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Braves Need a Bat

Braves Need a Bat

This will be a big week for the 2011 Atlanta Braves. They will have 7 home games against the Pirates and Marlins, they will most likely get Chipper Jones back from the DL and GM Frank Wren gets one final opportunity to improve this year’s club for a post-season push before the July 31 trade deadline.

One reason the Braves haven’t had to rush to make a move is the return of Martin Prado and the steadily improving play of the long-lost Dan Uggla. When Uggla missed a couple games last week with a calf strain, it was actually a noticeable loss, which certainly wouldn’t have been the case a few weeks ago. He’s currently riding a career-high 14-game hitting streak that’s seen him hit at a .347 clip (17-for-49) with 6 HRs, to UP his average to a whopping .196 on the season. Watch out Mendoza Line, here comes Thunder Dan!! Prado wasted no time getting back to form, homering in his first game back. The guy could fall out of bed and rip a double to the gap. However, the offense (fresh off an 11-2 dismantling in Cincinnati yesterday) is still inconsistent and the Braves want to do whatever they can to get Chipper another ring. 

Chipper is the key to what kind of player the Braves pursue. If he can come back strong this week, Prado moves from 3B back out to left field, thus limiting the need for a right handed hitting left fielder with some pop. So then what? Well, then the Braves have to try to improve upon the two weakest spots in the lineup: center field and shortstop. Because slick-fielding shortstop Alex Gonzalez has been a marvel in the field this season - and since there isn’t a surplus of shortstops on the open market other than Rafael Furcal (been there, done that, no thank you), I don’t see the team making any changes there (despite Gonzo’s dismal .226 batting average). Nate McLouth has had plenty of chances to lock down centerfield and hasn’t got it done enough offensively. Jordan Schafer has provided a spark at the top of the lineup, dropping down some bunts and stealing some bases, but his on-base-percentage leaves much to be desired for a lead-off man. When it comes to matching up with the rotations of the Giants, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies, and even the (gasp!) Pirates down the stretch and in the post-season, you need that guy on base and scoring runs. 

So what’s the answer? The trade rumor mill has been churning, and the same names keep surfacing:

Carlos Beltran: The fact that the Mets are reportedly willing to consume most of the remaining salary owed to Beltran this season makes him a lot more intriguing. And wouldn’t things come full circle if Beltran had a big postseason for the Braves at the tail end of his mega-contract that he earned by almost single-handedly destroying the Braves with Houston in the 2004 playoffs? But the Braves haven’t had much luck with midseason rent-a-players (J.D. Drew and Mark Teixeira come to mind). I’m not saying Mike Minor is the next Adam Wainwright (who Atlanta served up to St. Louis in the Drew trade), but I’d hate to see them lose some quality young talent for an injury-prone guy like Beltran who doesn’t really have the wheels to play CF everyday and has struggled mightily from the right side of the plate this season. It wasn’t too much fun watching Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz running around wreaking havoc in the All-Star Game and the World Series last year for Texas (part of the king’s ransom the Rangers collected for Tex). Granted Beltran would improve this offense, but at what cost? My guess is the Braves and Phillies bow out and he ends up in San Francisco.

Jonny Gomes: Started the season on fire out of the gate. But lately? Not so much. The 11 HRs are respectable, but the .214 average is not. Wouldn’t cost the Braves as much to get him, but his lack of production probably isn’t worth disturbing the chemistry of a team closing in on 60 wins.

Hunter Pence: Almost as ugly of a swing as Charles Barkley, but the guy brings it every day of the week and has been getting the job done on a lousy Astros team for a couple years now. Can play any position in the outfield and has a cannon for an arm, which he got to show off in the All-Star Game earlier this month when he gunned down Jose Bautista at the plate by 3 steps. The fact that he’s already driven in 60 runs this year is remarkable considering nobody is ever on base in front of him, except for Michael Bourn. Pence is the face of the Astros and they aren’t likely to give him up without getting a healthy package back. I’m not sure Jordan Schafer, Mike Minor, and another B+ arm would be enough to get Pence and any more than that may be pushing it. His spirited play and positive attitude would be a huge boost for any contender, so if the Braves don’t snag him I hope he stays put. Word is the Phillies are lurking. Yikes…that’s a scary thought. But speaking of Michael Bourn…

Michael Bourn: This is who the Braves should be targeting. True lead-off man, true center fielder and itching to play for a winning team. He’s been hitting right around .300 all year, and most importantly his 37 stolen bases lead the NL. Fills one of the Braves desperate needs immediately: speed. He also allows Martin Prado – a protypical 2 hole hitter who loves to hit-and-run, go the other way, and hit behind runners - to bat 2nd every day. I think a package of Mike Minor and Jordan Schafer might be just about enough to get him. Make it happen Frank Wren!

The other glaring need for the Bravos is middle relief, but get in line. Every contender in both leagues is looking for bridge guys to get to the late inning studs. Atlanta is lucky enough to have the most effective 8th inning-9th inning combo in the league in All-Stars Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel plus 5 starters that can all go deep into games. In the dog days of summer when the temperatures and pitch counts go up, the depth of the bullpen has to shine. Eric O’Flaherty has been solid for the most part, but he and Venters are going to need some rest, and the likes of Scott Proctor, George Sherrill, Scott Linebrink, Cory Gearrin, and Cristhian Martinez have left a lot to be desired. Kris Medlen, still recovering from Tommy John surgery late last year, has been shut down. Peter Moylan is supposed to be coming back sometime in August, but the Braves can’t simply count on that as a cure-all. I’m not sure what exactly is available out there, but I’m sure Frank Wren and his scouting team have been scouring bullpens league wide.

