I know, I know.
The Braves are a first place team with good vibrations all around.
They've been one of the best teams in the game since the beginning of May and really lack any substantial holes in their line-up.
But...I like to think ahead.
And, right now, I'm thinking about how Frank Wren and Company can improve the National League's top run-scoring offense.
There are a couple of different routes the Braves could pursue to achieve this.
They could go with a speed guy (a dimension lacking in the line-up), but there really isn't anyone readily available that fits that description (unless you're thinking of Juan Pierre and his .248/.318/.278 line or Co-Co Crisp and his and injury-prone nature) - and Martin Prado has been on an absolute tear since taking over the lead-off spot. He has pretty much eliminated the need for a "stereotypical" lead-off hitter.
An extra power bat, specifically from the right side, could also be of benefit to the Braves.
Again, there aren't a lot of options that the Braves could pursue for this venture since teams aren't going to just trade away a legitimate power threat if they're even remotely close to being in a playoff race.
The other thing the Braves could look at is an everyday center field option that just, if only barely, out-performs the guys that they've been throwing out (Melky Cabrera and Nate McLouth and their combined sub-.550 OPS) at the plate, while playing at least average defense in the field.
And, of course, versatility anywhere would be a plus.
And with the infield set-up with Jones-Escobar-Prado-Glaus from left to right...the outfield seems to be the most viable option for an upgrade.
So, all things considered, here are two guys the Braves should be pursuing at the trade deadline.
The Baltimore Orioles outfielder, who still has two more years of team control remaining on his contract, has posted a .276/.347/.505 through 219 plate appearances from the left side of the plate (although that is acceptable considering his .852 OPS) thus far in 2010.
Now, his splits aren't pretty (.905 OPS vs. RHP to .696 vs. LHP), and his 13 games in the outfield might make him a liability from a defensive standpoint.
And (there are a few downsides with Scott) his line looks a little poor compared to current left-handed "platooning" outfielder Eric Hinske 's .311/.377/.548 slash (his splits are a little more drastic with .946 to .633 OPSs versus right- and left-handers, respectively).
But, even once Matt Diaz returns and Hinske continues in his platoon purgatory, Hinske's numbers are bound to move more and more towards his career marks of .256/.338/.442.
That's why I like Scott — his career line is .265/.349/.496 which is much closer to the numbers he has posted en route to his 10 homers and 24 RBI in what has proven to be a rather anemic Orioles offense (in other words, even if in only a platoon, he's more likely to sustain his production).
Considering their 19-51 record and recent firing of their manager, you have to figure that Baltimore will be "blowing it up" and building for the future — so MLB-ready talent probably won't be a "must" in a deal.
But, close-to-primo prospects will be.
And with a lack of top-flight depth in the outfield down on the farm, and the old mantra of "you can't have too much pitching" likely coming in the negotiation process, this would be my package if I'm the Braves (and I'm going with my head over my heart a little since I love Delgado)...
Potential Deal: Cody Johnson (OF), Randall Delgado (RHP) (or a slightly lesser albeit similar prospect), and Scott Diamond (LHP) for Luke Scott (OF) and Pedro Viola (LHP)/Jim Johnson (RHP).
Remember the "barely-better-than-the-current-options" guy?
Here he kinda is (I say "kinda" because he's actually significantly better than the other options without being a total top-flight offensive threat).
But, for the sake of comparison, pick one of these lines blindly (with career lines)...
Obviously, you pick the dude in the middle, who is not surprisingly David DeJesus.
He's one of the top players on the Kansas City Royals and has, as evidenced by his career line above, always been the sort of player he has been this year - one that gets on base while hitting with a little pop (i.e. an ideal No. 1 or No. 2 hitter).
His five homers and three steals don't expire much in the "flashy" categories, but he's been getting the job done to the tune of 22 doubles (tied for third most with many others in the AL) and three triples from the top of KC's line-up.
You plug that sort of production, even if he is left-handed, into the top of Atlanta's line-up between Prado and Chipper Jones and you've got a pretty good set-up (especially of Heyward gets to move down to a run-producing spot where he was more comfortable at the beginning of the year).
Now, to the deal.
Kansas City has some holes at various spots around its minor league system and DeJesus has an option on his contract (the Braves would be trading for a year and a half of the center fielder) — so a deal with an "eclectic" feel would likely work.
Potential Deal(s): Kris Medlen (RHP), Melky Cabrera (OF), Zeke Spruill (RHP) OR Arodys Vizcaino (RHP), Adam Milligan (OF), Cole Rohrbough (LHP) for David DeJesus (OF) - preferably the latter package (it all depends on whether the Royals want higher upside or higher immediate impact for one of their few true stars).
Oh, and I will admit to being generous in my deals with talent being given up from the Braves' perspective — I sometimes think too much into the "talent-for-talent" theory and surrender too much in certain packages.
(This article is also featured on The Hey Train .)