Atlanta Braves reportedly eyeing top starting pitchers as trade targets

The Atlanta Braves are reportedly considering a trade for an upper-tier starting pitcher who could help them now and in the future.

The Atlanta Braves are in an interesting spot as we near the month of July. Winners of eight of their last 10, they have pulled to within two games of the .500 mark. At eight games behind in the National League Wild Card race, they’re not exactly dead and buried yet in the postseason picture.

With a highly-rated farm system in tow, the Braves organization is set up well for the future. However, there is something to be said for using the trade deadline to keep this year’s team competitive in the second half. Fortunately for them, there are several potential moves that would allow the Braves to have it both ways.

According to a report by David O’Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the club seems to be doing just that, with an eye toward improving its pitching staff. He says that the Braves are showing interest in a handful of top starting pitchers who could end up on the trade block over the next few weeks.

Specifically, he names Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays, Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox and Sonny Gray of the Oakland A’s. O’Brien notes that Atlanta considered dealing for Archer and Quintana last offseason, but neither ended up moving prior to the start of spring. They also sent scouts to watch Gray’s last start.

The Braves’ rotation has struggled thus far in 2017. Their combined 4.80 ERA puts them down at 23rd in Major League Baseball. Veteran free agent signings R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon have not panned out, posting ERAs of 4.63 and 7.78, respectively. Trade acquisition Jaime Garcia has been better, pitching to a 4.03 ERA in 14 outings.

With an offense (17th in runs scored with 706) and bullpen (12th in ERA at 4.08) that have generally been in the middle of the pack, a boost to the starting pitching would help shore up a prominent weakness on this Braves team.

As mentioned by O’Brien, pitchers on expiring contracts like Dickey and Garcia could be traded to make room for a new arm. (Colon would have fit that category as well, but his recent injuries and awful performance have surely hobbled his value.) The aforementioned trio of targets have all been subject to numerous rumors, though with the Rays still firmly in the hunt, there’s no guarantee they will be motivated to move Archer.

All three are far from rentals: Gray is under team control through 2019, Quintana potentially through 2020 with options, and Archer through 2021 with a couple options of his own. Any of them would be able to help the Braves now as well as for the next few seasons, when the franchise expects to be much more competitive. If Julio Teheran rebounds, another high-end starter could give them the makings of a nice one-two punch in the rotation.

Of course, the long-term and affordable contract situations of these pitchers means that their current teams will likely set high asking prices. However, Atlanta is better equipped than most to meet those demands with its farm system. With Freddie Freeman expected back around the All-Star break, you can’t fault the Braves for anticipating a possible second-half push. Trading for a talented, controllable starter could allow them to take a shot in the present without completely mortgaging the future.

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