The Atlanta Braves lead the NL East comfortably as the All-Star break nears, but the perennial contenders would be foolish to stand still and watch the July 31 trade deadline come and go.
While the Braves have excellent starting pitching and a topflight closer in Craig Kimbrel, they are shallow in the bullpen and must address their lack of depth this summer in order to have a shot at winning the World Series this fall.
There are a number of relievers out there who make sense, but it appears as if the Braves have their sights set on two in particular.
According to a pair of American League talent evaluators, the Braves and Giants have an interest in Joba Chamberlain.
Braves scout Jim Fregosi watched Chamberlain pitch a scoreless inning Friday night in Baltimore, when his fastball was clocked in the mid-90s.
Chamberlain has struggled thus far this season, sporting a career-worst 5.48 ERA in just more than 21 innings pitched. But there's no doubt that he's a quality postseason reliever. The 27-year-old has appeared in 19 playoff games dating back to 2007, boasting a career postseason ERA of 2.87, allowing 20 hits, five earned runs and just one homer.
The Braves are among the many teams expected to show interest in Cubs closer Kevin Gregg, who owns a 1.11 ERA in 25 appearances. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez utilized Gregg as his closer while they were together with the Marlins in 2007 and '08.
Gregg has been much stronger than Chamberlain this season, boasting a 1.72 ERA in 32 appearances and just more than 31 innings pitched. Gregg hasn't made a playoff appearance since 2005 but has allowed just four hits and zero runs in four postseason innings pitched.
Both Chamberlain and Gregg offer experience and a strong right arm. While each brings something different to the table, Atlanta wouldn't be wrong to go in either direction.
You need a deep pitching staff in order to win in October. At the moment, the Braves have a talented rotation; one that currently ranks second in the majors in team ERA (3.25). But depth is a huge factor as contenders gear up for the second half.
The coming weeks prior to the July 31 deadline offer the Braves one last shot to get deeper before they make their run at their first World Series crown in nearly two decades.
Sure, the Braves are strong enough to maintain their lead over the second half of the season and win the NL East in 2013. But if Atlanta has hopes of winning a championship and not just another division title, it must find a way to boost its bullpen depth before this summer's trade deadline.
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