The Atlanta Braves have been immersed at the center of the trade rumors that surround the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but the franchise must follow through with a huge starting pitching acquisition to keep the team’s World Series hopes alive.
Braves general manager Frank Wren and his scouts will spend the next few days evaluating the small group of available starting pitchers who could legitimately upgrade the rotation. Instead of pursuing a middle-of the-rotation piece like Bud Norris, the club’s interest in this department is focused on the likes of Jake Peavy and Ervin Santana.
Which need should the Atlanta Braves address first?
Atlanta’s long-time pitcher Tim Hudson went down with a fractured ankle during last Wednesday’s game, and the void that his season-ending injury has left is far bigger than the hole in the bullpen.
The Braves also lost relievers Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty to Tommy John surgery this season, but still need to find an anchor for the starting rotation more than they need to add depth at the back end of the bullpen.
Ideally, the Braves would be able to move a prospect for a starting pitcher and a reliever, but with the franchise’s unwillingness to move its future players, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, finding the perfect deal may not be feasible.
Clubs that spoke with #Braves today doubtful they'll trade for a starter. Adamant about not dealing top prospects. Still more focused on pen— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 26, 2013
As much as Hudson’s injury has caused a deep and obvious need, the franchise has remained adamant about trying to find a reliever over another starter, according to Bowman, and that’s not the right course of action.
The #Braves focus remains on landing a reliever. But still evaluating cost of the SPs (Peavy, Santana) they view as legit upgrades— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) July 27, 2013
Atlanta boasts a solid bullpen consisting of Jordan Walden, Luis Ayala and Anthony Varvaro in the latter stages of the games and the shutdown ability of Craig Kimbrel as the closer.
With untested starting pitchers like Alex Wood and Julio Teheran playing well, but not possessing the experience needed in the postseason, the Braves must see the need for another quality starter like Peavy or Santana.
Atlanta may be leading the National League East by a comfortable margin over the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies, but trading for a starting pitcher now would be all about posturing for the playoffs and a deep run at the World Series.