5 Trade Ideas That the Atlanta Braves Should Already Be Thinking About

Martin Gandy@gondeeeFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

5 Trade Ideas That the Atlanta Braves Should Already Be Thinking About

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Braves just endured a really bad losing streak. It's a subtle reminder that there are still areas of concern on this Braves club and areas that need improvement.

    As we approach the sixth week of the season, clubs are gaining a better understanding of what needs to be fixed on their teams and what holes need to be filled. It's never too early to start thinking about ways to improve the ballclub through a trade.

    Begin the slideshow, and explore five trade ideas the Braves should already be thinking about.

    All stats used are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Dan Uggla Needs to Go

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    john bazemore/Associated Press

    Yes, it is time for the Braves to finally rid themselves of Dan Uggla. He might go out there tomorrow and get a few hits and change a mind or two, but he'll regress right back to being a liability in the lineup.

    Last season, Uggla had one of the worst seasons for a batter in the history of the game. He tied Rob Deer for lowest batting average among qualified hitters since 1920, as SB Nation’s Hot Corner pointed out. His average this season (.190) is just as bad as it was last year (.179), and he's producing less overall offense. His OPS has fallen over 100 points from .671 in 2013 to .528 this season.

    How many more at-bats can the Braves give him while expecting a different outcome at the plate? The Atlanta front office needs to consider Uggla’s $13 million salaries for this season and next season sunk costs and cut him loose.

    Could they possibly trade Uggla? It's highly doubtful that even if the Braves ate most of the money Uggla is owed that there would be any team willing to take him off their hands. So this first trade idea for the Braves is not a trade with another organization, but a trade within the Braves organization.

    Tommy La Stella is the second-baseman-in-waiting at Triple-A. He’s hitting .320, walks more than he strikes out is just as good defensively at second base. Oh, and he's a young kid who is learning and becoming a better ballplayer every day.

    It's time for the Braves to trade Dan Uggla for Tommy La Stella.

Southpaw Help Is Needed in the Pen

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Atlanta Braves MLB.com beat writer Mark Bowman recently tweeted this:

    There's a chance Avilan could turn things around. And Venters might return in June. But the #Braves will be looking for LH relievers

    Braves lefty reliever Luis Avilan has had a rough go of it in 2014. He's allowed a .333 batting average against, including a .286 BAA versus left-handed hitters.

    Right-handed reliever Jordan Walden had been super tough against left-handed batters in his career with a .207 BAA, but this year, he's allowed lefties to hit .273 off of him.

    This lack of a left-handed specialist is clearly something the Braves are seeking, and while left-hander Jonny Venters may return at some point this season, there's no telling how effective he could be in his first year after Tommy John surgery.

    That should have the Braves scouring the trade market for an effective left-handed relief specialist. Last year, the Braves went out and acquired Scott Downs at the trade deadline, but with Avilan’s struggles and Walden being less effective against left-handers, Atlanta should already be thinking about trading for a left-handed specialist.

Rebuild the Farm System by Trading a Starting Pitcher

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    It's shocking to write that the Braves should consider trading away some of their starting pitching, but there it is—I just wrote it. After Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy went down this spring, and Mike Minor was delayed for a month, the Braves scrambled to find starting pitching.

    They signed Ervin Santana for a lot of money. They signed Aaron Harang for a little money. They hoped that Gavin Floyd would return quickly from Tommy John rehab. They looked within the organization to young guns like Alex Wood and David Hale.

    A month into the season, Santana and Harang are among the best starters in baseball. Wood and Hale have been solid in the rotation, and Floyd returned to the mound on Tuesday night with great success. The Braves rotation is exceeding capacity, and now they have to figure out what to do with seven quality starting pitchers.

    Enter the Braves farm system—ranked 22nd among all 30 clubs by ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required). Baseball America ranked the Braves system 26th in its 2014 Prospect Handbook. The Braves system has thinned out considerably, thanks to promotions of prospects to the majors and some big trades in recent years (Justin Upton and Michael Bourn).

    None of the four Braves farm teams currently have winning records—if that can be used as an indication of the quality and depth of prospects in the system.

    Some of the best prospects in the Braves system are actually starting pitchers—check out the latest Bleacher Report Braves Prospect Stock Watch for more. The two guys the Braves just demoted from the bullpen—Gus Schlosser and Ian Thomas—are going back to starting in the minors.

    With all of this starting pitching depth in the majors and the minors, the Braves could safely trade away one of their starting pitchers with the knowledge that they would still be able to cover up for an injury in the rotation.

    In return, the organization could look to acquire some top hitting prospects, especially power prospects. The Braves are severely lacking in power hitting prospects, and as strange as it sounds, they should use some of their surplus starting pitching to acquire one (or more).

Upgrade the Rotation with a Trade

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    David Tulis/Associated Press

    If trading away starting pitchers for prospects is not your thing, then perhaps the Braves could use their surplus of starting pitchers and starting pitching prospects to try and upgrade a spot in the rotation.

    The deal that Aaron Harang has made with the devil this season surely comes with an expiration date. He has a 2.98 ERA this season. Over the course of his 12-year career, he has compiled a 4.28 ERA and has never posted an ERA below 3.61 in any season. The odds are that the Braves will need to replace him in the rotation at some point.

    While the Braves have been handing out long-term contracts to many of their young stars, they have skipped over Mike Minor. Perhaps they are waiting until he proves himself healthy since missing the first month after offseason surgery, or perhaps they have tried to sign him, and he and his agent have rebuffed the team's offers.

    There are not many pitchers out there who would be upgrades over Minor, but there might be pitchers out there who the Braves have a better shot at signing long-term, or who are already signed to guaranteed contracts.

    Minor is a Super Two player, and this season was the first of four arbitration years he could go through. The Braves may want cost certainty over the possibility of escalating arbitration salaries for the next three years. 

Trade Away a Desirable Contract

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    It sounds weird to say it (and write it), especially after the Braves spent the last three months signing all their young stars to long-term guaranteed contracts, but those contracts also make those players more attractive to other teams in a trade.

    The Braves signed those guys in part because they want payroll certainty, and the Braves aren't the only team who want payroll certainty. That was one of the things that made Justin Upton more attractive to the Braves (and other clubs) when Atlanta acquired him from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2013 season.

    Justin Upton is signed through the 2015 season and could still be attractive to other teams interested in a trade.

    It seems unthinkable to trade a young, homegrown star like Jason Heyward, but his contract through next season is one of the best bargains around. He's making $4.5 million this season and $7.8 million next season before he becomes a free agent.

    With all of the contracts they've handed out this year, the Braves are signaling that they want their core together from now through the opening of their new stadium at the beginning of the 2017 season. The team's inability to extend Heyward out that long could be a sign that it will be unable to re-sign him once he becomes a free agent.

    With the possibility of losing Heyward after the 2015 season, the Braves could choose to trade him away for a greater return than a possible first-round compensation draft pick they would receive if J-Hey left via free agency.

    In addition to Heyward's talent on the field, the modest contract he's under through next season could make him even more attractive to clubs looking to add his services. Those clubs may also be willing to give Atlanta more in return because of Heyward's guaranteed team-friendly contract.