The Braves are known to be in the market to acquire a starting pitcher before the trade deadline in two weeks. They've been linked to everyone from Zack Greinke to Jason Vargas, and seemingly everyone in between. The rumors continue to swirl in Atlanta, but an interesting bit of news has come around recently.
To update the situation with the starting rotation, only Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson should feel safe about their spot. The other three, Ben Sheets, Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor, all have special circumstances that could see them drop out of the rotation at any time.
Sheets pitched very well in his debut over the weekend and Jair Jurrjens has been solid since his recalling to Atlanta, but both are very injury prone and could go down at any moment. Minor is probably one bad start or two away from a demotion to Triple-A.
As for what the Braves may be looking for, do not expect general manager Frank Wren to be considering anything less than a top-of-the-rotation pitcher to go alongside Hanson and Hudson.
Other teams say #Braves only looking for a "top-of-the-rotation guy." So be dubious of rumors linking them with Liriano, Vargas, etc.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 16, 2012
Greinke would definitely qualify in that category, although Wren has stated he'll only part with his top prospects if a contract extension is already in place with the right-handed ace. So would Cole Hamels, although it'd be near impossible to see the Phillies deal one of their stars to a division rival. Other than these two, there's a lot of wondering who is a "top-of-the-rotation guy" could be.
Ryan Dempster is having a terrific season with the Cubs, but he's older and pitching much better than his career numbers of the last decade would show. He's also set to hit free agency in three months. There's a lot to like about Matt Garza, most notably his terrific strikeout and walk ratios, but his numbers away from Chicago are awful and he's prone to the home run ball.
A guy like Francisco Liriano or Vargas could be a cheap fit, but neither are really more than a No. 4 starter at this point. That doesn't seem to be the type Wren is looking for at the moment.
And then, of course, there's always the chance a pitcher not mentioned in trade rumors could be acquired before July 31.
It's going to be an interesting next couple of weeks for the Braves. They've got money and prospects to spend; now it's just a matter of finding the best deal for both this season and beyond.