The Atlanta Braves have put themselves in prime position to make the playoffs and go deep, but there are still players out there that they should target in a trade.
The Braves' needs range from a right-handed hitting outfielder to a right-handed reliever to a back-up middle infielder. I've found some players that fit the bill at each of those three positions.
You'll see three players from each position. One will be the Dream, the second will be the Nightmare, and the third will be the Reality. I trust you can figure out what each indicates about the respective player.
But if you know your math, you see that is just nine players. Who's the tenth?
That's a surprised ending.
I doubt Minnesota Twins utility man has ever been called "a dream" in his life, but for what Michael Cuddyer could provide the Atlanta Braves, that's exactly what he'd be.
To start off, Cuddyer is a quality defensive player all over the field. He has played right field, first base, and second base in 2011. His skills at second base would be called upon in Atlanta to spell Dan Uggla, but Cuddyer is an everyday outfielder, providing more depth.
Cuddyer's right-handed bat is nothing to scoff at, either.
He's hitting .297 with 14 homers, 48 RBIs, and even seven stolen bases this year. Cuddyer, a costly option that hasn't been mentioned a ton in the rumor mill, would be an ideal fit for the Braves' outfield.
The term nightmare might be a little too harsh, but it's safe to say that Mike Aviles isn't an ideal option for the Atlanta Braves.
Aviles is a career .285 hitter, which is certainly a formidable average. But it's not a steady .285. In his three and a half seasons with the Kansas City Royals, Aviles' batting averages have been .325, .183, .304, and .211.
You clearly don't know what you're getting with him in the batter's box.
But at a fairly low price, Aviles could be worth a look, though he may not be significantly better than current middle infield back-up Julio Lugo.
Not only is it the most likely middle infield move the Atlanta Braves would make, it's also one that I'd prefer.
A trade candidate for sometime now, the 37-year old Jamey Carroll isn't expecting to be an everyday starter on a contender and also offers valuable World Series experience during his 2007 season with the Colorado Rockies.
Carroll is career .277 hitter and is batting slightly above that at .283 this year. He has scored a modest 36 runs and snagged five bases during 2011.
Carroll is far from a "wow-factor" kind of player, but his consistent bat and glove, along with his experience in the regular and postseason makes him the kind of low-key trade that often pays dividends.
The Braves have a severe lack of speed as well as a need for more hitting production from the center field position. Bourn cures both ills.
He leads all of baseball with 37 stolen bases and is in the top 15 in runs scored. Bourn is used to covering the plantation that is the MinuteMaid Park outfield, where center field is 436 feet away from home plate.
Furthermore, Bourn is only 28 years old, which means he could finally solidify Atlanta's center field for the first time since Andruw Jones.
I've cooled since my article about acquiring B.J. Upton for the Atlanta Braves. Now he'd be a nightmare.
Upton was a definite go in the trade market at one time, but that sentiment has likewise cooled. Nevertheless, his talents would help the Braves if this were to happen.
A great combination of power and speed, Bossman Junior has 15 homers and 23 steals thus far in the 2011 season. The only problem is his measly batting average of .229 (career .256). That's not any better than the current center field platoon.
Upton's defensive ability is hardly questioned. His work ethic, however, often is. This is a trade that's out there, but ought to be avoided.
This one has been bounced around for sometime now.
A move that would bring Oakland Athletics' outfielder Josh Willingham to the Atlanta would be so...Atlanta Braves-ish. You fans understand.
While there was a big trade for Mark Teixeira a few years ago, the Braves rarely go big in the trade market, and Willingham wouldn't qualify as big.
His right-handed bat is strong, though. Willingam has popped 13 homers and 50 RBIs in the large park O.co Coliseum.
He's also used to the tough NL East pitching having played with the Washington Nationals in 2009 and 2010.
Instead, the Padres are far our of the contention in the NL West, which means the Atlanta Braves are in the conversation for his services.
Bell has had an ERA above 2.75 only once in the past five seasons. He's a powerful right-handed pitcher and would immediately be the best right-handed reliever on the Braves outside of rookie closer Craig Kimbrel.
P.S. As I sit here writing this article, I've just heard Scott Linebrink give up a walk-off homer to lose the game for Atlanta. How apropos.
It's not that Brandon League isn't a good right-handed reliever because he is.
It's not that he wouldn't be a great fit in an Atlanta Braves uniform because he would.
It's the high price that the Seattle Mariners closer that makes him a nightmare. After losing Adam Wainwright, Elvis Andrus, and Neftali Feliz in recent years due to bad trades, do the Braves really want to unload a lot of prospects again?
The main reason I believe the price is high on League is because of the reports of a ton of interest for his services. More teams involved in the bidding always raises the price.
League deserves the notoriety with his 3.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 23 saves this season during his fill-in closer role. At 28 years old, I'm simply afraid that the high price for this pitcher would be a nightmare.
Much like Jamey Carroll, the most likely middle reliever the Atlanta Braves are to bring in is also a highly attractive option. The Washington Nationals' Tyler Clippard is an All-Star reliever.
Had the Nationals allowed him to close more games, Clippard's trade value would perhaps eclipse Brandon League's as the highest in the 2011 MLB trade market.
Luckily for the Braves, he's just the second best 8th inning pitcher in the game, behind Atlanta's own Jonny Venters.
In 57 and a third innings, Clippard has a 1.73 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Wow! Adding this right-hander would make perhaps the best three-inning punch at the end of games for the Braves--Clippard to Venters to Craig Kimbrel.
The price won't be low, though. A solid pitching or hitting prospect would probably be the price, but it's worth a shot.
The "big surprise" is the Most Likely to Become an Atlanta Brave superlative, and it goes to none other than Carlos Beltran.
We've all heard the rumors by now that have the New York Mets outfielder being sent within the division for a nice prospect. The price of lefty pitcher Mike Minor is a little much for the Braves, but the deal is still out there.
I honestly think it will happen. Atlanta is having trouble hitting right now, and if there's any hope of catching the Philadelphia Phillies (is there?), they need to begin hitting now.
Beltran seems to have found his 2008 form (.291, 15 homers, 64 RBI) when he was one of the best major leaguers for a period of four to five years.
Atlanta isn't hoping for another four- to five-year run out of him. Just a four- -or five-month run.