The big question for Atlanta Braves fans at every trade deadline is "will the team do anything big?" It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Atlanta front office will add a small piece or two every deadline, as they’ve done for just about every deadline in which the Braves have been in contention.
But a big trade? Those are not quite as frequent in the history of Braves deadline deals, though there have been a couple in the past few years.
Two years ago, the Braves acquired starting pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson, in exchange for a pretty big pitching prospect in Arodys Vizcaino.
The last really big trade came a few hours before the 2011 trade deadline, when GM Frank Wren shipped a package of mid-tier prospects to the Astros for Michael Bourn.
Prior to that, the last really big trade the Braves made at the deadline was the 2007 trade for Mark Teixeira.
Most Braves fans would rather forget about that one, but at the time the slugging first baseman was just what the team needed, and the team shipped off a bunch of prospects who were two or three years away from the majors.
Most years at the deadline, the Braves simply acquire a few parts and pieces they need to round out the roster.
Last year they needed a lefty reliever, so they went out and got Scott Downs.
In 2010, they went out and got outfielder Rick Ankiel and reliever Kyle Farnsworth from the Royals. In fact, that was the second time the Braves had added "The Farns" in a deadline deal, having acquired him from the Tigers in 2005.
These smaller deals are more likely what will transpire at this year’s trade deadline.
The Braves are unlikely to make a big trade at the deadline due to a lack of top-tier prospects in their minor league system. Not only will other teams find Atlanta’s selection of talent limited, the Braves themselves will not want to deplete their minor league system below its current state.
The Braves are also unlikely to tread into the blockbuster deadline trade waters because the team doesn’t have any glaring holes that need plugging. The lineup is set at every position, and the team has done a good job of filling in for the nagging injuries throughout the season.
The rotation is also unlikely to change or need an upgrade. The cost of a rotation upgrade in a trade is beyond the Braves' means—both in terms of prospects and salary space. The Braves already extended their budget once this year when they signed Ervin Santana in spring training.
Atlanta also has options in case a starter goes down, beginning with David Hale, who early in the season proved that he could successfully hold down a rotation spot.
Keeping it small...or not at all
The best guess right now for what the Braves will do at the deadline, is something small. It’s no secret that they would like to add a reliever, but with the Huston Street and Joakim Soria deals setting the prospect price for quality relievers extremely high, the Braves may not be willing to pay market rates.
The Braves will spend the next week searching for ways to upgrade their bullpen and bench. But with essentially no financial flexibility and limited attractive options, there is a chance they will remain quiet through the July 31 Trade Deadline.
While they may not want to make a move, the Braves need to make a move to improve one of the worst pinch-hitting corps in the National League (.176 PH average).
Atlanta has also seemingly mined every effective relief nugget out of its minor league system, recently recalling lefty Chasen Shreve from Double-A. It seems prudent to add an experienced reliever now to protect against the possibility of injury down the stretch.
The Braves are big fans of the two-for trade, wherein they trade with one team to fill all their needs. The aforementioned Maholm and Johnson trade was one such deal, as was the Ankiel/Farnsworth trade. Even in the Mark Teixeira trade, the Braves also received reliever Ron Mahay.
In 2006, the Braves got utility man Willy Aybar and reliever Danys Baez from the Dodgers in a single deadline deal.
Atlanta will look to add an experienced pinch-hitter and an experienced reliever at this year’s deadline. While they may not force the issue, or have much minor league depth they wish to part with, the Braves do need to make a move to strengthen their bench and bullpen.
My prediction is that the Braves will go to one team for all their needs and pull off another two-for deadline deal.