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Braves Rumors: Focus Still On Outfield Help

The Braves continue to pursue right-handed outfield bats as they hope to bolster their offense for the stretch run, but it remains to be seen whether they'll be able to put a deal together before the trade deadline. The asking price on one of the few impact players left on the market, Houston's Hunter Pence, appears to be massive, so the Braves may have to look at lesser options. Atlanta pursued Carlos Beltran hard before he was dealt to San Francisco, so clearly their interest in adding an impact bat is serious.

  • The Braves are looking at Oakland's Josh Willingham as one possible option, according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Willingham, 32, doesn't have great overall numbers with the A's this year, but he has a long track record of quality hitting, and he's shown major improvement this month in his K/BB numbers. From April through June, Willingham walked 22 times and struck out 76 times. In July, he's already walked 11 times with just 12 strikeouts; he may finally be adjusting to the move to the harder league.
  • This is purely speculation on my part, but if the Braves are scouting the Athletics, why not pursue Coco Crisp instead of Willingham? I understand that the Braves are mostly interested in adding an impact bat, which Crisp doesn't qualify as, but he might actually be an even better fit for the Braves. With Chipper Jones back in the lineup, the Braves are fine on the outfield corners with Jason Heyward and Martin Prado, so it would seem to be pretty obvious that center field is the place that most needs to be addressed.

    And guess what? Willingham is absolutely incapable of filling that role, while Crisp is regarded as one of the better defenders at the position in baseball. Factor in the possible offensive improvement that could come from moving out of the AL and Oakland's pitching-friendly park, and Crisp would seem to be a much more logical acquisition than Willingham. The lack of interest in Crisp so far this summer fascinates me.

  • The Braves are also the last team still pursuing Pence, according to Jon Heyman. Philadelphia has apparently backed off after Houston reportedly turned down a three-player offer that included top prospects Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton. Frankly, the Braves aren't likely to get a deal done with Houston if the apparent asking price is that high. Cosart and Singleton are both widely regarded as premium prospects, and the Braves aren't likely to beat that offer.
  • Ryan Ludwick is another name that the Braves are looking at, according to Heyman. The Phillies, Braves and Indians are also looking at the veteran outfielder, although Cleveland will likely back off soon as they're close to acquiring Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome. Like Willingham, Ludwick's overall numbers are fairly underwhelming, but unlike the A's left fielder, Ludwick has played absolutely awful in July.