The Big Picture
In the hyper-competitive NL East, the Braves are 4.5 games back of the division leading Nationals. But they’re also just one game back of the second wild-card spot, which happens to be shared by division rival New York Mets. Atlanta is reportedly searching for a top starting pitcher. That’s unusual ground for them – just last year they ranked 4th
in MLB in ERA – but some injuries and regression by youngsters have them looking for rotation help.
Why They Will Trade With The Twins
The Braves are somewhat like the Twins right now, with two solid starters – Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson – followed by a whole lot of finger-crossing. They’ve been linked to just about every possibly available starting pitcher on the market already. That includes Francisco Liriano.
Braves scout Jim Fregosi (which are four words that should get ’93 Phils fans a little worked up) was at Sunday’s game, though he claimed the Braves weren’t interested in Liriano.
But the best reason they match up with the Twins isn’t because of what they need as much as what they can offer – young pitching. One of the guys struggling in their rotation right now is 24-year-old left-hander Mike Minor, who is sporting a 6.20 ERA. But last year he struck out 99 batters in 100.2 inning in AAA, and almost matched that 1:1 ratio in 15 games in the majors. There are at least two other major-league-ready young pitchers that could be available for whoever can provide a high-end starter.
Why They Won’t Trade With The Twins
Pay a lot of attention to this next paragraph. Or don't, since I suspect I’m going to be repeating it in a lot of these profiles.
It looks like there could be an awful lot of awful good starting pitchers available at the trade deadline this year. Yes, there could be a lot more “buyers” than “sellers,” but there are fewer buyers with the will or need to make a big trade for a starting pitcher. The Brewers are rumored to be fielding calls for both Zach Greinke and (if he gets healthy) Shawn Marcum. The Phillies have started calling teams about Cole Hamels. The Cubs will certainly listen to offers for Matt Garza. Liriano probably slots behind all of those guys and maybe among some other names like Seattle’s Jason Vargas.
However, one thing that Liriano does have going for him to facilitate a trade to the Braves: he’s left-handed. Atlanta hasn’t indicated they have a preference, but the Nationals team they’re chasing is hitting just .233 vs southpaws this year, 3rd
worst in the majors.
There are a lot of other teams that would like to add Liriano to their rotation, and there are a lot of other pitchers that could help the Braves. But the Twins and Braves make a good fit both in terms of what is given and what is received. Don’t be surprised if rumors surrounding these two teams get louder as the deadline approaches.
Possible Trade Targets
Mike Minor – LHP
He’s just 24. He’s left-handed. He has very little service time. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. And he has struck out 192 in 209 IP in the majors. But he’s sporting a 6.20 ERA this year (5.34 career) and is giving up WAY too many home runs. Sounds like an awfully good fit for Target Field. It’s a little hard to believe the Twins could get him straight up for Liriano, but perhaps they could include their own prospect to balance out the deal?
Randall Delgado – RHP
Here’s another one of the Braves promising pitching prospects that is struggling in the majors this year. Delgado’s problem this year has been control and that’s never been a particularly strong suit of his. But he’s just 21 years old and was rushed to the majors with only four starts in AAA. He also has 569 Ks in his 538 innings in the minors and a fastball that averaged 92.4 mph last year.
Julio Teheran – RHP
He’s one of the top pitching prospects in the minors with mid-90s stuff – and yet the Braves are looking for outside help? Yep. He’s just 21 years old. His strikeout rate in AAA doesn’t jump off the page and his brief callup last year (5.03 ERA w 10K and 8BB in 19.2 IP) was underwhelming. But again – he’s one of the top pitching prospects in the minors. And he’s in AAA. If the Braves don’t want to suffer through his growing pains, I know a team that will be happy to.
A few more…
Sean Gilmartin - LHP
Stop me if this sounds like someone the Twins would like. Last year’s first round pick by the Braves projects as a middle of the rotation starter with outstanding control. The 6’2” southpaw is currently in AA.
Zeke Spruill – RHP
Also in AA, the 6’5” right-hander is positioning himself for a midyear promotion to AAA. With 63K in 98 IP, he doesn’t have outstanding stuff, but his control could make him a mid-rotation starter.
Carlos Perez – LHP
Only 19 and only in A-ball (again) and he’s not exactly thriving there. But he’s got a 90mph sinker that, if he can harness it, could rocket him up the ladder. He sounds a little bit like Liriano, actually.
Arodys Vizcaino – RHP
The 21-year-old fireballer rocketed through the organization to impact Atlanta’s bullpen last year. Unfortunately, it looks like that is his future, and it’s a future at least a year away as he was shelved for Tommy John surgery this March.