The Braves have been on the brink of contention for quite a while now and that has led to a lot of questions about the direction that Frank Wren will take this team at the deadline. With Atlantas best hitter and ace now on the disabled list, there should be no more doubt that the front office will waive the white flag on this season and plan ahead to 2009 and beyond. Trade rumors surrounding first baseman Mark Teixeira and left-handed reliever Will Ohman have gotten the most press coverage, but there are also a number of internal personnel moves that should happen if Bobby Cox and Frank Wren are looking to next year. Heres what the Braves should do:
- Trade 1B Mark Teixeira to the Diamondbacks for 1B Chad Tracy and RHP Jarrod Parker. Arizona needs some pop in the lineup but dont expect them to part with Conor Jackson, who has been their best hitter this season. Tracy fulfills the Braves need for a relatively cheap first baseman to take over for Teixeira and is signed through 2009 with a reasonable $7 million option for the 2010 season. Parker would be the centerpiece of the deal and would give the Braves an elite and pretty polished teenage arm. I also wouldnt be shocked if Martin Prado was worked into a deal with the Diamondbacks to fill the void if Orlando Hudson leaves via free agency this off-season.
- Trade LHP Will Ohman to the Red Sox for RHP Craig Hansen and OF Jason Place. The Red Sox need to make a move to counter the Yankees recent acquisitions of Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. Bostons mediocre bullpen could use the services of Ohman, who is pitching the best baseball of his major league career this season. Hansen has lights-out stuff but has had very inconsistent control and looks like he needs a change of scenery. Place was taken by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2005 draft for his athleticism and tools but he still hasnt turned that into performance, due mostly to high strikeout totals. He has shown good power and his five-tool potential makes him an intriguing prospect but he is still very raw.
- Trade CF Mark Kotsay to the Yankees for RHP George Kontos. This deal would be contingent on the Yankees trading current center fielder Melky Cabrera, who has been mentioned in a number of trade rumors this year. If that does happen, Kotsay would give them a premium defender in center so they can keep Johnny Damon at DH and more importantly, keep Wilson Betemit out of the lineup. Kontos has the potential to pitch in the middle of the rotation but at the very least, his sinker-slider combo could make him a force at the back of the bullpen.
- Trade 1B/OF Greg Norton to the Dodgers for a PTBNL. Norton doesnt have much value to a team that is out of contention, but would help the Dodgers, who have the NLs second-worst bench production (.547 OPS). Norton has a .758 OPS against righties this season and could take over for Mark Sweeney and his .301 OPS. Serviceable bench bats are always in demand for teams looking to make a playoff run. A deal like this would probably look like the one that brought Daryle Ward to the Braves during the 2006 season.
- Release RHP Julian Tavarez and C Corky Miller. Neither of these guys has any place in the Braves future plans and are really just taking up space. Millers non-existent offense and inconsistent defense has led to Brian McCann starting the second-highest number of games (91) of any major-league catcher. That puts him on pace to start 140 games this season, which is just too much for a catcher. Sammons was called up to help out while McCann recovers from his concussion so theyre halfway there. Having a decent backup behind McCann should cut down on his innings and the Braves could even use McCann at first base some during the final two months of the season to cut down on his wear-and-tear, while keeping his bat in the lineup.
- Call up LHP Jo-Jo Reyes. Reyes was sent down so the Braves could add another arm to the depleted bullpen but should be back up soon. The left-hander has struggled over his last four appearances, mostly due to very inconsistent command over that time. A move to the bullpen might make sense for Reyes. He could work on his command and tightening his breaking ball as a reliever and be an insurance policy if Mike Hampton goes down again or the Braves decide to shut down Tim Hudson for the season.
- Call up CF Jordan Schafer and OF Josh Anderson. The center fielder has struggled this season for double-A Mississippi but if the Braves are going to play for next season, it makes sense to let him figure it out in the majors. Schafer had a strong showing in spring training, plays an excellent center field, and has shown very impressive on-base skills this year. Stick him between Blanco and Francoeur and let him get the experience he needs to be a help to the team next season. Its not like Bobby Cox has been getting extraordinary offense out of center this year anyways. Anderson has been hitting well lately and would replace Greg Norton as the teams fourth outfielder.
I gave my take and now it is your turn. You can comment on my moves or propose your own in the comments section.