MLB Trade Rumors: If Phillies Deal for Gio Gonzalez, Can Braves Compete?

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIDecember 8, 2011

MLB Trade Rumors: If Phillies Deal for Gio Gonzalez, Can Braves Compete?

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    With C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle now off the free-agent market, teams are now going to be scrambling around to find starting pitching help.

    As always, rumors circulate around about possible deals.

    One rumor, reported by ESPN Insider Jim Bowden yesterday, seems odd. It has the Philadelphia Phillies sending a package that includes former top prospect Domonic Brown for Oakland A's ace Gio Gonzalez.

    This slideshow will take a look at what the Atlanta Braves should do if the trade passes through. I will also give my opinion on whether this trade should even be considered by either side.

Why I Wouldn't Do the Deal

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    The Phillies are already stocked with starting pitching. Their focus should be on improving the offense, especially with Raul Ibanez and possibly Jimmy Rollins out the door, although it seems like Rollins is inching closer to returning to Philly.

    Currently, the Phillies lineup has holes, depending on what happens with Rollins. But, the loss of Brown will place another hole in their lineup, which may be hard to overcome.

    Can we really expect the Phillies pitchers to throw shutouts or only allow one or two runs every night? I think the 2011 playoffs gave us the answer.

    Fix the offense, Philadelphia—your pitching is good enough.

So, If the Trade Goes Through...

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    So, if this trade does go through, the first thing all Braves fans should do is give someone a hi-five.

    Honestly, what is one more ace really going to do in the grand scheme of things? However, one less power hitter—what will that do to the Phillies offense?

    In an offense that struggled to score at times last year, the Phillies will be making a big mistake by not going after offense.

    What if Ryan Howard doesn't fully heal after his injury from last year? What if Chase Utley gets hurt again?

    Can Hunter Pence, Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino really be expected to carry the team offensively? More so, who can they sign that will make an offensive impact?

What the Braves Must Do: Pitching

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    Absolutely nothing.

    With Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens (for now), Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Kris Medlen and Arodys Vizcaino already on the roster, the Braves are pretty much set in the starting pitching department.

    The biggest question mark the Braves need to fix is the bullpen depth. As we saw last year, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel got worn out, and thus blew many saves down the stretch.

    What the Braves have to do is search for some right-handed relief help. Venters and O'Flaherty have the left side taken care of, and Vizcaino likely could get one of the right-handed relief spots, so the question is: Do the Braves fill it with someone in house, or do they sign a free agent?

    In free agency, the Braves could look at the likes of Brad Lidge, Fernando Rodney or Todd Coffey.

    In house, the Braves could hang onto Cristhian Martinez (especially in long relief), Medlen and Stephen Marek.

What the Braves Must Do: Hitting

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    It looks like the Braves have settled on Tyler Pastornicky as the starting shortstop for the 2012 season. With that hole filled, the Braves now must turn their attention to a veteran backup shortstop, a left fielder and bench players.

    So, the decision turns to a corner outfielder, either backup or starting, depending on what the Braves do with Martin Prado. Matt Diaz has the ability to start in left field, but only in a platoon role. If Prado stays, Diaz will only get spot starts.

    However, if Prado goes, a whole new can of worms gets opened up for the Braves.

    If they're looking for a straight-up starter, the Braves could look to Raul Ibanez, Ryan Ludwick, Jason Kubel and Cody Ross. If the Braves do go the free-agency route, my guess would be Ross because he'll cost a lot less to sign.

    On the bench, the Braves currently have Eric Hinske, Brooks Conrad, David Ross and Diaz.

    Free agents that would be nice fits in Atlanta for bench roles would be Reed Johnson, Aaron Miles, Edgar Renteria or Jorge Cantu, who could play first or third base.

    Drew Sutton is also currently in house after he recently signed to a minor league contract, so he could get a few looks in spring training to make the big-league club.

Extend Michael Bourn

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    The Braves haven't extended Michael Bourn yet? Why is this?

