It is never too early to start talking about the trade deadline, especially when we can talk about would-be contenders that might unexpectedly end up being sellers rather than buyers at the deadline. Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at many of these such teams, and there is a surprisingly large amount, and what exactly they might be looking to sell if they don't turn around their season in a hurry.
Losers of eight straight and playing in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, things are starting to look bleak for the Atlanta Braves. They are still over .500, but after last season's collapse down the stretch, a lot of negativity is starting to come to the surface in Atlanta. That inevitably means people around the team are going to start wondering if they don't need to take give this roster and clubhouse a serious shake up.
So, what can the Braves potentially offer to the rest of the league?
Big Chips: Michael Bourn, Tim Hudson
The Braves made a big move to acquire Michael Bourn at the deadline last season, shoring up their big hole in center field and leadoff. That should make them particularly loathe to part ways with him via trade, however, they would be even more loathe to watch Bourn get signed away from them when he hits the free agent market after this year. So, if the season looks lost and Bourn doesn't seem receptive to a long-term deal that works for Atlanta financially, which is a virtual certainty since Bourn is represented by Scott Boras, Atlanta will have no other choice but to send him packing. The good news is that several teams have glaring needs for a player like Bourn and would be willing to give up a handsome package of prospects despite him being just a three-month rental.
Tim Hudson still seems to be working to get back to form after off-season back surgery, but he figures to be back to his old self by the time the trade deadline draws nigh. As a battle-tested veteran, Hudson is an ideal pick up for most any team and would surely bring back a very nice package, especially since he has a relatively team-friendly $9 million team option for 2013. That option might be what prompts Atlanta and their notoriously budget-conscious owners, Liberty Media, to spin him off. If a minor rebuild is in the future, then Atlanta doesn't necessarily need to tie up payroll space with his $9 million in 2013, but given how reasonable that salary is, they would be fools to pass up the option and let him walk away for nothing at all.
Money Moves: Jair Jurrjens
The Braves shopped Jair Jurrjens hard in the off-season, but couldn't find anyone willing to pay what they were asking even though Jurrjens was coming off an All-Star season. At the time, Atlanta was looking to move Jair because they thought they had an excess of starting pitching and could use Jurrjens to fill holes elsewhere in the roster. But now, with Jurrjens starting the season in disastrous fashion and getting demoted to the minors, where things have not improved, Atlanta would probably be ecstatic if someone would come along and eat the remaining money he has on his $5.5 million salary this season. Of course, they'll need Jurrjens to actually get his act together and get back to the majors first. If Atlanta can't find a take for Jurrjens, he is destined to become one of the most inevitable non-tenders in years.
Solid Pieces: Eric Hinske
Nobody is going to get all hot and bothered over the notion of trading for Eric Hinske, but he profiles as the perfect kind of player that gets dealt at the trade deadline and winds up playing a role, albeit a minor one, for a contender. With his left-handed power bat, plate discipline, ability to play different positions and familiarity with pinch-hitting, there isn't a contender out there who can't use his services in some way shape or form. It is doubtful that he would fetch a quality prospect in return, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't be a useful player.
X-Factor: Jason Heyward
Trading Jason Heyward is not a move the Braves would take lightly given Heyward's vast potential, but you'd be fooling yourself if you didn't think they'd consider it. Granted, he is just 22 years old, but Heyward has yet to put together all of his tools to have the kind of monster season many predicted for him after making the All-Star team as a 20-year old rookie. In fact, he has gotten appreciably worse in the two seasons since and has often found himself yanked in and out of the lineup by manager Fredi Gonzalez. But when it comes to trading Heyward, it only makes sense if Atlanta management has soured on Heyward and wants to trade him for a signifcant package while his value remains relatively high and before he hits arbitration and starts getting expensive.
Warm Bodies: Livan Hernandez, Matt Diaz
It is hard to believe that Livan Hernandez is still in the league and still pitching effectively. He is hardly a game-changing talent, but with his ability to serve as a competent middle reliever or an inning-eating starting pitcher, the Braves should certainly have little trouble flipping Livan for a low-level prospect and/or some cash.
As for Matt Diaz, see everything said above about Hinske, only not nearly as good.
But what they'll probably do is... deal Bourn and some of their warm bodies. Bourn already has one foot out the door to begin with, so dealing him is a no-brainer. After him though, Atlanta doesn't have many other impending free agents as their roster is very young, so they will likely just move some of their older veterans on the bench and in the bullpen to clear some room for younger talent to come up and get a look in the majors.
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