Braves may have made all their significant moves
Braves general manager Frank Wren has never been accused of being a procrastinator and with the trade deadline resting a little more than a week away, there’s a chance that he’s already made all of his significant deals.
This line of thinking could be altered if the Braves were to struggle during this week’s four-game series against the Giants. But at the same time, this belief could be strengthened if they were to claim at least three of these four games against the National League Wild Card leaders.
Having won 12 of their past 18 games, the Braves entered Monday night’s series opener trailing the Giants by 4 ½ games. Seeing how the Phillies have become immune to losing since they were swept out of Turner Field earlier this month, the Wild Card race has become much more intriguing from a Braves perspective.
There’s no doubt that the Braves could benefit from another power bat and another veteran reliever. But as the season’s second half enters its first full week, it’s apparent that the makeup of their roster is much stronger than it was a month ago.
“We like our club the way that we’re situated right now,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “We like the balance we have in our lineup. We’ve liked our pitching really from the beginning. I think we’re observing and if there are ways to improve, I think we’ll at least look at them. But right now we like our club.”
Wren improved two of his three outfield spots with the trades that brought Nate McLouth and Ryan Church to Atlanta. The left field position has been improved as Garret Anderson has provided the offensive consistency that negates some of the defensive deficiencies that come courtesy of his suspect range.
This month, the Braves lead the National League with a .292 batting average and rank second in both on-base percentage (.366) and runs (84).
Yes, the Braves are just five of 16 NL teams to have played 16 games so far. But the 5.25 runs they’ve score per game this month, look a whole lot better than the 3.57 runs per game that they scored in June. In April they scored an average of 4.04 runs per game and in May they improved that mark to 4.66.
“Up and down our lineup, I think we’re getting more quality at-bats, which we think will translate into more runs and more wins,” Wren said. “(Offense) has been the area that has held us back.”
If the Braves truly believe they are in the thick of the postseason race, they’ll likely look to keep Javier Vazquez, Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez. As Type A free agents, Soriano and Gonzalez will only be moved for a significant return.
Of course if they were to fall out of the race, the Braves could utilize each of these hurlers to help them begin building for the 2010 season and beyond.
While Vazquez could be moved to provide the financial flexibility to gain another bat for the season’s final two months, the Braves are providing more indication that they’d like to keep the impressive right-hander around throughout the remainder of this season and possibly beyond.
But it doesn’t appear that they will have the financial resources that would allow them to keep both Vazquez and Tim Hudson around for the 2010 season. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Hudson won’t rejoin the Atlanta rotation before Aug. 25.
If the Braves continue to win, the most likely candidate that they’d move before the trade deadline would be Kelly Johnson. But as they found while attempting to deal Jeff Francoeur, there aren’t a lot of clubs lining up to acquire Johnson’s services.
Johnson’s Minor League rehab assignment expires on Saturday. So sometime within the next week, the Braves will have to trade him, place him back on the big league roster, or activate him from the disabled list with the intention of optioning him back to Triple-A Gwinnett’s roster.
With Martin Prado manning the everyday role at second base and Omar Infante just a couple weeks away from being activated from the disabled list, there is limited need for Johnson in Atlanta.
Since becoming an everyday member of the lineup on June 30, Prado has hit .400 with two homers, a .458 on-base percentage and a .759 slugging percentage. The Braves have won 11 of the 17 games played during that span.
“There’s a certain chemistry and feeling that every team has and when you feel like you’ve reached that right balance, you are a little hesitant to make a change,” Wren said. “I know the guys on this club feel good about this team right now and that’s a positive. That doesn’t stop you from inquiring and seeing if there are other things that you can do. But we’ve done quite a bit already.”