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Braves mulling options for possible trades

MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Armed with arguably more top pitching prospects than any other team, the Braves have the resources to make a significant acquisition before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. But even if the potential for a significant deal were to materialize, there's reason to question whether the time is right to pay the necessary cost.

As the Braves sit just 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Phillies in the National League East, it's easy to assess they could benefit from the addition of a starting pitcher and at least one relief pitcher. The bench could also use some fortifying and there are those who believe the middle of the lineup must be bolstered with the addition of a power hitter.

ATLANTA -- Armed with arguably more top pitching prospects than any other team, the Braves have the resources to make a significant acquisition before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. But even if the potential for a significant deal were to materialize, there's reason to question whether the time is right to pay the necessary cost.

As the Braves sit just 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Phillies in the National League East, it's easy to assess they could benefit from the addition of a starting pitcher and at least one relief pitcher. The bench could also use some fortifying and there are those who believe the middle of the lineup must be bolstered with the addition of a power hitter.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has spent the past few weeks addressing those needs, while remaining cognizant of the potential long-term detrimental effects of being too aggressive too early in the midst of a rebuild.

During his time with the Blue Jays, Anthopoulos proved he is willing to make significant trades. He now finds himself in a position where it can be argued he owes it to his players and the fanbase to at least do something to bolster his roster for the stretch run. But he will not do something that weakens the team's future strength to address just one of the multiple current needs.

The Braves have eight of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects and that does count 20-year-old phenom Ronald Acuna Jr., who recently graduated from prospect status. Six of those players are pitchers -- Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard and Max Fried -- each of whom is either MLB-ready or within a year of earning that status.

So it's easy to see why many clubs would be willing to do business with the Braves. But Anthopoulos would rather not use his elite prospects to acquire a rental. His focus, especially in the starting-pitching market, has been on controllable pieces.

Julio Teheran's latest disappointing start Tuesday enhanced the belief the Braves need to add a starter to a rotation that currently counts Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Anibal Sanchez as its only reliable pieces. Soroka will likely miss the remainder of the season and Brandon McCarthy's potential return seems to be questionable.

The Braves expressed interest in Michael Fulmer, until a recent oblique strain lessened the likelihood of the Tigers dealing him before this winter. Toronto's J.A. Happ has drawn interest from clubs, but he would be a rental and it seems like the Yankees currently stand as the favorites to land him.

The Rays have had a scout following the Braves' Minor League prospects over the past few weeks. Though the asking price would likely be steep, Blake Snell would be the most desirable starting pitcher in Tampa Bay's system. But the more likely target would be Chris Archer, who could be controlled through 2021.

With the addition of a valuable starting pitcher, the Braves may indirectly improve their bullpen, but it will take much more to fix it. Closer Arodys Vizcaino will likely be sidelined until September and Sam Freeman has been unable to take advantage of the tremendous patience manager Brian Snitker has shown. Dan Winkler and Shane Carle have faltered since proving to be reliable during the season's first two months.

So the only dependable pieces currently sitting in the Braves' bullpen are rookie left-handers A.J. Minter and Jesse Biddle.

As for the offensive needs, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has been linked to the Braves since the start of Spring Training and not once has a member of Atlanta's front office provided indication it has interest in acquiring him.

Johan Camargo has proven capable of handling the third-base position from an offensive and defensive standpoint. But if the Braves were to acquire a third baseman, even with the plan to use him in a platoon, the motive would seemingly be to improve a bench that counts Preston Tucker and Charlie Culberson as its top pinch-hit options.

Culberson has been invaluable when pressed into a starting role and could find himself spending more time in left field if the Braves opt to begin platooning Ender Inciarte. Such an arrangement would transition Acuna to center field on days when the opposition starts a left-handed pitcher.

If the Braves make an an offensive acquisition, the target would likely be a right-handed hitter. So as the Tigers have spent time scouring Atlanta's farm system, there has been some belief Nicholas Castellanos would be a potential target. Some scouts question whether Castellanos is sound enough defensively to be valuable in the National League.

But other scouts have said they believe Castellanos would be a good fit if he were to platoon with Camargo at third base and provide the bench with some much-needed power potential.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves