As the Braves enter the season's second half with the hope to finish with a winning record and possibly contend for a postseason berth, they could go a couple directions leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.Though the Braves want to remain competitive, they have some internal pieces
As the Braves enter the season's second half with the hope to finish with a winning record and possibly contend for a postseason berth, they could go a couple directions leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Though the Braves want to remain competitive, they have some internal pieces that would allow them to deal expendable veterans without conceding this season. They will certainly get some calls about Matt Adams, and there might be some teams interested in acquiring Brandon Phillips for the remainder of 2017. It remains to be seen what kind of interest left-handed starter Jaime Garcia and right-handed reliever Jim Johnson might draw after struggling over the past couple weeks.
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The Braves will be seeking returns that would enhance their bid to become legit postseason contenders by next season. Thus, they might be linked to Sonny Gray and other controllable front-line starting pitchers who might be available. Atlanta has the prospects necessary to strike such a deal, but the price will be high because at least six playoff teams will attempt to add a starting pitcher within the next month.
If the Braves trade Adams, Freddie Freeman would move back to first base, and the third-base position could be filled by either Johan Camargo or Sean Rodriguez, who is expected to return from left shoulder surgery by the end of the month. The presence of Camargo and Rodriguez also gives Atlanta further reason to see what it could get for Phillips, who is in the final year of his contract.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow knows Garcia from the time they spent together with the Cardinals. The veteran left-hander has struggled lately, but his stuff seemed to be rounding back into form through the first four innings of last week's start against Houston. If Garcia has a couple good starts out of the break, the Braves might be able to pry outfielder Derek Fisher from the Astros. Another potential target could be catcher Jake Rogers.
What are they playing for?
Having survived the time without Freeman, the Braves want to make a run at their first winning season since 2013. A playoff berth would be nice, but it's all about making progress within what has been an accelerated rebuild.
The road ahead
It won't take the Braves long to know where they might stand. They play six of their first nine games after the break against the D-backs, who are leading the National League Wild Card race. They'll also play the Cubs and NL West-leading Dodgers before July concludes.
Freeman's fractured left wrist might have taken him out of contention for postseason awards, but he will still likely produce NL MVP Award-caliber numbers and prove why the Braves are thrilled to have him as their cornerstone. He has hit .385 and compiled a 1.159 OPS in 28 plate appearances since returning from a seven-week absence. Freeman's 10.1 at-bat per home run ratio has kept him on pace to enjoy a second straight 30-homer season.
Prospects to watch
Ozzie Albies has made significant progress with Triple-A Gwinnett, and if he continues to provide indication he can consistently hit right-handed pitchers, this switch-hitter could soon land in Atlanta. Left-handed reliever A.J. Minter also has a chance to significantly impact the bullpen for the rest of this season and beyond. Ronald Acuna could be added to Atlanta's roster in September and gain a chance to make his big league debut as a teenager.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.