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Braves rumors: Bullpen upgrades on the horizon

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The Atlanta Braves find themselves only three games out of first in the NL East despite a bullpen ERA of 4.71, the worst mark in the majors.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves traded away some of their big names in the offseason, giving the illusion that they were playing for the 2017 season, the year they open up their new stadium.

Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Craig Kimbrel and David Carpenter were all shipped off during the winter. Despite moving all of that talent, the Braves are one game under .500 and only three games back of the Nationals in the NL East.

Their bullpen has an ERA of 4.71, the worst in the majors, and could desperately use an upgrad. An argument could be made that with a slightly better bullpen, the Braves could be leading the NL East, or at the very least seriously challenging the Nationals. That would explain why Atlanta is trying to trade for bullpen help, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, not wanting to trade any of their young talent or pay significant money for a reliever complicates the matter.

Who can the Braves realistically target?

At this stage of the season, there are some players that have opt out clauses in their contracts if they don't make it to the big leagues. There are also a number of pitchers that have been designated for assignment, and if the Braves are looking for low risk, high reward type options, that's the perfect opportunity.

David Carpenter, (the same one they traded earlier) was just designated for assignment by the Yankees, and could wind up back in Atlanta. He posted fantastic numbers from 2013-2014 while with the club, and a reunion might not be out of the question if the Braves feel they can fix what plagued Carpenter in New York. Sergio Santos and David Huff are two other players that have been DFA'd and could be potential options.

The Braves could also bite the bullet and try to trade for Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez or Jonathan Broxton. They also could wait out those teams in the hopes that they will pay a large portion of the contract, but with how bad their bullpen is now, Atlanta may not have the luxury of waiting that long.

It's a rather large surprise that the Braves are even considering adding pieces after the off-season moves they made. But with a lack-luster start by the Nationals, it has allowed the Braves to stay in contention and they could end up playing for a playoff berth this year. John Hart and his team have done a fantastic job rebuilding for the future, while at the same time not giving up on 2015.