failed to wrap up a playoff spot.
Bourn came back this year and is having a career-year. In addition to hitting .311/.366/.451 with seven homers, 32 RBI and 25 steals, he has played great defense in center field. In fact if the season ended today Bourn would have set new career-highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and home runs. He could potentially also set new career-highs in hits, runs, doubles, triples, RBI and walks.
Michael Bourn easily deserved his All-Star selection, as he is one of the best center fielders in all of baseball. However at the end of the season Bourn will become a free agent. The Braves, who aren't big spenders, will have some cash to use this winter with nearly $25 million to come off the books from Chipper Jones and Derek Lowe alone in addition to the nearly $7 million that Bourn made this year.
The Braves may hesitate to re-sign Bourn though. Bourn will turn 30 years old in December, and with Scott Boras as his agent, he will likely want a four- or five-year contract. Since the Braves aren't huge spenders they may not give a big money deal to a speed guy on the other side of 30.
This means that there is a good chance Bourn is gone after the season. The Braves and their front office also know this, and they know that this could be their best chance to make a deep run into the playoffs. Adding a pitcher like Zack Greinke will only help the Braves make the most out of this season.
Julio Teheran has taken a step back this year.
Unfortunately it appears that this isn't the year for Julio Teheran to help the Atlanta Braves. Teheran has been extremely inconsistent in Triple-A this year. In fact since June 23rd Teheran has allowed 22 runs in just 16.1 innings over four starts, though one was cut short by rain after two shutout innings.
With his recent struggles Teheran has a 6-5 record with a 4.92 ERA while opponents are hitting .284 against him. That's not what the Braves expected after Teheran went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA and a .232 batting average against at the same level just last year.
Teheran's prospect stock had been dropping all year, even before his recent struggles. There are complaints that his breaking ball hasn't developed has expected. However the biggest worry is that his once plus fastball has many scouts wondering where all the life to it went, as it now comes in straight to hitters.
Teheran has gone backwards this season after being one of the top prospects in the game for the last few years. Counting on him this year just isn't something the Braves can afford to do, and if the front office is worried about him then now is the time to deal him and at least get some value back.
Randall Delgado has been very up and down, but at age 22 that is to be expected.
While Julio Teheran has taken a step backwards, another young Braves pitcher has also had some struggles this year. That other pitcher is Randall Delgado, who has been very inconsistent from start to start all year. However there isn't much worry about Delgado, as this is just part of the developmental process for a 22-year-old learning at the big league level.
Overall Delgado is 4-9 with a 4.52 ERA in 16 starts this season. That doesn't tell the whole story though, as Delgado has made six strong starts, four average starts and six weak starts. This has made it very hard to even know what to expect out of Delgado on any given night.
The Braves are trying to win a World Series, so having a pitcher like Delgado in the rotation just isn't a good idea. Acquiring Zack Greinke would allow the Braves to get more consistency out of this spot in the rotation, and allow Delgado to continue his development without as much pressure on him in the minors.
Just like Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke knows how to help his team win whenever he is on the mound.
The Atlanta Braves have a lineup filled with talented players, but they are still a very inconsistent group this season. Brian McCann and Dan Uggla are having among the worst years in their careers, Freddie Freeman hasn't taken a big step forward in his second year, and other than David Ross the bench isn't doing too much.
To win with an inconsistent offense you need pitching. A dominant pitcher is capable of putting a team on his back and winning games any time he is out there on the mound. Just look at the 2011 Dodgers, as they had a down year and a weak offense, but Clayton Kershaw went 21-5 because he was so good. Kershaw himself accounted for over a quarter of his team's 82 victories.
Some may point to this and say that Greinke isn't Kershaw, but really the two have some similarities. Greinke won the 2009 American League Cy Young Award as he went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA for a 65-win Royals team at the age of 25. That also equals winning 25 percent of the games his team won for the season.
Greinke may not be as dominant since that year, but he's still an excellent pitcher who helps his team win. Last year he went 16-6 for the Brewers in his first year in the National League. This year the Brewers aren't very good but Greinke is 9-3 with a 3.17 ERA. Those nine wins are nearly a quarter of his team's 40 victories on the year.
A pitcher like Zack Greinke could really help the Braves because unlike some of the current starters, he would give them a chance to win every game he pitches. Even if the offense struggles the team will be in a good position to get a win.
The Braves need to upgrade Mike Minor's spot in the rotation to maximize their potential.
As much as the Braves would like to have at least one left-handed pitcher in their starting rotation, replacing their one lefty starter may actually help them out. That is because Mike Minor is 5-6 with a 5.97 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.
Minor has been better lately after some ugly outings earlier in the year. Minor has actually been steadily bringing down his ERA ever since May 21st, but still isn't pitching like a guy that should keep getting the ball every fifth day in a pennant race. That's because he still has a 5.81 ERA over his four most recent starts, despite seeing his overall ERA drop during that time.
The Braves really need to upgrade this spot if they want to make a World Series run. Acquiring Zack Greinke would more than give the Braves an upgrade, as he is the best available starter this year since the Phillies are unlikely to deal Cole Hamels within the NL East.