Braves' trade focus widens as Deadline looms
Plenty of options still available following Beltran, Pence deals
ATLANTA -- The Braves were not interested in giving up any of their top pitching prospects in exchange for Carlos Beltran for the remainder of this season. Nor did they have enough interest in Hunter Pence to provide the Astros with the two top pitching prospects they were seeking in return.
But now that Beltran is with the Giants and Pence is with the Phillies, will the Braves respond by filling their need for an outfielder before Sunday's Trade Deadline?
"[The Phillies] have made every move you can make -- I guess you can make -- in order to try to go for it," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said Friday night. "They got Cliff Lee in the offseason. They got Hunter Pence now. They've been playing together. They've got unbelievable depth. When somebody goes down, they've been picking each other up all year long.
"They're a good team. But we are too, and there's a lot of other good teams that will make the playoffs too."
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Braves possessed the National League's second-best record and seemed destined to earn a second consecutive trip to the postseason. But they have stumbled over the past two weeks and have been hit hard by the injury bug this week.
The big blow came when Brian McCann strained his left oblique muscle during Tuesday's 19-inning win against the Pirates, sending him to the disabled list. Center fielders Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth have also been placed on the 15-day DL this week.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said the injuries have not altered his approach to the trade market. But it does seem they have at least led him to widen his focus to find players who can play center field and serve as a leadoff hitter. When the week began, it appeared the focus was to find a right-handed hitting outfielder who could play the corner positions.
"We've been looking for an outfielder, and we're still looking for an outfielder," Wren said. "[The injuries] really do not change anything. We're going to be thin for a while until some of these guys come back from injury. We know that, and it really doesn't change anything."
The Braves could also add a right-handed reliever before Sunday's Trade Deadline or wait until August to cross that off their wish list. But over the next two days, most of the focus will be placed on who they might add to a lineup that is also currently without Chipper Jones, who is nursing a strained right quad muscle.
The Braves have three pitchers -- Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy -- in the rotation who are 25 years old or younger. But even as the injuries have mounted this week, Atlanta has indicated it has little desire to move any of its top pitching prospects -- Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor.
While the Braves showed some late interest in Pence, their interest was never great enough to land him in exchange for the two top pitching prospects the Astros were seeking in return.
The Braves had a greater desire to add Beltran. But they were not going to give the Mets one of these pitching prospects in exchange for the veteran outfielder, who will exit via free agency at the end of this season.
There have been some reports indicating the Braves were aggressively pursuing White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin. But the White Sox are in the thick of the American League Central race and have not clearly indicated they are willing to trade the outfielder.
While Ryan Ludwick was an outfielder the Braves were evaluating earlier this week, it seems they're now more interested in center fielders like the Rays' B.J. Upton, the A's Coco Crisp or the Astros' Michael Bourn.
While the Braves and Astros have briefly discussed Bourn, it doesn't sound like those talks have progressed past the preliminary stage. With Crisp, the Braves have some concerns about his ability to stay healthy.
Upton could benefit from a change of scenery and the Rays have enough outfield depth in their organization to immediately compensate for his absence. This could help the Braves land him without having to part ways with any of their pitching prospects.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.