COMMENTARY | The first half of the 2013 baseball season is now over and as June ends and the weather heats up, so will the trade rumors.
The Atlanta Braves ended the first half 47-34 and 6.5 games ahead in the NL East, an excellent and somewhat unexpected start. Despite their overall success, there are still areas the Braves may try to address before the trade deadline.
Left-Handed Bench Bat - On a typical day when the Braves are using their typical lineup (of which there are admittedly not many; Fredi Gonzalez changes his batting order about as often as most people change their socks), Jordan Schafer is the only left-handed hitter on the bench. The reserve corps could benefit from a guy who hits righties well and can back up multiple positions defensively. Daniel Murphy is an intriguing possibility, if the New York Mets can be convinced to trade him within the division. He owns a .299/.346/.473 slash line in just over 200 at-bats against righties this year, and has played first base, second base and in the outfield, as well as having some experience at third. His addition would add a lot of flexibility to the roster.
Left-Handed Reliever - When lefties Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty both went down for the season, the bullpen took a big hit, at least on paper. The Braves have managed to maintain the best bullpen in the majors through the excellent work of Luis Avilan and Alex Wood, but Wood's future is in the starting rotation, not the bullpen. The addition of another left-hander would allow the Braves to send him back to the minors to prepare for life as a starter. If the Chicago Cubs start dealing players as expected, James Russell might be a guy Atlanta would look at. He's held left-handed hitters to 12 hits in 64 at-bats.
Right-Handed Reliever - Despite the success of the bullpen this year, there is always room for improvement and depth. It seems the big bullpen prize this year will be Jesse Crain of the Chicago White Sox. In over 36 innings, Crain has allowed only three earned runs and has struck out 46 hitters. Assume that the Braves will at least take a look, if nothing else, acquiring him would ensure another contender doesn't.
Gauging Atlanta's activity leading up to the trade deadline is difficult. A large part of the Braves' second half will depend on the improvement of players already on the roster. Already, those players who struggled in April and May have shown signs of coming out of their slumps; Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, and B.J. Upton all slugged over .450 in June. The holes Atlanta will look to fill are smaller, complementary ones. GM Frank Wren will no doubt be busy in the month of July, but the Braves are in the enviable position of not having to make a move unless the right one comes along.Joe Thomas was raised and lives within shouting distance of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. He is the sports editor for The Sting, the student newspaper of Southern Polytechnic State University.
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