Tackling the trade deadline: Atlanta Braves


Atlanta Braves
First-half record: 54-38
Standings: trail Phillies by 3 1/2 games in NL East, 5 up in wild card


Outfield: Jordan Schafer has had his moments, but he also has a .599 OPS in 169 at-bats while filling in for Nate McLouth and Martin Prado.  The Braves offense is fine when everyone is healthy and McLouth is the worst player in the lineup, but adding another outfielder is a must.  Players are going to keep getting hurt, and while Prado’s versatility makes him a huge asset in that department, the Braves need someone to cover left field when Prado is needed elsewhere.

Bullpen: The Braves have gotten superb relief so far, but they currently have Jonny Venters on pace for 90 appearances, Craig Kimbrel on pace for 83 and Eric O’Flaherty on pace for 79.  They could use another solid right-hander capable of taking some of the burden off their big three.

Infield: If the Braves can’t bring in a starting-type outfielder, maybe they can at least go get a quality backup for Chipper Jones so that they’ll no longer have to play Prado at third base.  The return of Omar Infante to Atlanta would work if the last-place Marlins decide to sell.


Josh Willingham (OF Oak): The addition of Dan Uggla was supposed to help out a Braves team that has typically struggled against left-handers, and it probably will pay off in time.  Still, to date, the Braves are hitting .208 and slugging .333 against southpaws, compared to .249 with a .407 slugging percentage against righties.  Willingham isn’t a perfect solution — ideally, the Braves would bring in someone capable of helping out in center as well — but he’s a very good bat with plenty of NL East experience.

Proposed deal

Willingham and RHP Brad Ziegler for LHP Mike Minor and LHP Brett Oberholtzer

I wouldn’t propose that the Braves give up Minor for Willingham alone, but for Ziegler, too, it might be worth it.  Ziegler has a 1.95 ERA in 32 1/3 innings this season, and he’s limited right-handed hitters to a .219 average and two homers in 525 career at-bats.  He is weak against lefties, but the Braves already have three quality southpaws.

It’s still a pretty high price to pay, but Brandon Beachy’s emergence has made Minor expendable.  The left-hander would likely be a fine No. 3 starter in Oakland.  Oberholtzer, who is currently sporting a 4.03 ERA as a 22-year-old in Double-A, probably ranks as Atlanta’s sixth- or seventh-best pitching prospect.

Clayton Kershaw completes spring training with a 0.00 ERA

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Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.

In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.

The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.