The Braves (59-42, 5.5 GB) play the rubber game against the Reds tonight on ESPN. Look for a lot of trade talk in the pre-game. The Phillies are winners of 5 straight and are showing no signs of slowing down. But the Braves are still 5 games up in the Wild Card chase. The week before the trade deadline is always fun when your team is a buyer and not a seller. It’ll be interesting to see what the Braves look like this time next week. Hopefully they’ll have added a quality bat and a solid reliever in order to make one more valiant attempt at tracking down Philadelphia. But if the Phillies get Hunter Pence and/or Heath Bell, I will not be a happy camper.


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"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!" The late great Skip Caray with my favorite sports call of all time as a lumbering Sid Bream was able to beat Barry Bonds' three-hopper to the plate by an eyelash in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to secure the Atlanta Braves' miraculous back-to-back World Series trips in 1991 and 1992. I grew up in Atlanta, I am still a die hard Braves, Falcons, and Hawks fan and am hungry for another championship to put alongside that lonely 1995 World Series trophy! I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2002 and am back living in Hot-lanta now. Go Deacs and Go Dawgs! My favorite athletes are John Smoltz, Magic Johnson, and Brett Favre. Braves are on a mission in 2011 in the 20th anniversary of that magical 1991 season!


In response to “Braves Need a Bat”

  1. Mike Jul 24 20115:50 pm


    Dont like any of your trade targets but loved your bio.

  2. Christopher Rowe Jul 24 20116:01 pm


    You can HAVE Beltran and Jomnny Gomes – in fact I’d like the Braves to get Beltran because Philly would stop talking about him!
    Isn’t Bourn basically a more experienced Jordan Schaefer? I totally don’t get why everyone is so amped up on Hunter Pence. He is a solid ballplayer on a terrible team who would go completely unnoticed… oh and the Astros control his salary and contract through 2013 so he’s not really good trade bait. Besides, how do you get any of these players without surrendering some blue chip minor league talent???

  3. Mike Jul 24 20116:26 pm


    Mathematically, Schafer would steal 50 bases a season, based on his 15 in 50 games played. His OBP is right around .300 and plays above average CF. Not spectacular but why would u give up talent tp bring in such a slight upgrade in CF? Bourn is having the best season

  4. Mike Jul 24 20116:27 pm


    of his career and this is his ceiling.

  5. Brian Joyce Jul 24 20116:30 pm


    Why not B.J. Upton? Beltran would be a nice fit with the Braves. Gomes would be a liability and his glove is a joke! Feast or famine for Gomes, more famine than anything else. He’s a butcher in the outfield.

  6. Marcus Young Jul 24 20118:13 pm


    I realize Gomes sucks, I’m just reporting what I’m hearing and reading around town. I don’t think they will go in that direction, and hope they don’t, but it’s at least worth mentioning. As for Pence, for me, if you put up big numbers on a terrible team in baseball, that says something about your work ethic and talent. It’s not like basketball when you can be a ball hog on Golden State or Sacramento jacking up 3s and padding your scoring stats. In baseball, they can pitch around you or you could just not give a flip and go through the motions when your team stinks. Pence’s style isn’t always pretty to look at, but the numbers don’t lie. 5 tool player.

    Schafer’s defense is great and he has similar speed to Bourn but he’s not on base enough. The main thing that attracts me about Bourn (other than leading the league in steals) is he’s hitting .300 (as oppose to Schafer at .236). Call me crazy, but I want my lead-off man to actually get on base. I like B.J. Upton too, just hadn’t heard his name as much. He’s got more pop (15 HRs) of course, but again he’s hitting .232. The Braves have enough sorry averages in the lineup already, and now that Freeman is hitting for power, I’m not as concerned about that anymore, I want OBP and speed.

    Either way, I know it’s gonna take parting with some blue chip talent to get somebody impactful in here, which is why guys like Minor, Vizcaino, and Delgado keep coming up. But I’m fine with that, you can’t have a 7 man rotation and Hanson, Jurrjens, Beachy, and Teheran are all in their early to mid 20s.

    And here’s an interesting stat about Derek Lowe (another potential trade piece) I just saw: coming into this year, the last 3 seasons he was 21-10 post All-Star break (as oppose to 22-22 before). We know he was lights out in September last year. 1-1 this season after getting rocked yesterday, but he could be a big factor down the stretch if he stays. If he’s dealt, I’m sure Wren is throwing that lil tidbit out there to up his trade value.

  7. Christopher Rowe Jul 24 20118:59 pm


    I think we’re underestimating the talent most teams will ask for in exchange. Look at the Adrian Gonzalez deal or the aforementioned Mark Teixiera and Adam Wainwright deals that Marcus referenced… Teams want 3 or 4 blue chip prospects plus major league talent on these deals… Beltran is the only deal where you may get away with 2 or 3 prospects. Houston will want blue chippers plus major league ready talent, same with SD and especially Tampa Bay (who may still think they have a shot to catch the Yankees)… For the price anyone will pay you’d better hope for more than a slight upgrade or a two month rental (remember Beltran literally is a 2-month rental as his contract stipulates no compensatory draft picks when he becomes a free agent). Beltran or Upton will wind up in SF and whoever is not a Giant will be fodder for the rest
    SEE “MLB Trading Deadline 10 Days”…

  8. Mark W Jul 24 20119:26 pm


    In my humble opinion, if you are going to have to give up pitching then you go for the best you can get. Both Pence and Bourn would be 2 great additions to the Braves and would be players that would by a great asset to Brian McCann.

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