Atlanta Braves: Starting Pitchers the Braves Should Be Targeting

Matt PowersCorrespondent IIJuly 28, 2012

Atlanta Braves: Starting Pitchers the Braves Should Be Targeting

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    With less than 72 hours remaining before the trade deadline, the Atlanta Braves are not having much luck when it comes to adding a starter to their rotation. They thought they landed Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, but Dempster was able to veto that deal. Since then Zack Greinke and Wandy Rodriguez were each dealt and Matt Garza got hurt.

    That leaves high-priced options like James Shields and Josh Johnson as the top pitchers on the market, and both of those guys have been struggling this year. Francisco Liriano is even more unpredictable and wouldn't be much of an upgrade over the guys the Braves want to replace in the rotation.

    This article takes a look at three guys the Braves should consider adding as a "plan B" after being unable to land one of the big guns without mortgaging the future. None of these guys will front a playoff rotation, but all would be an upgrade over the current back end of the rotation and will offer some consistency.

Paul Maholm

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    The Cubs' rotation has attracted plenty of attention this summer as teams are looking to add starters, but most of that attention was directed at Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster. However, the Cubs also have other arms that could help a contender down the stretch, even if those arms aren't front-of-the-rotation types.

    Paul Maholm is an example of this. The 30-year-old left-hander is having a pretty strong year overall, which follows a strong year in 2011 with Pittsburgh. Maholm is 9-6 with a 3.88 ERA in 20 games this year after going 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA in 26 starts a year ago.

    Maholm isn't without flaws, though, which is why he may not get a lot of attention in the trade market. His lack of strikeouts and the fact that he has only hit 200 innings pitched once in seven seasons as a starter are the two biggest flaws for the veteran.

    Still, Maholm would be an upgrade over the inconsistent Mike Minor, and his addition would mean that the Braves still have a lefty in their rotation. He won't win a pennant for the Braves alone, but he could be a piece that helps the Braves to win a pennant.

Jason Vargas

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    Paul Maholm isn't the only left-hander that would upgrade the Braves' rotation, as Jason Vargas would also fit that description. The Mariners' pitcher has been pretty solid over the last three seasons and has done a good job of eating innings after averaging 197 between 2010 and 2011 and throwing 146 more so far this season.

    Vargas started to come into his own in 2010 when he went 9-12 with a 3.78 ERA. He followed that by going 10-13 with a 4.25 ERA last season. This year he is 11-7 with a 3.76 ERA in his first 22 starts.

    Like Maholm, Vargas has some flaws which limit him to being a back-of-the-rotation guy. His biggest flaw is that he is a bit prone to giving up homers, as the 25 he has allowed this year lead the American League. Also like Maholm, Vargas doesn't rack up many strikeouts.

    Similar to Maholm, Vargas would be an upgrade over Mike Minor. His success in the American League could translate well into the National League, and his 1.16 WHIP this year along with his ability to pitch fairly deep into games would help the Braves out.

Edinson Volquez

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    Edinson Volquez is the answer to the trivia question on who was traded straight up for Josh Hamilton back in late 2007. He also has some other impressive feats on his resume, such as winning 17 games in 2008 for the Reds and being one of the key parts to the deal that sent Mat Latos to Cincinnati.

    Volquez is currently 6-7 with a 3.30 ERA in his first 21 starts of the year. He has managed to strike out 117 hitters in 128.1 innings, and he has limited opponents to just 6.7 hits allowed per nine innings.

    While Volquez is tough to hit, he is also very prone to hurting himself, as he currently leads the National League in walks. He also has dramatic home and away splits, which isn't a big surprise considering he plays his home games at spacious Petco Park. Volquez has also battled injuries in his career, which limited him to just 41 starts from 2009 through 2011.

    Edinson Volquez is the one pitcher on this list that could potentially be an impact starter for the Braves. At the same time, he is also the least consistent of the trio and may cost the most to acquire. If the Braves do make a move to acquire him, it would make a statement about the lack of faith in their current group of starters.