Atlanta Braves Trade Rumors: Braves Should Pull the Trigger for James Shields

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 26:  James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 26, 2012 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

It is no secret that the Atlanta Braves are in the market for a starting pitcher, but they should make sure they do not come away from the trade deadline empty handed. They must acquire James Shields.

Atlanta has the fourth-worst starter ERA in the National League. That includes an impressive first half by Brandon Beachy until he got injured. The problem is that they have relied too heavily on unproven youngsters, and now they need a more veteran presence in the rotation.

The team attempted to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs last week, but the deal fell through. According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, talks between the two teams are unlikely to pick up again. 

He also goes on to say that "teams believe Ben Sheets' three great starts have dramatically reduced the Braves' sense of urgency to trade for a starter."

This would be a mistake for the Braves. They are currently in a position to make the playoffs, but without another quality starter they will drop down in the standings very quickly.

Mike Minor has gotten back on track lately, but he is too inconsistent to trust in the stretch run. The same goes for Randall Delgado, who has shown promise but cannot be counted on in big games.

As far as the addition of Ben Sheets, he has already exceeded realistic expectations in his first three starts. However, Atlanta should not count on this type of production for another two months. After pitching only half a season in the past four years, the Braves should only consider what Sheets provides as a bonus.

Now that Zack Greinke has been traded, James Shields is the best option available. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Braves are among the teams interested in the veteran. Considering the lack of alternatives, they should make the trade.

Shields has struggled of late, but a switch to the National League might benefit the right-hander. He has pitched over 200 innings every year since his first in the majors, and is as reliable as they come.

Atlanta might not want to mortgage the future for a run at the playoffs this season, but with this talented team in Chipper Jones' last season, they should give it all they got. With plenty left in the farm system, the future will still be bright.