Entering the second half of the season, the Atlanta Braves are 54-41 and in complete control of the National League East division. They have an elite bullpen, an improving starting pitching staff and a managerial staff that's earning constant praise.
Even with their strong team, however, the Braves are looking to acquire more arms—so who is on their radar?
The Atlanta Braves have Craig Kimbrel at the back of their bullpen, which is beyond comforting, as he led the MLB in saves in 2011 and 2012. Even with a solid middle relief system, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Atlanta is looking to add another arm to it's bullpen.
Here's who they're targeting.
Jesse Crain, Chicago White Sox
Position: Relief Pitcher
Experience: 10th Season
2013 Season Statistics
38 GP, 36.2 IP, 2-3, 46 SO, 19 HLD, 0.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
According to Jim Bowden of ESPN (subscription required), the Braves are targeting Chicago White Sox reliever Jesse Crain. This shouldn't catch too many by surprise, as Crain was named to the 2013 American League All-Star team.
Should the Braves pull this deal off, their bullpen would approach the ranks of the untouchable.
Crain has been absolutely sensational, compiling 19 holds in 38 appearances on an ERA of 0.74. In that time, he's struck out 46 batters, thus averaging 11.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
That's the type of arm that every title contender needs.
Crain is being shopped by the White Sox, but is currently recovering from a right shoulder strain. That could force Atlanta from holding back on executing this deal, no matter how attractive it may be.
If the opportunity presents itself, however, there's a strong probability that Atlanta pulls the trigger.
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Experience: 9th Season
2013 Season Statistics
35 GP, 34.2 IP, 1-0, 21 SV, 2 BLSV, 1.82 ERA, 0.81 WHIP
Per Jim Bowden of ESPN, the Braves reached out to the Minnesota Twins about reliever Glen Perkins. Unfortunately for Braves fans hoping to acquire the star closer, the Twins have turned Atlanta away.
If the Twins, 39-53, continue to drift further into the depths of despair, however, there is reason to believe a potential trade scenario could raise.
Perkins was named to the 2013 American League All-Star Game, going 1-0 with 21 saves in 23 opportunities before the break. With a 1.82 ERA and a WHIP of 0.81, it's clear that Perkins could be an elite set-up man for Atlanta in front of Kimbrel.
What's unclear, however, is whether or not Perkins wants to be traded out of a closer role and if Minnesota will budge on keeping him in town.
What Atlanta has going for them is that the Twins are on the outside looking in of postseason contention. With Perkins already 30 and unlikely to see his trade value surpass it's current level, that makes the time now for Minnesota to execute a trade.
If they give in to the temptation, expect Atlanta to come knocking.
According to Mike Bowman of MLB.com, the Braves are targeting countless left-handed pitchers. While there may be more than a handful of players on Atlanta's radar, there are three that have come up more often than all other names.
Wright is a legitimate option, but Bowman reports that the Braves are more intent on acquiring Gonzalez or Russell. This is no slight on Wright, but as it presently stands, his ERA has jumped to 4.41 and he's blown two saves in his past three appearances.
Russell and Gonzalez have been significantly more successful.
Russell has blown six saves, but he's improved significantly and lowered his ERA to 2.78 with a WHIP of 1.18. Gonzalez has a 3.00 ERA, but his true advantage is his experience as a 10-year veteran.
While Russell may be more intriguing due to his youth and upside, the Braves would secure a trade victory if they acquired either of these arms.
All statistics per baseball-reference.com