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Braves likely to be in market for starting pitcher

ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Frank Wren will continue to evaluate his team's needs leading up to the July 31 Trade Deadline. But as things currently stand, it appears landing a starting pitcher stands as the primary priority.

The Braves have spent the past couple of weeks scouting Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke and attempting to get a better feel of whether they might be able to keep him beyond this season, if they were to add him. But while the former Cy Young Award winner might currently sit at the top of Atlanta's wish list, Wren could also attempt to land a starting pitcher who would cost less both financially and in terms of prospects.

"If you want to see us be a consistent ballclub, let us go get a guy or two pitching-wise at the Trade Deadline," Chipper Jones said. "That's where you get consistency. That's where you get the guys that are going to hold opposing teams to one, two or three runs. That's when you get consistent."

Greinke, Padres right-hander Edinson Volquez and Cubs veterans Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster stand as the most likely candidates to land in Atlanta if the Braves make a trade for a starting pitcher.

With Brandon Beachy lost for the remainder of the season while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson stand as the only truly reliable pieces in a rotation that has been burdened by the youth of Randall Delgado and Mike Minor.

Jair Jurrjens has provided some promise since ending his two-month demotion to the Minor Leagues, and the recently-signed Ben Sheets could join Atlanta's rotation this week. If Jurrjens and Sheets pitch well over the next couple of weeks, the Braves might feel less pressured to aggressively pursue a starting pitcher.

To get Greinke, the Braves would likely have to part with one of their top young pitchers -- Julio Teheran, Delgado or Minor -- plus another Top 20 prospect. But just five years removed from the Mark Teixeira trade, they likely would not do this unless they were confident Greinke would not bolt via free agency at the end of this season.

If it appears Greinke would be nothing more than a two-month rental, one of the other aforementioned starting pitchers will likely start drawing more interest from the Braves. Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez both have a lot of respect for Dempster dating back to the days when they were all together in the Marlins organization.

To get Dempster, Garza or Volquez, the Braves would likely not have to part ways with any of their top pitching prospects. Dempster will be a free agent at the end of this season and would come with an approximate cost of $4.7 million for the remainder of this season. The amount the Braves pay could depend on the value of the player or players that the Cubs would receive.

Wren will also spend the next couple of weeks evaluating his bullpen, which has been weakened by Jonny Venters' inconsistencies. Venters will be eligible to come off the disabled list on July 20. If he continues to struggle after he returns, the Braves might attempt to land a veteran reliever.

There is also a chance Atlanta will attempt to add some depth and versatility to its bench. But less than three weeks shy of the Trade Deadline, it appears pitching will be the priority.

Atlanta Braves