The present, and future, of the Atlanta Braves
As the Braves come out of the All-Star break leading the NL Wild Card race and only 3.5 games behind the Phillies (as of July 14), questions are beginning to arise as to whether or not the Braves should trade either Jair Jurrjens or Brandon Beachy for a bat in the lineup.
Since Jurrjens just earned his NL-leading 12th victory heading into the break, I strongly disagree that the Braves should trade either of these pitchers for a bat.
The Braves currently sit 26th in MLB with a .237 team batting average, 27th with a .307 on-base percentage and 18th overall in runs.
Yet here they stand, 16 games over .500, due in large part to the fact that the Braves have a top pitching staff, anchored by young guns Tommy Hanson and Jurrjens. The Braves pitching staff is led by a gaggle of pitchers under the age of 26, with Jurrjens having the most MLB service time (this is his fourth season).
If the Braves are looking to make a move, they should start with Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe.
Lowe is in the third year of a four-year deal that pays him $15 million annually, and financially, it makes more sense to move Lowe, as Hudson is under contract for three more years at a more affordable clip of $9 million per year.
But if there are no serious takers, the Braves should not worry about making a move. Instead, the club should rely on the fact that, despite their great record, they haven’t hit and their bats should wake up in the second half.
Jason Heyward has been nagged by injuries and just now seems to be getting back into the groove. Dan Uggla, the Braves' big offseason acquisition, has also started to hit, and though his average is down, he still has 14 home runs. Martin Prado, the Braves' MVP last season, is due back after the break and will surely give the Braves a breath of life in the lineup. Freddie Freeman, the Braves rookie, continues to impress week by week and Brian McCann is having an MVP-caliber season.
The foundation for the Braves' success over the last 20 years has been and will continue to be pitching.
With superstar prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado in the minor leagues waiting for their crack at the rotation, the Braves should be happy with not only where they are, but where they’ll continue to be for the next five to 10 years, so long as they don’t trade their young stars.