Braves equipped with several possible trade chips
With Grilli out, Johnson, Maybin become most valuable options to deal
DENVER -- When Jason Grilli suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on Saturday, some Braves fans opined that their team had definitively become sellers leading up to the Trade Deadline. But it would have been more accurate to describe this development as the loss of their most significant trade chip.
Even when the Braves entered Wednesday having won six of their past seven games, there was reason for the front office to maintain a realistic outlook about the club's chances to remain playoff contenders. Thus, they continued to evaluate what they might receive for Grilli, Jim Johnson and some of their other veterans who have drawn interest from other clubs.
The Braves entered Sunday's final game before the All-Star break at 42-46, 6 1/2 games behind first-place Washington in the National League East. The Braves also entered Sunday five games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second NL Wild Card.
Further showing their ability to be creative, the Braves even had some recent discussions about packaging Grilli and Johnson in the same deal to some clubs that would have been willing to provide a strong return in exchange for an immediately upgraded bullpen.
Johnson will now serve as Atlanta's closer, but he might also serve as one of their more attractive trade chips. If he is traded, the Braves will likely give Arodys Vizcaino a chance to serve as the closer.
Here is a quick look at some of the players the Braves could trade before the July 31 Trade Deadline:
Johnson: Though he will be a free agent at the end of this season, the former All-Star closer will still draw strong interest from bullpen-needy clubs. Johnson entered Sunday having completed 16 consecutive scoreless appearances.
Cameron Maybin: The Braves recognize that Maybin has arguably been their most valuable player this season. But with Mallex Smith or Jose Peraza in position to potentially become Atlanta's center fielder next year, they'll continue to listen to offers for Maybin.
Juan Uribe: Uribe has provided the Braves the stability they have been seeking at third base. But the 36-year-old veteran's recent power surge has only enhanced the interest he has drawn from clubs seeking a right-handed bat.
Kelly Johnson: In the process of resurrecting his career with the Braves this season, Johnson has made himself attractive to some American League clubs that are seeking a left-handed bat.
Chris Johnson: The Braves have tried to move Johnson's contract since the end of last season. Though their many attempts have been unsuccessful, they will continue to try to package him with some of their other available players.
A.J. Pierzynski: Even if the Braves opt to deal the veteran catcher to a club seeking a left-handed bat, they will likely attempt to bring him back next year.