With the Trade Deadline just four days away, here are 15 players that may find themselves in an Atlanta Braves uniform on August 1 (listed in alphabetical order):
Josh Beckett, P, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox have made it clear that they are going to shop around the three-time All-Star. The Braves might be the perfect place to resurrect a career that once showed a lot of promise. Beckett has won 15 or more games four times, along with a 13-7 record in 2011. He is disliked among Red Sox nation and might be in need of a change of scenery. Despite being just 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA this season, he has posted a strong 2.5 WAR, 0.75 HR/9 and 2.41 BB/9 in those 17 starts. Frank Wren should keep Beckett’s name in the back of his head as the deadline approaches.
Matt Capps, P, Minnesota Twins: This year’s market for relief pitchers is extremely thin. Capps, along with Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, are the best right-handed relievers available. Currently on the disabled list, Capps is a veteran who can help shore up the back-end of the Braves’ bullpen. If the Braves were to make a deal, they will likely try to pry outfielder Josh Willingham away from the Twins along with him. However, the asking price will be steep, and the Braves need to use their prospects on starting pitching first.
Rajai Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Davis may end up being the most realistic bench option for the Braves as they approach the deadline. The 31-year-old outfielder has batted .255 with five home runs and 25 stolen bases in 82 games for the Blue Jays while playing all three outfield positions. His .719 OPS and 4.7 UZR/150 make him an attractive piece to be used as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
Ryan Dempster, P, Chicago Cubs: Dempster has already vetoed one trade to the Braves and has publicly stated that he would rather play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are unable to work out a deal with the Dodgers, they already have the framework for a deal with the Braves. Dempster has a 2.25 ERA, good for second in the MLB, while averaging 6.5 innings per start.
Jeff Francouer, OF, Kansas City Royals: While Francouer and the Braves are likely not on good terms since his departure in 2009, he would be a solid offensive bat off the bench. Francouer is batting .242 with 9 home runs and 30 RBI for the Royals and has one year remaining on a three-year, $16 million contract. He hit 78 home runs over parts of five seasons for the Braves and is from the Atlanta area.
Zack Greinke, P, Milwaukee Brewers: After the Dempster deal fell through, Greinke was immediately catapulted to the top of the Braves’ wish list. While the Braves have the prospects to acquire Greinke, they want to make sure that they will have him as more than a two-month rental. A sign-and-trade for Greinke might spell the end of the Michael Bourn and Brian McCann eras in Atlanta, but would provide the Braves with an ace for years to come.
Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Hart has been on the Braves’ radar ever since his name began surfacing in trade rumors a few years ago. The 30-year-old has 17 home runs and 24 doubles in 96 games for the Brewers. He would provide the Braves with a right-handed power bat with above-average speed who can play first base and right field. He is under team control through 2013, and could be a potential starter next season if Bourn decides to sign elsewhere.
Felix Hernandez, P, Seattle Mariners: While it is highly unlikely that Hernandez gets dealt, the Braves could mortgage their future to acquire one of the game’s best pitchers. Hernandez already has 96 wins at age 26 and is signed through 2014. He would be perennial 20 win pitcher if he had a better offense, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Braves at least called and made an offer. A similar package to the one that Frank Wren used to acquire Mark Teixeira might still not be enough to acquire “King Felix.”
Josh Johnson, P, Miami Marlins: The Marlins are definitely poised to sell, as they have already unloaded Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez to contenders. A deal for Johnson is highly unlikely because of the large return requested, as well as the Marlins’ unwillingness to make a division rival better. However, Johnson is attractive because he is signed through 2013, and has shown the potential to be an ace when healthy.
Reed Johnson, OF, Chicago Cubs: Johnson would be a good replacement for the injured Matt Diaz off the bench. He is batting .305 with an .807 OPS in 164 at-bats for the Cubs, while playing all three outfield positions. He likely wouldn’t cost much and would be a right-handed complement for Eric Hinske. If the asking price for other outfielders is too high, there is a good chance that Johnson finds himself in a Braves uniform by next month.
Jon Lester, P, Boston Red Sox: While all indications are that he is not available, the Braves might have enough in terms of prospects to pry him away from the Red Sox. The 28-year-old is just 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA this season, but has averaged 14 wins per season since 2008 and is under team control through 2013 (including a team option for 2014). The Red Sox are in last place in the AL East with a 49-50 record, so they might become sellers at the deadline.
Francisco Liriano, P, Minnesota Twins: Liriano is not on the Braves short-list of targets, but if they became desperate, he is considerably cheaper than other options. There isn’t much to like about the 28-year-old except his 24.8 percent strikeout rate. He’s had a history of injuries, is inconsistent and can be non-tendered at the end of the season. The only way that Liriano joins the Braves is if they are unable to complete a deal for one of the higher-rated pitchers.
Kevin Millwood, P, Seattle Mariners: Another former Brave, Millwood is a cheap starting option for the Braves. At 37 years old, he would not fit into their long-term plans, but would be a potential option to serve as a long reliever and spot-starter down the stretch. He is 3-8 with a 4.13 ERA in 19 starts, but that includes a 0.50 HR/9 and 2.00 K/BB ratio. If he isn’t acquired at the deadline, the Braves may look to trade for him via waivers during the month of August.
James Shields, P, Tampa Bay Rays: If a team is willing to match the Rays’ high demands for Shields, it could turn out to be the biggest impact acquisition of this season. The 30-year-old has quietly been one of the most consistent pitchers in the majors since 2007, posting at least 200 innings and 10 wins in every season since then (he’s on pace to do it again in this season). Shields has a team option for 2013 and 2014 for around $9 million, so he is extremely affordable. He has made over 30 starts in every season since 2007 and already has 16 career complete games (11 in 2011). For the Braves, Shields might be the consolation prize if they cannot acquire Greinke.
Edinson Volquez, P, San Diego Padres: Volquez has quietly enjoyed a solid season after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Padres. He is 6-7 with a 3.30 ERA and an impressive 8.21 K/9 in 21 starts. While his 5.12 BB/9 is high, he isn’t eligible to become a free agent until 2014. However, the Padres realize that and are commanding a lot in return for Volquez. While a deal for Volquez is unlikely, the Braves will at least have discussions with the Padres about the 29-year-old right-hander.