I know everyone is caught up in the movement to get Freddie Freeman in the All Star game. I’m right there with you guys, gals! In fact, I’ve sent my N2 text message to 89269 now over 1500 times!. Let me encourage EVERYONE to keep doing that so we get Freddie in, and upset the best laid plans of mice and ESPN. That said, I’m personally more interested in how the Braves are prepping for the rest of the post-break season. As Alan Carpenter reported this morning, the most pressing need Atlanta has at the moment is help in relief, and that is most likely what the Braves will be looking to trade for by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Braves need to aggressively pursue at least one additional/reliable bullpen piece for August and September. No matter what else goes on with the starters. Gearrin could be back later as the “second” arm, but it is still vitally important to support that rotation at the dog days of Summer come upon us. The Atlanta bullpen has been a strength so far, and this team cannot afford to lose that edge to over-use.
There are a number of options available to the Braves for relief pitching, but there are four names (maybe five) being tossed about all over the sports world that we should probably keep a closer eye on than any others. Those four are Steve Cishek, Kevin Gregg, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, and if any of those interest Frank Wren and company, it may not necessarily be in that order. I’ll throw in a fifth name as well, Joba Chamberlain.
Steve Cishek has certainly struggled in his career at times, but he’s pitching pretty well this year with a 2.82 ERA in almost 39 innings pitched for the Miami Marlins. We also know that the Marlins have had a propensity lately to trade just about anyone, making Cishek an affordable, and possibly worthwhile option. It’s been reported already that the Braves have shown some interest in Kevin Gregg. You may recall that Gregg and Fredi Gonzalez already know each other, as Gregg was a closer for Miami when Fredi was with that organization in 2007-08. Gregg is another reliever who has struggled mightily at times, but has had a pretty good 2013 with the Chicago Cubs, with a 1.78 ERA in 30+ innings pitched.
I guess while I’m thinking about the Marlins, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the remote possibility that the Fish could look to trade Mike Dunn or Ryan Webb as well, although I think those are outside possibilities. Jesse Crain has been outstanding this year for the Chicago White Sox, with a low 0.74 ERA in over 36 innings pitched, and the Sox have been reportedly very willing to deal. Only issue with Crain could be the fact that he is currently on the 15 day DL with a shoulder strain, and we all know how those injuries can go. I mentioned Matt Thornton and threw in Joba the Hunted, but I’ll refrain from saying more about them. Not going to happen! My take on who the Braves would go for if going for any of the aforementioned? I would guess Kevin Gregg. We all know Fredi likes to work with players he knows, and that alone might make Gregg the best bet.
Atlanta definitely needs some help in middle to late relief, but they also need some help with position players in the infield. They’ve been able to put some bandaids on their wounds with the loss of Ramiro Pena for the season, and the DL stints of Evan Gattis and Jordan Schafer, but it would be a mistake to put all their eggs in the relief pitching basket without at least thinking about what their position needs will be post All Star Break. The good news is that Evan Gattis has reportedly been improving, catching some and hitting some, and should return after the break. Jordan Schafer should also be back after the break, and has reportedly been doing some light sprints and showing no obvious signs of discomfort. Brian McCann has been on an absolute tear lately, and Gerald Laird has performed well when giving Brian a break. The question will be where Fredi uses Gattis when he does return? Jordan should definitely get back into a leadoff role quick in my opinion, and the sooner Fredi uses Jordan in center, and benches B.J. as much as Wren will allow, then so much better for the Braves.
It will be interesting to see what Atlanta does after the break with Gattis and Jordan, and who else might be in the lineup come August. What’s your take?