Another week, another dilemma for the Atlanta Braves. Last week, it was Martin Prado going on the disabled list with a staph infection. This week, it was the injury to starting pitcher Tommy Hanson.
Hanson is not a huge concern. He has shoulder tendonitis, and almost all hard-throwing pitchers have it to some extent. Hanson has been nursing it for a while, but it wasn’t bad enough a week ago when he went out and struck out 14 in Houston. And there were some that didn’t even want him to start that game.
While it’s not a big deal, it’s still not something you want to worry about for the rest of the season. Brandon Beachy, who has been out for a month with an oblique injury, should be back in time to take Hanson’s spot in the rotation this week. So for at least the immediate future, the depth continues to mask issues that have come up this season.
But the issues in the rotation pale in comparison to the never-ending soap opera with this Atlanta offense. A week ago, we had cause to believe Dan Uggla was bouncing out of his epic slump. He was 5-for-11 in the first three games of the series with Houston. But in his next five games, Uggla had only one hit in 21 at-bats.
The Braves’ front office knows this team, in its current form, is going to have a hard time fighting for a playoff spot. Everything would have to come together perfectly -- everyone would have to get healthy and everyone would have to do what they were expected to do -- for this team to really have a shot.
That might be unrealistic to expect. Every team goes through injuries, and the Braves have already had their fair share through the first three months. But it’s the concern about the offense that is going to force the Braves to again search for help.
One player Atlanta has on its radar is Houston right fielder Hunter Pence. The Astros are horrible, and they have a bad farm system with little talent on the horizon. So their best chance at bouncing back will be trading players like Pence and starter Wandy Rodriguez for packages of talent.
Pence might be a perfect fit, although as I write that I remember thinking the same thing about Uggla. He is a right-handed power hitter that can play all three outfield positions. Pence has hit 25 home runs in each of the past three seasons, and for the last two years he has batted .282. This season, Pence has nine home runs, and his average is .321.
Pence just turned 28 in April, so he’s in his prime seasons. He has two more years under contract after this season, so the Braves would have him through 2013. That’s good, since if you want to make a big trade you don’t want to get a rental, as Atlanta did with Mark Teixeira four years ago.
The Astros know Atlanta has one of the best farm systems in baseball and is loaded with young talent. They undoubtedly paid attention Friday night when Randall Delgado made his major league debut for the Braves. He’s a right-handed pitcher who is a terrific prospect, but with all the depth it might be hard for him to be guaranteed a long-term position in Atlanta’s rotation.
The trade deadline is about six weeks away, but this is a potential match to keep an eye on. The Braves know they have a good team, but with all that has happened, they also know they are going to need a little help to have a serious chance at being a dangerous team in October. Pence could be that extra help to give them that chance.
Listen to The Bill Shanks Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.