The Atlanta Braves already could have used a top-of-the-rotation pitcher heading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. With Tim Hudson gone for the foreseeable future, the need has become a necessity.
Hudson, who was officially moved to the DL on Thursday after breaking his ankle on Tuesday, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was the team's No. 1 pitcher in the rotation despite other pitchers putting up better numbers.
As O'Brien reports, Alex Wood has been called up to the starting rotation and Brandon Beachy will likely join him soon. However, neither are the kind of proven options that the Braves will need to continue their pursuit for the best record in the National League.
Wood is still a largely unproven rookie, and Beachy has yet to make a start this season after Tommy John surgery last year.
This leaves the Braves with fewer options to strengthen the rotation than to make a deal for one of the aces available on the market. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Ervin Santana of the Kansas City Royals, Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox and Bud Norris of the Houston Astros are all potential targets.
Here's a look at each of the potential suitors to help the Braves make a pennant push.
If the Braves can swing a deal for Ervin Santana, folks in Atlanta should be jumping for joy. The Royals ace has allowed opposing batters to hit just .231 this season and sports an ERA of 3.06 on the season.
Those are the kind of numbers the Royals hoped would lead them to an AL Central title when they acquired Santana, but that just hasn't been the case. Now it appears all those numbers will do is make it difficult for the Royals to hold on to Santana when his $13 million deal expires at the end of the season.
For Santana's part, it appears that he enjoys playing for Kansas City; the star pitcher tweeted a video with some teammates responding to the speculation that he might be dealt.
Whether Santana really wants to leave Kansas City or not, the fact of the matter is he has a much better shot at contending with the Braves, and the Royals aren't likely to pony up the dough to sign him unless he's willing to take a massive discount.
The drawback to trading for him would be the fact that he's been erratic throughout his career. He has three seasons in which he posted an ERA of 5.00 or higher. He may wind up just being a rental for a half season.
Peavy's numbers aren't quite as impressive as Santana's. His ERA of 4.28 and WHIP of 1.14 are both slightly higher than Santana's numbers. However, his 8-4 record is slightly better than Santana's 6-6 mark. Of course, on bad teams like the White Sox and Royals, records don't mean much.
What does mean a lot is that Jayson Stark of ESPN reports that Peavy has drawn attention from plenty of contenders.
Unlike Santana, Peavy would be more than a half season rental. According to Spotrac, his contract is guaranteed for next season with a player option for 2015.
Considering the competition for the hurler and the long-term commitment, Peavy may command a higher price and larger risk than bringing Santana into the fold.
The youngest of the three options, the 28-year-old Norris, is trapped on a horrible Houston Astros team. But that hasn't stopped him from posting a 3.93 ERA and 6-9 record.
While those aren't as impressive as Peavy or Santana's numbers, Norris is remarkably cheaper at just $3 million this season, per Spotrac.
The Astros should be willing to strike a deal, too. At just 34-67, Houston owns the worst record in all of baseball and is at least a few years from competing.
Norris is currently the highest paid player on the Astros roster and headed for arbitration next season. That's a bill that Houston won't want to foot, which all means that the Braves should be able to get Norris at a value price because the Astros would be better off bolstering their already stacked farm system.