MLB Trade Rumors: 7 Deals the Atlanta Braves Can Make to Catch the Phillies
Following a historic collapse, the Atlanta Braves are a team looking for some answers. More often than not, this means that the front office will look to make some type of major move during the offseason to patch up a hole and help save their own skin from upset fans.
The good news for fans is that with Kenshin Kawakami and Nate McLouth each having their contract come off the books, nearly $10 million on salary was freed up. Although owner Liberty Media has been cheaper than the days of Ted Turner, they have shown a willingness to keep the payroll steady.
This article takes a look at seven potential deals, whether through trades or free agency, that could help push the Braves over the hump and past the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012.
Sign Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes will obviously cost more than the $10 million, but with a major hole at shortstop and an offense that struggles to create runs, Reyes would fill two needs with one signing. Not only would Reyes fill the hole, but some consider him the best shortstop in baseball.
Reyes, the National League batting champion, has the speed and skill on the base paths to cause havoc. In spite of playing only 126 games and battling hamstring injuries, Reyes stole 39 bases this year in 46 attempts.
The reason the Braves may stay away from Reyes, other than for financial reasons, is his inability to stay healthy. Hamstring issues have bothered Reyes the last three years, and he has missed a combined total of 191 games during the last three seasons.
Still, the thought of adding Reyes to the top of the lineup next to Michael Bourn is scary. The signing would give the Braves a pair of guys capable of creating runs with their legs and setting the table for Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Martin Prado, and Jason Heyward.
Acquire Matt Kemp from the Dodgers
After one of the best offensive seasons in recent memory, Matt Kemp will not come cheap. The Dodgers however have some financial issues along with holes to fill, and trading Kemp may be the best way to fill a couple holes and save money as he will likely get a big raise in arbitration. Plus he's going to be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season and the Dodgers aren't likely to have enough cash to afford him.
Kemp may not ever match his 2011 numbers of .324/.399/.586 with 39 homers, 126 runs batted in, and 40 steals, but next year is his "27 year-old season." The "27 year-old season" may be a myth, but history does show many players have the best seasons of their career the season they spend the bulk of the season playing at 27 years old.
Kemp is going to cost a lot to say the least. Frank Wren will need to put Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and Martin Prado on the table in his initial offer just to show the Dodgers front office that he is serious. Even that package may not be enough to land Kemp, and the Dodgers may like players such as Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Jair Jurrjens, and Edward Salcedo more.
If Wren can land Kemp, that's only half of the battle, as you don't give up a haul like that without locking up a player to an extension—hopefully the front office has learned from the Mark Texiera deal.
Trade Mike Minor to Chicago for Carlos Quentin
With the recent hiring of hitting coach Greg Walker, the Braves may want to acquire one of his former pupils in run-producing outfielder Carlos Quentin. The 29-year-old Quentin is a bit of an enigma, as he has a great deal of talent but hasn't fully reached his potential.
Quentin came to the White Sox in 2008 and enjoyed the best season of his career that season, hitting .288 with 36 homers and 100 runs batted in. Although he has not matched any of those numbers since, he has averaged nearly 24 homers and 73 runs batted in while missing an average of 46 games per year due to injury.
The White Sox can use a starter, especially if Mark Buehrle leaves in free agency. Mike Minor, or any of the Braves group of young pitchers, would fill a need in Chicago while helping the Braves' issue of having too many pitchers to fill too few spots.
The best part of adding Quentin is that he can play left field. That would take Martin Prado out of a true starting role and move him into a super-utility role, giving him everyday playing time split up at multiple positions—something very important if key players such as Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, and Quentin are injury-prone.
Trade for Hanley Ramirez
With a gaping hole at shortstop and a need for run producers, the Braves can certainly use Hanley Ramirez. As a financially limited team with a past history of trading expensive stars to re-load their farm system, the Marlins are a potential match.
When healthy, Ramirez has shown the ability to win batting titles, hit more than 30 homers, steal 50 bases, and drive in more than 100 runs. Those are rare abilities for anyone, let alone a shortstop.
Ramirez is coming off a career worst season in 2011 after hitting .243/.333/.379 with 10 homers and 45 runs batted in and also has some question marks after battling injuries for the bulk of the year. Ramirez is also a guy who has seen his isolated power decline each year since his 2008 season despite only being 27 years old. Most importantly, Ramirez and manager Freddi Gonzalez had a well publicized fight over the lack of effort from the star in 2010, and that led to Gonzalez losing his job in Florida.
Ramirez would likely cost the Braves a Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado along with a second tier pitcher like Brandon Beachy or Mike Minor and a hitter such as Martin Prado, but if he can return to form under former manager Gonzalez, he could be a steal.
If the Braves get Ramirez and he and Gonzalez can work things out, Ramirez will be motivated to show he can come back from injury and regain his top form. He'd also become a long-term answer at the position and offer versatility to the lineup since he could bat either at the top or in the middle of the order.
Move a Pitcher to the White Sox for Alexei Ramirez
The trend continues as there's another shortstop and another White Sox player on the list: this time Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez could be moved by Chicago as minor league prospect Eduardo Escobar and recent addition Ozzie Martinez could be cheaper solutions for the team.
Ramirez comes off a solid but unspectacular season after hitting .269/.328/.399 with 15 homers and 70 runs batted in. He would immediately give the Braves the type of hitter they were hoping for Yunel Escobar to become before dealing him to Toronto after he frustrated fans and the front office.
The negatives here are that Ramirez has failed to live up to his potential, never surpassing his strong rookie season when he hit .290 with 21 homers and 77 runs batted in. Not only has he never matched those numbers, but those are all career highs.
Ramirez could potentially be had for a Brandon Beachy, a guy with a proven track record and the ability to be a strong number two or three starter. If Mark Buehrle leaves Chicago this winter, pitching will become an even bigger need for the Sox.
Ramirez is a candidate-although not a very strong one at this point, to re-join former hitting coach Greg Walker in Atlanta. He'd give the Braves the type of solid presence in the lineup and fill one of the toughest holes to fill: a true starting shortstop.
Sign Jimmy Rollins
What better way to pass the Phillies in 2012? Not only would the Braves find their shortstop and get a strong hitter, but they'd be taking that same thing away from the Phillies. Rollins has also been one of the leaders of the Phillies team, so coming to a deal with him as a free agent could be huge.
Rollins may not be the National League MVP anymore, but he's a guy coming off a season in which he hit .268/.338/.399 with 16 homers, 63 runs batted in, and 30 steals. He may no longer be a Gold Glove defender, but he's still well above-average at a premium position.
Rollins would be a great way to help the Braves and hurt the Phillies, but giving long term contract to a player who will be 33 years old may not be a smart move. If the Braves can talk Rollins into a three-year deal, he'd be worth his high price tag.
Send a Pitcher to the Marlins for Omar Infante
The Braves missed Omar Infante in 2011. Not having the versatile offensive super-utility man certainly hurt when players like Dan Uggla and Alex Gonzalez struggled and Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Jason Heyward were injured.
Infante couldn't match his special 2010 this year in Florida, after being dealt in the Dan Uggla trade a year ago. Infante's average dropped from .321 to .276 as his OPS fell by 79 points, but he also played in a new role as an everyday starter for the full year.
Infante could be had for Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, or Randall Delgado and could also get the Braves a little bit more back in the package. Bringing him back not only gives the team a solid contact hitter, but also a guy capable of giving the regulars a day off without having a huge drop in production.