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Inbox: Will Braves make a Deadline deal?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
MLB.com @mlbbowman

Is there any substance to the Manny Machado or Mike Moustakas talks?
-- @wormman1041


Dating back to this past offseason, I've seen countless rumors linking the Braves to Moustakas, but never once have I gained an ounce of reason to believe they have any interest in him. As for Machado, yeah, it does make sense for the Braves to keep tabs on this elite superstar, just to see if reduced leverage leads the Orioles to drop their asking price into a comfort zone.

Especially now that Austin Riley, who is the team's No. 6-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has lost a month with a right knee injury, there's no doubt it makes perfect sense to put Machado at the top of this offseason's free-agent wish list. The 26-year-old veteran could also make a significant offensive impact over the final couple months of this season. But to acquire him, the Braves would need to use some of the pieces necessary to address the glaring and primary need to improve the pitching staff. We'll get into the starter or reliever pursuit in the next question.

Is there any substance to the Manny Machado or Mike Moustakas talks?
-- @wormman1041


Dating back to this past offseason, I've seen countless rumors linking the Braves to Moustakas, but never once have I gained an ounce of reason to believe they have any interest in him. As for Machado, yeah, it does make sense for the Braves to keep tabs on this elite superstar, just to see if reduced leverage leads the Orioles to drop their asking price into a comfort zone.

Especially now that Austin Riley, who is the team's No. 6-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has lost a month with a right knee injury, there's no doubt it makes perfect sense to put Machado at the top of this offseason's free-agent wish list. The 26-year-old veteran could also make a significant offensive impact over the final couple months of this season. But to acquire him, the Braves would need to use some of the pieces necessary to address the glaring and primary need to improve the pitching staff. We'll get into the starter or reliever pursuit in the next question.

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As for those of you who want to improve the offense and bullpen by acquiring both Machado and Zach Britton from the Orioles, take a step back, think about how much you would have to give up in terms of prospects and then remember both of these players will be a free agent at the end of this season.

Talking to scouts from opposing teams, I have maintained my belief the Braves have limited financial flexibility. At the same time, I'm willing to believe Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos would have the ability to convince ownership to loosen the purse strings for the right deal.

But though this season's first 89 games have provided indication the Braves might be a year ahead of scheduled, Anthopoulos and his staff must remember where this club is in the rebuild process. Making an aggressive move too early could counteract what has been done over the past few years and create detrimental long-term effects.

Yeah, you want to do everything you can to win when you have a chance. But at this point, the Braves are nearing the final months with Mike Foltynewicz as the closest thing they have to a legit front-line starter. Maybe Sean Newcomb will prove himself against top lineups over the final months. But there's reason to wonder if Mike Soroka will make another start before September, and Kolby Allard has not proven he is ready for the Majors.

At this point next year, the Braves will have a better feel for what they have with Foltynewicz, Newcomb, Soroka, Allard, Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint. But if they were to give up top prospects in return for players not controlled beyond this current season, they'd be taking a significant and irresponsible gamble on a rotation currently surrounded by uncertainties.

Are the Braves more likely to go after a starting pitcher or a bullpen piece?
-- @JRahm5

Over the past couple months and as recently as late last week, I was touting Luiz Gohara as a potential difference maker as a multi-inning relief option. Now I'm starting to think he might provide more value to the rotation, and there might be a need within the next month to put Toussaint in Atlanta's bullpen.

There's no doubt the Braves need to acquire at least one reliever before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Their choice of reliable relievers currently consists of Jesse Biddle, A.J. Minter and Arodys Vizcaino. Maybe the All-Star break will prove beneficial to Dan Winkler and Shane Carle. But when you also account for how careful they'll need to be with Minter and Vizcaino, there's even more reason to pursue a proven late-inning option.

If the Braves were to acquire a controllable starting pitcher, maybe Gohara and Toussaint could both eventually serve as a valuable relievers. But I'd say it's much more likely that at least one reliever is added before July 31.

What's the mood in the clubhouse among the players about acquiring help at the Deadline?
-- @gondee

I've heard executives say something like, "If you base all your decisions on what you hear from the fans, you'll soon find yourself sitting with them in the stands." Players aren't much different from fans in that most don't want to hear the possibility of making an immediate improvement was nixed, because it would have damaged long-term benefits.

Baseball executives are charged with the responsibility of knowing when the time is right to strike a deal. But at the same time, I think it is important to have a strong feel for the clubhouse and the willingness to at least make an attempt to fortify a contending roster in some way.

Freddie Freeman wants to win now, but he also knows he'll be around over the next few years when the Braves will be more legitimate contenders who could truly benefit from a big acquisition. Veterans like Nick Markakis, Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki don't know if they'll ever be in this position again to be part of a team that will go through a season's final months with legit playoff aspirations.

There's no doubt the morale in the clubhouse would be adversely affected if July 31 passes without the Braves making an acquisition. This doesn't mean there's a need to repeat the Mark Teixeira trade that created negative effects long after the 2007 Trade Deadline. But at the same time, they may have to do more than was done in 2013, when Scott Downs was acquired before the Deadline but was then left off the postseason roster.

Do you think Braves manager Brian Snitker may try Markakis in the leadoff spot?
-- @kitcopeland51

As you might remember, when Ronald Acuna Jr. was nearing his return from the disabled list, Markakis said, "I don't think there's anybody in baseball that Freddie and myself would rather have hit in front of us than [Ozzie Albies and Acuna]." Snitker said he didn't like it when he briefly put Albies and Acuna in the top two spots of his lineup and batted Ender Inciarte ninth. But I think makeup makes this arrangement the most optimal lineup construction.

Now that Acuna has returned from the DL, I anticipate we'll soon see him once again paired with Albies at the top of the lineup. Whether or not Inciarte bats ninth remains to be seen. But if the Rays' pitching staff can have an "opener," why can't the Braves' lineup have an "Ender"? I'll show myself to the door. Thanks for reading.

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

Atlanta Braves