    Bourn gave the Braves a different dynamic they hadn't seen since the days of Rafael Furcal. He's a proven leadoff hitter, who gets on base and steals bases. A genuine table setter for the rest of the lineup.

    With one year left on his deal, the Braves need to do everything they can to lock this guy up. By having him at the top of your lineup for the next five, six or seven years, the Braves are giving themselves an opportunity to have more scoring opportunities, and thus, score more runs.

    If the Braves fail to do this, don't be surprised to see if the Phillies or Marlins try to swoop in next year to grab the speedster.

    I don't care what he or his agent, Scott Boras, want. Give it to them. Bourn has earned any money (within reason) that he or Boras ask for. He'll definitely be worth it.

    The Braves' best bet is to go ahead and re-sign him, getting rid of any worry for Braves fans.

If You Don't Extend Bourn

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    If the Braves don't re-sign Bourn to a long-term deal, they have to ask themselves...Is Jose Constanza capable of filling that role?

    If the answer is yes, then they should do nothing and go out to find someone to back him up after this year.

    If the answer is no, then the Braves are going to have to do some serious searching on the free-agent market to find a replacement.

    The Braves clearly thrived with speed at the top of their lineup, so naturally, one would say that there needs to be somebody with speed there. The pieces for a trade will be there.

    The Braves brass now only needs to have the guts to use them if they have to.

Trade Jair Jurrjens

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    While his value is still high, the Braves need to find a way to get something in return for the 25-year-old.

    With help needed in the corner outfield, many suitors have come forward with their interest in the right-hander. The only question is, how much do the Braves want?

    The Rockies are rumored to have offered Seth Smith, while as many as eight or nine other teams are interested in Jurrjens.

    The key for the Braves is to see what teams are willing to pay for Jurrjens and/or Martin Prado. The market for Jurrjens should be a little more intense, and GM Frank Wren could likely get a sweeter package for the righty.

    Maybe the Marlins would even consider a package around HanRam for Jurrjens and a few others. That way both sides would be happy.

    Blockbuster deals are rare between division foes, but one can dream.

Start Planning for Life After Chipper Jones

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    Whether we realize it or not, Chipper Jones is likely in his last year with Atlanta. With that in mind, the Braves need to start planning for life after Larry.

    Do they hold onto certain pieces in hopes of making a trade for a superstar third baseman like Adrian Beltre, Jose Bautista or someone of that caliber? Or, do they try to sign David Wright to the same kind of deal that Chipper had, giving them a staple in their lineup for the next decade?

    It's been almost 17 years since the Braves had to think about who would be the next face of the franchise. That time is almost here, again.

It's Never Going to Happen

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    In my opinion, this trade will never happen for a few reasons.

    I believe it will take a lot more than Domonic Brown for the A's to trade their ace. Remember a few years back when the A's traded Dan Haren and got a significant haul?

    Billy Beane is going to be looking for the same return. His thinking is, somebody paid a high price once for an Oakland ace, so why wouldn't somebody do it again?

    If there is any trade between the teams that includes Brown going to the A's and Gonzalez going to the Phillies, both will suffer a major hit to their careers.

    The Coliseum had 0.786 home runs allowed per game, which was 26th among all major-league parks. Citizen's Bank Ballpark, on the other hand, allowed 0.950 home runs per game, good enough for 16th in the league.

    What does this mean for both? Brown, who would like to use his power more, won't get to in Oakland, while Gonzalez, who is a fly-ball pitcher, is going to see more of his balls going out of the park.

    In the end, if I were either team, I wouldn't do the deal because you're setting up both players for failure.

So, Can the Braves Compete?

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    If this trade goes through, can the Braves compete with the Phillies and Marlins? Yes.

    If this trade doesn't go through, can the Braves compete? Yes.

    Regardless of what happens, the Braves should undoubtedly be able to compete in the N.L. East. With a dominant pitching staff, albeit not as dominant as Philadelphia, the Braves can do some damage. The key for them is fixing the few holes in their lineup by getting power back in there, and fixing the bullpen depth.

    By doing that, the Braves should be able to compete for a division title, regardless of what the Phillies do.