With Sunday’s trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Braves have yet to make any moves to bring some new blood to Atlanta. There are differing opinions as to what Frank Wren should do. BravesBlast contributor, Thomas, examines possible trades for the Braves in today’s podcast below. Should the Braves go after bullpen help? Right-handed power at the plate? Just stand pat with what they have? Let us know your thoughts!
Tags: Braves, Deadline, Trade, Trade Targets
Posted in Roster Moves, Speculation | 8 Comments »
Let’s forget about the past two series. One was at Coors Field, which is hell on any team. The other, Great American Ball Park, is small enough that traveling high school baseball teams regularly hit home run after home run while playing there (might be an exaggeration, but not much of one). As of Monday morning, the Braves are six games behind Philadelphia for the NL East lead and only four games ahead of Arizona for the Wild Card lead. It’s an easy time to look at the standings and determine that the Braves do not have a shot at overtaking the Phillies and that there is a good possibility that the Diamondbacks will overtake the Braves for the Wild Card position. However, this is a short-sided thought based on the past seven games at Coors and Great American.
The Braves have a great opportunity to make a decent run over the next three weeks or so. The next four opponents, in order, are the Pirates for four at home, the Marlins for three at home, the Nationals for three away, the Mets for three away, the Marlins for three away and returning home to three-game series with the woeful Cubs. Does this sound like a murderer’s row for the next few weeks? The Pirates, Marlins, Nationals and Mets are all hanging around the .500 mark, while the Cubs would gladly take a .500 record at the moment. The strongest of all of those teams should be the Pirates, but I am not entirely sold on them being a “good” team. Average is more realistic and an average team the Braves should beat two out of three times.
Let’s look at each series. The Braves swept a two-game series with the Pirates in May, so let’s assume they take three of four from the Pirates. Then they take two of three from the Marlins, Nationals, Mets, and Marlins again. Let’s be positive and assume they sweep the Cubs after returning home. So they win fourteen out of the nineteen for one hell of a nineteen game stretch.
The Phillies will face the Giants and Pirates at home, then will head to the Rockies, the Giants, head over to Dodger stadium and finish with the Nationals. The seven games with the Giants will be very tough, Coors Field is always a crap shoot, and the Dodgers have been playing better, as of late.
In those nineteen games, the Phillies should realistically win thirteen or fourteen, similar to the Braves. However, let’s break it down a bit further. The series with the Rockies could go either way, but let’s assume the Phillies win two of three. There are seven games with the Giants, with four of them at San Francisco. The Phillies take two of three in Philadelphia, but only win one out in San Francisco. The Phillies lost two of three from the Pirates in June and let’s assume the Pirates play well against them again, with the Phillies only winning one game. They finish up with the Dodgers and Nationals and win two of three in each series. So in the Phillies’ nineteen games, they only win ten of them.
I know these assumptions are biased, but I believe they are within a realistic realm. If the above games play out as assumed, the Braves will be only two games back with a month and a half of the season left.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Braves are three games back after the next nineteen games. It’s quite possible the Braves are healthy, a trade has been made and the offense is clicking. They take four of six from the Phillies meaning they need to pick up two games somewhere. Is this possible? Possible, but improbable nonetheless. Unless the Phillies start to exhibit some weaknesses that they have not shown as of yet.
Being two games behind the Phillies for the NL East lead would mean the Braves are securely in the playoffs as the Wild Card team. Actually making the playoffs is the difficult part. Once the Braves are in, winning the first series becomes a three-man rotation, and I would put their three best against any other team. Assuming everything plays out accordingly, the Phillies and Braves will meet in the NLCS. As it has been repeated lately, these two teams are scarily similar. The match-up would be fun to watch and would probably stretch to six or seven games.
But before I get stuck in the future, let’s just remind ourselves that the Braves have a favorable schedule coming up in the next three weeks and the team is getting healthy. Add into this mix a trade, Dan Uggla continuing his upward trend, and the return of Peter Moylan (hopefully), the last part of the season is going to be very fun to watch.
I know this is biased and not based too heavily in statistics. I just wanted to point out that with a few wins here for the Braves and a few losses there for the Phillies, the NL East is still within reach however unlikely it seems now.
Tags: Florida Marlins, Trade Targets, Wild Card
Posted in General | No Comments »
By Bud L. Ellis
The word “pence” is defined as multiple pennies, but just one “Pence” would enrich the Atlanta Braves’ pursuit of a World Series title.
As the trade deadline approaches, cyberspace and talk shows buzz with the rumor du jour. Wednesday, chatter concerning the Braves and their dire need for a right-handed injection of offense centered on Hunter Pence, the Houston Astros’ right fielder who finds himself currently mired on baseball’s worst team.
The Astros’ disastrous season is no fault of the 28-year-old, who is enjoying another stellar offensive campaign. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder entered Thursday sixth in the National League in batting average (.316), eighth in doubles (24) and RBIs (61), and a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen-base attempts. With 11 home runs on the season, he would rank fourth on a Braves team that’s scuffled for runs all season.
Atlanta began play Thursday five games ahead of Arizona in the NL wild-card race, and 4 ½ games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. It’s nearly a given the Braves will be in the playoff hunt through September, but their hopes of playing deep into October may hinge on the ability to add one more stick to a lineup that has underachieved through most of 2011.
