With the non-waiver trade deadline looming less than a week away (this Saturday), the Atlanta Braves are sitting in a pretty good spot.
Granted, they just lost two of three in South Florida from the now-.500 fourth place Marlins, but the club still holds the National League's second-best record (57-41) and a five game advantage over the Philadelphia Phillies.
But, there is a little room for improvement.
Well, actually, center fielder Nate McLouth's .168/.279/.265 line offers room for a significant amount of improvement (and a slumping Troy Glaus isn't much to shout about, either—but we'll refrain from discussing that at this time).
And the question right now is: Where is that improvement going to come from?
The first, and most painless, option is to look at the options already available within the organization.
Melky Cabrera has been a serviceable outfielder for the Braves, posting a .263/.320/.360 line with, overall, solid defense in the outfield.
But, he's not exactly injecting any "pop" (or awesome on-base skills, for that matter) into the lineup (his most valuable asset seems to be a positive attitude in the clubhouse).
And Jordan Schafer ...well, let's just skip him (I was wrong with what I said about him earlier in the season and I'm feasting on my plate of crow right now).
The third internal option is Gregor Blanco , who was a valuable asset in his 36 games with the big club earlier this season.
In a grand total of 58 at-bats, primarily batting eighth, Blanco was able to work the count, bunt, and slap his way to a .310/.394/.362 line (two of his 18 hits were of the extra-base variet—a double and a triple).
His defense was more than adequate in center and the only real knock (besides the power—which no one expects from him) on him would be his 15 Ks—but that .394 OBP makes up for that.
All in all, Gregor was a fine option for the bottom of the Braves' order and is, for me, the best option of any of the Braves' "major" center field options.
But, if the Braves decide to make a move outside of the organization, who's there?
Corey Hart-types (you know what I'm talking about) are going to demand at least one of the Teheran/Minor/Vizcaino (who is injured)/Delgado crop and it doesn't seem reasonable to let go of primo young pitching for a player without a proven track record in the midst of a career year.
The most likely option seems to be Florida Marlins' center fielder Cody Ross (who's received mixed reviews as far as true interest from the Braves' front office), so we'll focus on him right now.
The .273/.330/.402 (which amounts to an OPS 24 points lower than Blanco's—just keep in mind that Gregor posted his in very limited playing time...just think it's work mentioning) line Ross has posted has come with eight homers and nine stolen bases—the former being far off pace from his 24 homers in 2009 and 22 in 2008 while the latter is the highest SB tally he has posted in his career (full season or not).
While his numbers certainly aren't gargantuan, they are a definite upgrade over McLouth's and Ross seems to be a much more reliable option than my choice from within the Braves' organization (Blanco).
But, what are the Marlins going to demand from a divisional rival for a player that they're iffy (at best) on trading?
I figure that Melky Cabrera, Zeke Spruill/Cory Gearrin, Adam Milligan/Cody Johnson (pick your combo) would be enough...but what if they demand one of the young studs I mentioned earlier?
Do the Braves pull the trigger then?
It's a tough decision, that's for sure—one I don't envy.
Should the Braves go for a more reliable bat in center for the stretch run or should they stick to their guns and run with what they've got?
Whatever they do, I'm just hoping that Nate "McOut" McLouth is out of town by the time Sunday rolls around.