The Atlanta Braves are inching closer and closer to reaching postseason glory once again.
Chipper Jones is back in action, and the Braves boast the fourth-best pitching staff in all of baseball.
Granted, the Braves can sit tight as the waiver-wire begins to heat up in August, and they'd still probably end up maintaining their lead in the Wild Card race.
However, let's discuss long term here. The Braves are one of the more dangerous teams in the National League, and merely making the playoffs is not a goal of the organization nor the fan base.
There's been recent concerns about the overuse of the Braves' pen, namely Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters, and Eric O'Flaherty.
So, would Braves' general manager Frank Wren be wise to invest in the waiver-wire market for a reliever this August, thus taking pressure off of his beleaguered 'pen heading down the home stretch of the season?
Let's take a look at a few options and see for ourselves.
Kevin Gregg has walked the tight rope time and time again in the closer's role for the Baltimore Orioles this year.
He's converted 17 of 21 saves, but his 3.40 ERA is more indicative of the torture he puts O's fans through each and every time he takes the hill.
Luckily for the Braves though, Gregg won't be anywhere near the closer's role in Atlanta.
Instead, Gregg could serve as a right-handed option to Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh inning, and can also spell Johnny Venters in order to keep the setup man fresh come October.
In 2009, this would have been one of the more outlandish ideas proposed in the ever-turning trade mill.
However, two years and a Tommy John surgery later, Joe Nathan may be closing in on his final days in a Twins uniform.
He's regained the closer's role in the Twin City, but Matt Capps is waiting in the wings, ready to take over the job once again if/when Nathan gets dealt.
Why would the Twins part ways with Nathan, especially now that he's healthy?
Well, for starters, the Twins are on the fringes of the playoff hunt––they're not going anywhere in 2011. Nathan's $12.5 million player option for 2012 also doesn't look all that appealing for the Twins, especially when you consider that they won't be gaining Type A compensation if Nathan signs elsewhere.
So, all signs point to Minnesota looking to save money and gain a player or two in return for their former All-Star closer.
The cost may be high, but the sheer thought of Nathan, Venters, and Kimbrel in the back end of the Braves' bullpen is enough to strike fear through the the heart of any playoff opponent.
With the Mets officially playing out the string of the season without any playoff hopes in Queens, they may look to deal their most valuable trade chip.
Jason Isringhausen has performed exceptionally well for the Mets in 2011.
He excelled as a setup man for Francisco Rodriguez, but has struggled considerably in the closer's role since the Mets dealt K-Rod.
However, Isringhausen will more than likely return to a seventh-inning/setup role with the Braves. This should bode well for his trade stock, as that role has proven to be his area of specialty at this point in his career. Not to mention, Izzy would bring a veteran presence and playoff experience to the Braves' young pen.
It's doubtful that the Mets resign the 38-year-old Isringhausen this winter, so they'll be looking to gain something for him while they still can.
Expect that a mid-level arm will get this deal done.