Here is a penny for your thoughts: Pence fits. He wouldn’t be a rental, not hitting free agency until after the 2013 season. He is arbitration eligible the next two years and figures to get a nice boost from the $6.9 million he’ll pull in for this season. Still, with the financial flexibility the Braves will enjoy this offseason, coughing up the $10 million or so Pence likely will command next season won’t be a problem.
Nate McLouth, who will not be back in Atlanta in 2012, is slated to earn $10.6 million next season (his deal will be bought out for $1.25 million). The Braves’ Double-A foreign-exchange student, Kenshin Kawakami, is in the final year of a three-year, $23-million deal and likewise will be off the books. Certainly the Braves will again try to move Derek Lowe in the offseason, the right-hander slated to earn $15 million in 2012.
The big question is what it would take to entice the Astros to deal Pence. Houston seeks to slash its $69 million payroll down to $60 million, so Pence can be had for the right package. And as we all know, the Braves have the young pitching to make just about any deal they want.
Any conversation surrounding Julio Teheran or Arodys Vizcaino should end with Frank Wren hanging up the phone. Randall Delgado? Perhaps he is untouchable as well, but maybe the depth of young pitching in Atlanta’s organization makes him a potential target. Lefty Mike Minor looks expendable given the youth of Atlanta’s rotation, the emergence of Brandon Beachy and the likely arrival of Teheran into the rotation by opening day next season, but being a southpaw amid a stable of talented right-handers may lead the Braves to keep the Vanderbilt product.
Options abound, and the Braves find themselves in a very intriguing position. They have plenty of great pitching at the major league level and a ton of talented young minor-league arms – not just the four mentioned above, but several other pitchers a notch below Teheran and Company. Atlanta can sit back and do nothing as July 31 passes, content to hope Dan Uggla’s good work the past three weeks and Jason Heyward’s strong game Thursday at Colorado are signs the offense finally will fire on all cylinders as the stretch drive commences.
Do nothing, and the Braves figure to be in the mix as September draws toward October. But the ring is the thing, and the price separating a trip to the playoffs and a World Series appearance just might be one Pence.
Follow me on Twitter: @bud006
Tags: Derek Lowe, Houston Astros, Hunter Pence, Trade Targets
Posted in General, Roster Moves | No Comments »
Heading into the Phillies series before the All-Star break, the Braves boasted the third-best winning percentage in baseball and were on pace to win ninety-six games. Obviously, the team constituted as such has a very good chance to make the playoffs; coolstandings.com calculates those odds at 77.5%. So while the front office could justify sitting pat at the fast approaching trade deadline, the Braves certainly have enough pitching depth to exchange some for a centerfielder or shortstop if they find the right deal. The following is a list of players that have either been connected to trade rumors already or make sense for the Braves to target.
Carlos Quentin/ Juan Pierre
Both Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe and Mark Bowman from Braves.com recently reported that the White Sox have been scouting Braves pitching and may look to exchange a bat for a major league ready pitcher. Cafardo mentioned Quentin as a possible match for Atlanta, but Bowman stated that the Braves are unlikely to target a corner outfielder. Assuming the team has no plans to send Chipper Jones to the DL upon Martin Prado’s return, then Quentin is not a match. With Prado and Heyward locked in at the corners, the Braves would only be able to upgrade in the outfield with a centerfielder. Bowman’s mention of Sox outfielder Juan Pierre as a possible target warrants projectile vomiting from anyone that cares about the Braves. Not only is Pierre a horrible hitter (.287 wOBA in 385 PA this season), but he cannot and has not played centerfield since 2009. God willing, the front office has no interest in either of these players, and these rumors are simply the result of unintelligent/lazy journalism.
Bourn should be the Braves’ primary trade target, and he appears to be obtainable. Not only do the Astros have the worst record in baseball this season, but their next taste of playoff contention appears to be many years down the road. Therefore, they should look to trade Bourn, who has one year left of arbitration, for someone that can help them win beyond 2012. From the Braves’ standpoint, Bourn would certainly provide them a significant upgrade in centerfield over Schafer or McLouth. Over the last two and a half seasons the Astros leadoff man has combined to produce 12.9 WAR by getting on base at a .348 clip, playing excellent defense, and being one of the best base runners in the game. If these two teams discuss a deal, it will likely center around Mike Minor or Brandon Beachy heading to Houston. In all likelihood the 2012 Braves’s rotation will not have room for both of these pitchers, so it makes sense to trade one in order to make this and next year’s team better.
Hardy has reportedly been in contract extension talks with the Orioles, but if the two sides cannot reach a deal then Baltimore will look to trade their shortstop in the middle of his career year. He currently boasts a line of .289/.348/.520 this season and has always been a solid if not plus defender. Hardy would unquestionably provide an upgrade over the free swinging Alex Gonzalez by adding a little pop and patience to our lineup without sacrificing anything defensively. If extension talks fall through, the Braves should be first in line to kick the tires on Hardy and at least see what the Orioles are asking for him.
Tags: Carlos Quentin, JJ Hardy, Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn, playoffs, Trade Targets
Posted in Roster Moves | 15 Comments »