As we near the end of May, the MLB trade deadline is about two months away.
With the Braves sitting atop the National League East, general manager Frank Wren will be looking to improve the team at the deadline. The trade market is beginning to take shape but will undoubtedly become more clear as we get into July.
As the roster currently stands, the Braves don't have major holes to fill. The starting rotation is deep, and Julio Teheran is cementing himself as a top-end starter. While the Braves would like to add another top starter, so would just about every team in the majors, making a trade for Jeff Samardzija likely too pricey for Wren.
Similarly, the Braves look set with positional players with the exception of second base. The Braves just promoted Tommy La Stella to Atlanta after the trio of Dan Uggla, Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky failed to produce any consistent offense.
The Braves are hoping La Stella can give them some much-needed production from the second base position.
Time will tell if the 25-year-old La Stella proves to be the answer at the position. If not, Emilio Bonifacio looks like a player the Braves should target at the deadline.
Why the Braves Make the Move
Bonifacio would give the Braves versatility, depth, and speed. The Braves lack a prototypical leadoff hitter, and Bonifacio would immediately fill that role. Among qualifiers, the 29-year-old ranks fifth in average (.280) and fourth in steals (11) among National League leadoff hitters.
Jason Heyward has done some good things from the leadoff spot (.332 OBP and 21 runs) but is not a natural in the spot. His .240 average ranks second-to-last among NL leadoff hitters, and his 42 strikeouts are second-most, only behind Carlos Gomez (52).
Perhaps even more surprising is that Bonifacio (.688) has compiled a higher OPS than Heyward (.670).
Bonifacio would give the Braves a true leadoff hitter and would allow Heyward to fill a more run-producing role that suits his game.
Another advantage of Bonifacio is his ability to switch hit. Manager Fredi Gonzalez would be able to plug him into the lineup whether a right-handed or left-handed pitcher was on the hill.
In 2014, Bonifacio has destroyed left-handed pitching by hitting at a .373 clip while Heyward has hit just .212 against left-handers. Traditionally, Bonifacio doesn't hit right-handers as well but has posted a respectable .255 average and .316 OBP for his career.
There's no doubt that he could help spark a Braves offense that has struggled to find much consistency in 2014, ranking in the bottom five in runs scored and batting average.
Perhaps more importantly, his speed (149 career steals) could help come playoff time by putting pressure on the opposing defense.
In the field, Bonifacio would give Gonzalez both depth and insurance. As the roster stands now, Bonifacio would play mostly second base, but he also has the ability to play third base and all the outfield positions.
If B.J. Upton enters the postseason in one of his cold streaks, Gonzalez could plug Bonifacio in at center and keep La Stella at second. If Upton is hot, Gonzalez has the option of playing Bonifacio at second or using him as a valuable player off the bench.
This gives the Braves some insurance in case one of their streaky players goes cold, and he would be an upgrade over a player like Pena or Jordan Schafer—both of whom have failed to hit over .200 in 2014.
While trading for a top pitcher would take multiple top prospects, acquiring Bonifacio would not be near as costly. Pastornicky, Juan Jaime and another low-level prospect would likely be close to what the Cubs are looking at for a 29-year-old who is set to become a free agent after the 2014 season.
Much of this trade will depend on the early success of La Stella. However, there is no doubt that the Braves could stand to target a player who could slide in at the leadoff spot.
Bonifacio makes sense for the Braves to target as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
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