Braves' Best Trade Chips for the Deadline
Trade speculation typically picks up considerable steam just about the time the baseball world pauses for the All-Star break.
With the non-waiver trade deadline looming in just over two weeks, the Atlanta Braves and other contending teams are most certainly busy evaluating talent.
General manager Frank Wren and company have a bevy of prospects to offer in potential deals. They also have a surplus of starting pitching which could make for a good match with teams in need.
This slideshow presents a list of players which could be the key to deadline deals that allow Atlanta to acquire its missing piece, or pieces as the case may be.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Sean Gilmartin was a proven prospect entering the 2013 season. Injury and inconsistency have taken a little bit of the shine off the lefty, who was competing for the vacant fifth starter's spot in spring training.
At 23, the Braves figured Gilmartin would benefit from a full season in Triple-A to further his development.
Unfortunately, he has seen both his walk and home run rates rise as International League opponents have hit Gilmartin at a .308 clip this year.
Gilmartin landed on the disabled list on June 17 after a disastrous six start stretch in which he went 1-5 with a 9.09 ERA in 30.1 IP (May 20 - June 16). Shoulder tendinitis certainly helps explain those woes.
Though he turned in a 3.84 ERA while walking just 39 batters in 27 starts last season, the lackluster performance so far in 2013 hardly bolsters Gilmartin's stock.
Any interested club would likely want to see the trend reverse should the lefty make it back in time to showcase his skills before the deadline.
The 28th overall pick in the 2011 June draft, Gilmartin was already a polished pitcher while at Florida State University. He has displayed the mound presence and pitchability that led Atlanta to take him.
Label him a long shot to be dealt this time around, but the packed rotation at the big league level and a wealth of pitching prospects allows Atlanta a certain amount of latitude when it comes time to trade.
Joey Terdoslavich has proven to be quite resilient in a very short time in the Braves system.
After all, it was only a year ago that Atlanta was forced to abandon its plans of creating another switch-hitting third baseman to take up the mantle of a retiring Chipper Jones.
His disastrous start to the 2012 campaign seems like a distant memory at this point.
Terdoslavich, 24, initially skipped Double-A altogether last year, but hit just .180/.252/.263 and committed 22 errors in 50 games as a third baseman for Gwinnett.
Atlanta decided to ease off the throttle and send Terdoslavich to Mississippi, where he moved across the diamond to first base and found his stroke again. Turning in a .315/.372/.480 slash line with 51 RBI in 78 games to close out 2012 was proof that the bat was fine.
In fact, his success carried over in Triple-A this season. This time as an outfielder.
Terdoslavich was batting .318 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI in 85 games at the time of his call-up. While he has been used mostly as a pinch-hitter, that role could be changing with all of the injuries to Atlanta's starting outfielders just prior to the All-Star break.
For teams that are looking for a switch-hitting outfielder with pop, Terdoslavich would certainly fit the bill.
Christian Bethancourt has built a reputation primarily for his defensive prowess, but 2013 may finally be the year that his bat is catching up with his glove.
While the Braves decide what moves to make prior to the trade deadline, they also have a bigger decision to make when it comes to the future of the catching corps.
Bethancourt could factor heavily into that decision.
Still just 21 years old, Bethancourt returned to Double-A Mississippi for a second season. He batted just .243 with only eight extra-base hits in 71 games there last year, which left much to be desired in the way of offensive output.
Things have turned around nicely in 2013. Bethancourt is batting a more respectable .262 and has improved his slugging percentage from .292 last year to .400 this season.
His 14 doubles and five home runs are proof positive that his stroke does provide the power many scouts believed to be there.
His overall improvement this season led to a second consecutive All-Star Futures Game appearance. However, the best part of Bethancourt's game is unquestionably his catch and throw skills, which may be the best in minor league baseball.
This is where the Braves' catching conundrum reaches critical mass.
Do they sign McCann to a new deal or allow him to walk? Do they hand the keys to Gattis? If so, where does Bethancourt fit in?
Numerous teams would love to have this problem, and some may just be looking to acquire a catcher like Bethancourt to help in a rebuilding process.
Alex Wood has been impressive in his short time in the major leagues.
To the surprise of no one in the Braves player development department, the 22-year-old has been able to adjust to the bullpen and lessen the blow of losing two key left-handers to injury.
Averaging 10.6 K/9 IP and limiting opposing hitters to a .213/.282/.267 line over his 22 innings with Atlanta, Wood is putting up the kind of numbers that the Braves expected out of, say Jonny Venters or Eric O'Flaherty.
Wood is the kind of arm the Braves want to and will likely hold onto unless the deal is one that is simply too good to pass up. He figures heavily into Atlanta's future rotation plans, so to pry Wood away would take a considerable return.
The Braves are dealing from a place of strength when it comes to starting pitchers.
They have a full rotation, though veterans Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm are both free-agents at the end of the season. Atlanta also possesses the talented young trio of Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran, who are already producing in the rotation.
And then there is this Brandon Beachy guy, who is nearing a return from Tommy John Surgery.
It goes without saying that not all the players who appear on a list of trade chips are being shopped, actively or otherwise.
The crowded house in the rotation will be addressed in the coming weeks and months. Wood's place should become clear in 2014.
A hard-throwing lefty with an unorthodox delivery, Wood has drawn some comparisons to Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. His path from the bullpen to the rotation could also mirror Sale's early trek through the big leagues.
If the results are anything similar, the Braves would not be the only club clamoring for Wood's services.
Here we reach the veteran portion of the Braves' trade pieces.
While Paul Maholm has added stability to the Braves rotation since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs at the deadline last year, his days in Atlanta are likely numbered due to the amount of good starting pitching emerging in the Braves system.
In fact, it is already becoming a crowded house with Brandon Beachy returning soon.
Maholm, 30, has gone 9-8 with a 3.98 ERA in 19 starts for Atlanta this season. He opened 2013 in fine fashion, winning his first three outings and not allowing a run until his fourth start.
Overall, he is 13-13 with a 3.82 ERA in 184 innings across 30 starts since coming over from Chicago with Reed Johnson. That trade occurred after Ryan Dempster decided Atlanta was not the place for him, and was one of the more astute moves made by GM Frank Wren.
The fact that Maholm is playing on an expiring contract makes the veteran lefty a rental player for most interested clubs. It could afford Maholm the chance to join another contender in need of help in the rotation if the Braves match up favorably with a trading partner.
Considering that Maholm has made exactly one relief appearance in his nine-year career, a move to the bullpen to make way for Beachy seems unlikely.
Even more unlikely, however, would be Tim Hudson, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen or Julio Teheran getting bumped out of rotation. The numbers game is seldom easy nor fair, and most definitely plays favorites.
Maholm may not be a front of the rotation starter or impact acquisition, but he could have enough value to land Atlanta a veteran reliever and/or a mid-level prospect.
Grant McAuley covers baseball for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game in Atlanta. You can follow Grant on Twitter.