Braves staying quiet at deadline for good reason
Normally it’s pretty tough being an Atlanta Braves fan when the Trade Deadline starts to heat up.
Usually the Braves will be serious playoff contenders — if not the favorite to win the National League at the time — yet the front office doesn’t make that one move that might put Atlanta over the top. The lack of activity can be frustrating and may have even cost the team playoff births in recent years.
So when it came to this year’s Trade Deadline, I didn’t get over anxious about the Braves pulling the triggers. And then it appeared that General Manager Frank Wren did just that when reports surfaced about Atlanta acquiring Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, who led all MLB starters in ERA at the time. I was ecstatic when the story broke, but as you may know by now, Dempster vetoed the trade, killing it dead within24 hours.
While Dempster’s decision was a bit disheartening, it led me to think about what the Braves already have. Overall, Atlanta’s starting pitching can hang with just about any team’s right now if you throw Jair Jurrjens out of the conversation. A lot of that success if coming from a new face to Atlanta, Ben Sheets. The veteran righty is one of the best in baseball since signing with the Braves at the beginning of July. He may not have pitched in two years, but he looks like an ace right now with a 3-0 record and a remarkable 0.50 ERA in just three starts.
It may be too early to call Sheets the savior and the move that could send Atlanta to the playoffs, however, he has stepped into an open spot in the Braves rotation — left by Brandon Beachy after a season-ending injury — famously. Sheets isn’t the only pitcher on Atlanta’s roster that should be making fans feel comfortable with the team not being agressive at the Trade Deadline, either. Craig Kimbrel is obviously on a tear and beginning to make his case as the best closer in baseball while fellow youngster Kris Medlen is proving that he belongs in Atlanta’s rotation with a 1.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 18 inning during the month of July.
Once manager Fredi Gonazles realizes Medlen should be the team’s starter, fans can finally rest easy about Atlanta not landing Dempster. There’s good things ahead despite the lack of activity and I would advise my fellow Braves fans to stay positive about the current roster.
WHAT COULD STILL HAPPEN
• STILL IN THE CHASE: Despite the Dempster deal falling through, Atlanta may still land the veteran. If the L.A. Dodgers or a surprise team doesn’t swoop in to land the 35-year-old, he could still very well be wearing a Braves uniform by his next start. Some of the latest reports even indicate that Dempster is now seriously considering Atlanta and that the Cubs are desperate to deal him right now so they can get something in return before he inevitably leaves the team this offseason.
• A SHIELDS SURPRISE: The Braves have been scouting a lot of pitchers around the Deadline. With Zack Greinke and Francisco Liriano already off the block and on new teams, I wouldn’t be surprised if Atlanta makes a hard push at some of the other starters that have been made available. Rumors have the Braves looking at Seattle Mariners starter Jason Vargas and even Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields. If Atlanta doesn’t deal for Dempster than they could be serious contenders for either pitcher, considering all the talented pitching prospects they have. The Braves have also checked in on the availability of Miami Marlins ace Josh Johnson, San Diego Padres strikeout machine Edinson Volquez and Wade Davis of the Rays.
• BULLPEN UPGRADES: After Dempster killed Atlanta’s first attempt to nab him, Wren said the team would focus their attention on bullpen and bench help. I thought they would inquire on Seattle Mariners reliver Brandon League, but the team isn’t interested in the former closer, who lost his job earlier this season. The latest rumors have the Braves linked to Colorado Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, which doesn’t make much since because the Braves already have very reliable setup men in Eric O’Flaherty and Johnny Venters. However, if Atlanta does trade for a talented late innings pitcher, Venters may be moved out of his comfortable roll with his uncharacteristic 3.96 ERA.
• A NEW BENCH BAT: In addition to saying the Braves would look for bullpen help, Wren also indicated that his club would look for some bench help. A new bat off the bench is definitely a need for this team and will only help if an unpredictable injury were to occur. However, Atlanta has only been linked to one available bat, New York Mets outfielder Scott Hairston. The eight-year veteran has 12 home runs and 41 RBIs on the year and would fit nicely into the Braves rotation, which has Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz seeing some significant time with Chipper Jones needing more days off than the average third baseman. Hairston would be a perfect fit as a spot starter and if he is the only players the Braves land, Wren would fill a major need.