Braves have plenty of trade options

sports@macon.comMarch 20, 2012 

At some point this season, the Atlanta Braves are going to make a trade.

I’m not talking about a little trade, some minor deal to tweak the roster. It’ll probably be a big one and could even be a blockbuster, something that significantly changes the roster or the lineup.

The Braves have too much pitching to not make a trade at some point, and the way the offense has looked this spring, it also seems there’s a good chance they might need another bat.

It’s the abundance of pitching, however, that will lead other teams to call the Braves looking for a deal. The old saying of ‘You can never have too much pitching’ will be tested this season, since the Braves might, in fact, have too much pitching.

Now we all know that can change quickly during a baseball season. We’ve seen enough injuries in the past few years to know that pitching depth can disappear quickly. But Atlanta has so much that the Braves could lose a starting pitcher or two and still afford to make a deal.

Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson are slowly but surely answering the injury questions that surrounded them this spring. Since both are back -- knock on wood -- the depth is again very impressive.

Even with Tim Hudson missing the first month of the season, the Braves are still loaded. And, so far, there’s no reason to believe Hudson won’t be stronger than ever when he returns in May.

Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor will be in the middle of the rotation. Both could be ready to break out and have strong and complete seasons. These two could combine for at least 60 starts if they stay healthy.

And then there’s the filler -- the extras that could figure into the equation if someone gets injured or if a trade is available. While Hudson is out, the Braves will go with either Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran, two of their top prospects who are very close to being ready for full-time duty in a big-league rotation.

Delgado has the lead over Teheran right now, although Teheran is considered the better prospect. Scouts believe Delgado could be a good No. 3 or 4 starting pitcher now, with the ceiling of a solid No. 2 starter. Teheran is one of the best prospects in baseball, and after winning 15 games in Triple-A last year some wonder how much time he really needs to develop more in the minors.

Then there’s Kris Medlen. Remember him? He was a starter when he got hurt in August of 2010 and had to miss most of last season after elbow surgery. Medlen is probably going to the bullpen to support the big three relievers, but he’s being stretched out this spring just in case he’s needed in the rotation.

Medlen has said he prefers to start, and while there’s little doubt he could be valuable in the bullpen to set up Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, Medlen is going to tempt the Braves or maybe even another team.

That’s eight pitchers for five spots in the rotation. You do the math.

Atlanta general manager Frank Wren might cringe at any hint that he has too much pitching, but he has to wonder if all falls right what options might be available to him. If the starters are able to stay healthy, there’s a good chance teams that need help in the rotation could call Wren to make a deal.

Jurrjens could be the best candidate to go, since there are whispers about his durability and he’s two years away from free agency. But the Braves might want Jurrjens to pitch for a few months to prove he’s healthy again before seeing what he could bring back in a trade.

The best thing a baseball general manager can have is options, and with this depth Wren has many. But will he have a need to make him use that depth to improve the team? If so, expect that trade to happen this season.

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.

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