As the 2011 Major League Baseball season storms toward the All-Star break, we can positively take one fact from the season: there is no perfect team in baseball.
The Atlanta Braves are no exception to this fact, even though they are having a tremendous year. As I see it, it is never to early to improve, even if that means looking at 2012 free agents now.
While all of these possibilities could never work out for the Braves, I believe a few of these free agents would be perfect fits in Atlanta.
Let me start by saying the most obvious statement that you probably all know is coming: wrestling Swisher away from the Yankees will be no easy task.
That said, I believe that Nick Swisher could be a fantastic fit in Atlanta if the price is right. Swisher is off to a slow start this season, batting .218 with only five home runs after an All-Star season. Over the past five seasons, Swisher's home run totals were 29, 29, 24, 22 and 35.
Swisher obviously has the power to be a serious contributor for the Braves immediately. Swisher would give the Braves the ability to move Jason Heyward to center field and put another very talented youngster in right field. Swisher generally hovers around the upper .400 to lower .500 in slugging percentage, so his 2010 slugging percentage of .345 is very low for him.
Having a bad season could make Swisher affordable and he might only need a change of scenery to get back on track. I believe that Nick Swisher, for the right price, could push the Braves over the top in terms of offensive production in 2012.
Does this guy look familiar? If not, he should because during the 2009 and 2010 seasons Infante was one of the most valuable players for the Atlanta Braves.
Before arriving in Atlanta, Infante was a good player, but nothing spectacular. However during 2008, 2009 and 2010, Omar hit .293, .305 and .321, respectively. Infante was even elected to the 2010 National League All-Star team.
Omar Infante would be a rather cheap option to be a backup player and rotate starts at second base, third base, shortstop and in the outfield. When a player finds an environment they are comfortable in and in which they play well, it is always a good thing to have that player on your side. I believe that Infante could be a great player in Atlanta once again and I also believe he would love to come back to Atlanta.
This free-agent pickup might be a bit far fetched considering the Braves budget, but hang with me for a minute and I will try and convince you otherwise.
Let me first say that Alex Gonzalez is also a free agent after the 2010 season. Gonzalez is a solid player, but Jose Reyes is a very special player. Reyes is extremely fast and he can bring an element to the Braves team that they have not had in quite some time; a true leadoff hitter.
When healthy, Reyes is capable of getting 78 stolen bases as he did in 2007. This year Reyes is hitting an amazing .347 and he already has 20 steals. Reyes will be expensive, but with the late retirement of Billy Wagner before this season the Braves could possibly work out some situations with Wagner's old salary to make him affordable.
Reyes is a known game-changer and if the Braves could acquire him they would have a totally different offense.
Can you ever have too many southpaws in your rotation? I believe that most managers would agree with me when I say that lefties are golden and you can never have too many in your starting five.
C.J. Wilson is one of the best left-handed starters in the game today and he is set to be a free agent at the end of this season. Last year Wilson went 15-8 with the Texas Rangers and was a key to their World Series run.
Wilson only made $1.85 million, but this year he will make $3.1 million, which is still very inexpensive in today's market. Wilson is currently 7-3 with a 3.09 ERA. The Braves need another left-handed starter in their rotation, even if it meant losing an aging Derek Lowe. I believe C.J. Wilson could bring the Braves rotation very close to the Phillies rotation in terms of quality.
It's no secret that the Atlanta Braves are in dire need of a legitimate center fielder. I thought the Braves were more than generous in allowing Nate McLouth to prove himself as the starting center fielder this year after being demoted to Triple-A last year.
When Nate went down with his oblique injury a few weeks ago, the Braves also gave Jordan Schaefer a shot at redemption. Both players have played decent, but it is clear to me that neither of them is a long-term solution to the team's lack of center-field production.
Sizemore is a terrific player who has battled through injuries the past two years. It would be a risky signing, but Sizemore is a complete five-tool player who could solve the Braves' center-field woes for a long time. Sizemore has speed, power, great contact and excellent defense that could help the Braves win a pennant if he were signed.