2009 Trade Deadline Preview: Atlanta Braves

Buyers or sellers?

The Braves have a 51-48 record, good for second in the NL East and 7 games back of the Phillies. While the Braves consider themselves contenders (they are only 3 games back in the Wildcard race), they like the team they've built and won't look to make any big moves. From the look of things, the Braves are going to stand pat at the trade deadline.

Short-term need

The Braves have a nice infield with Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, and Yunel Escobar leading the way. Martin Prado has put together a good season and while Kelly Johnson has struggled his BABIP is .250 (compared to his .316 career BABIP) so he should rebound. Casey Kotchman is the only weak link and the Braves could stand to add a power hitting first baseman.

The outfield on the other hand isn't very good. The trade for Nate McClouth solidified the center field position but the combination of Garrett Anderson, Matt Diaz, Brandon Jones, and Ryan Church at the corners haven't carried their weight. A trade for a power outfield bat would be a big help but don't expect that to occur.

The pitching has been quite good and the Braves don't really need to add much here.. Javier Vasquez is performing like an ace and Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens have both pitched admirably. Kenshin Kawakami is solid in the #4 spot and Tommy Hanson is getting his feet wet as the #5 starter. Rafael Soriano has been a rock solid close and set-up men Peter Moylan and Mike Gonzalez have both done their jobs well. The Braves might add a decent reliever here but the pitching looks mostly set.

Long-term need

The Braves look like they won't have to many needs to fill for the near future. The infield should stay the same except for Freddie Freeman eventually replacing Kotchman at first base. The Braves will need to find a replacement for Chipper Jones eventually but for now he is stil going strong. A combination of McClouth, Jason Heyward, and Jordan Schafer along with role players like Matt Diaz and Brandon should make the outfield a team strength.

The rotation will be anchored by Hanson, Jurrjens, Lowe, and Kawakami for the next few years at least. The front office will probably let Javier Vasquex leave after 2010 when he reaches free agency but some young arms from the minors could potentially fill his spot in the rotation. The bullpen may have some holes as Gonzalez and Soriano are both approaching free agency. This should be the area the Braves focus on improving most either by converting some pitching prospects to relief or looking to obtain some relief help through trades.

Big leaguers on the market?

Because the Braves aren't expected to make any major trades, there shouldn't be many big leaguers on the trade market. It's possible they could trade someone like Kelly Johnson or Mike Gonzalez if they received the right young players in return.

Minor league strength

The Braves farm system has some potential impact players and good pitching depth. That starts with Tommy Hanson, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Since being called up to the big leagues the 22 year-old has made 9 starts and sports a 2.95 ERA. This comes after dominating in Triple-A where he had a 1.49 ERA and a 90/17 K/BB ratio in 66.1 innings. Fellow 22 year-old Kris Medlen also dominated in Triple-A (5-0 with a 1.19 ERA and a 44/10 K/BB ratio) but has struggled a bit in his brief time in the majors so far. Lefty Cole Rohrbough has good stuff but has struggled with his control in High-A. Another young arm, Julio Teheran, has only made six starts but has a 3.03 ERA with a 28/6 K/BB ratio. Teheran is currently in Rookie ball but is only 18 years-old.

As for hitters the Braves have two big time power bats at Double-A Mississippi, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. Heyward is only 19 and put up a .401 wOBA (weighted on-base average) in High-A before being promoted. In Double-A so far he is 27-64 with 14 extra base hits, 11 walks, and only 5 strikeouts. Did I mention that the outfielder is 6'4" 220 lb. and has a great throwing arm? Expect him to be in the big leagues by next year at the latest. Freeman is a big, strong first baseman who's also only 19. He's put up an OPS in the .840's at both of his minor league stops this year.

Take on short-term money to win?

While the Braves have shown a willingness to take on salary in the past when they needed too, there don't figure to be any such moves this year. The Braves aren't expected to trade for more than a decent reliever or bench player.

For more coverage of the Braves, check out Talking Chop.

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