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Trade Target Team Profile: Atlanta Braves

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: July 2, 2012 - 7:36 PM

The Big Picture
In the hyper-competitive NL East, the Braves are 4.5 games back of the division leading Nationals. But they’re also just one game back of the second wild-card spot, which happens to be shared by division rival New York Mets. Atlanta is reportedly searching for a top starting pitcher. That’s unusual ground for them – just last year they ranked 4th in MLB in ERA – but some injuries and regression by youngsters have them looking for rotation help.

Why They Will Trade With The Twins
The Braves are somewhat like the Twins right now, with two solid starters – Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson – followed by a whole lot of finger-crossing. They’ve been linked to just about every possibly available starting pitcher on the market already. That includes Francisco Liriano, since Braves scout Jim Fregosi (which are four words that should get ’93 Phils fans a little worked up) was at Sunday’s game, though he claimed the Braves weren’t interested in Liriano.

But the best reason they match up with the Twins isn’t because of what they need as much as what they can offer – young pitching. One of the guys struggling in their rotation right now is 24-year-old left-hander Mike Minor, who is sporting a 6.20 ERA. But last year he struck out 99 batters in 100.2 inning in AAA, and almost matched that 1:1 ratio in 15 games in the majors. There are at least two other major-league-ready young pitchers that could be available for whoever can provide a high-end starter.

Why They Won’t Trade With The Twins
Pay a lot of attention to this next paragraph. Or don't, since I suspect I’m going to be repeating it in a lot of these profiles.

It looks like there could be an awful lot of awful good starting pitchers available at the trade deadline this year. Yes, there could be a lot more “buyers” than “sellers,” but there are fewer buyers with the will or need to make a big trade for a starting pitcher. The Brewers are rumored to be fielding calls for both Zach Greinke and (if he gets healthy) Shawn Marcum. The Phillies have started calling teams about Cole Hamels. The Cubs will certainly listen to offers for Matt Garza. Liriano probably slots behind all of those guys and maybe among some other names like Seattle’s Jason Vargas.

However, one thing that Liriano does have going for him to facilitate a trade to the Braves: he’s left-handed. Atlanta hasn’t indicated they have a preference, but the Nationals team they’re chasing is hitting just .233 vs southpaws this year, 3rd worst in the majors.

Conclusion
There are a lot of other teams that would like to add Liriano to their rotation, and there are a lot of other pitchers that could help the Braves. But the Twins and Braves make a good fit both in terms of what is given and what is received. Don’t be surprised if rumors surrounding these two teams get louder as the deadline approaches.

I"m not kidding about how great a fit some of the Braves trade targets are. Some could provide help to the Twins rotation as early as next year. Just click over to see them at the end of this story at Twins Daily. You can also add to the discussion.

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