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Braves acquire Johnson and Maholm from the Cubs

The Braves have acquired right-handed hitting outfielder Reed Johnson and left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm from the Cubs in exchange for two Minor League pitchers.

One of those Minor League players is Arodys Vizcaino, a heralded right-handed prospect who is sidelined this year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The other pitcher is Jaye Chapman, who has spent this season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves were able to satisfy their desires to add a starting pitcher and a right-handed hitter to strengthen their bench.

Maholm has gone 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA in the seven appearances he has made dating back to June 29.  The 30-year-old left-handed pitcher has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 21 starts this season.

Johnson has batted .307 with three home runs and a .807 OPS in 166 at-bats with the Cubs this season.  The 35-year-old outfielder has been on the Braves’ radar in the past.  He has batted .280 with a .743 OPS in 161 career pinch-hit at-bats.

Braves more interested in Lester than Beckett

The Red Sox called the Braves to gauge their interest in Josh Beckett. They would have likely received a different response had they asked about Jon Lester.  But it does not appear Lester will be made available before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.

Even with the possibility that the Red Sox might be willing to eat more than half of the $37 million still owed to Beckett through the end of the 2014 season, the Braves do not seem to be a fit.  The veteran pitcher has experienced a decline in velocity while posting a 4.57 ERA in 17 starts last year.  With a 5.78 ERA in 2010 and 2.98 ERA in 2011, Beckett is trending toward being one of those every-other-year pitchers like Javier Vazquez was during his career.

The Braves would be more interested in Lester, who is in the midst of the most disappointing season of his young career.  Lester is four years younger and cheaper (owed $11.625M in 2013 and has a $13M club option with a $250,000 buyout for the 2014 season) than Beckett.

With a little more than 24 hours left before the Trade Deadline, the Braves will continue their search for a starting pitcher.  Many industry sources seem to agree that the Rays are not aggressively attempting to trade James Shields.  As for the Ryan Dempster situation, it remains cloudy.  If the Dodgers are not able to work out the trade Dempster has been hoping for, there is still a chance the Cubs could come back to the Braves.

If the Cubs come back to the Braves, they might not get the same package that was in place before Dempster blocked a trade to Atlanta last week.  In other words, there is no guarantee Randall Delgado would also be available in this package.

The Braves have also checked in on some relievers.  Wade Davis has been mentioned among their targets, but the Rays also seem reluctant to move him.  The Rockies have indicated former Braves top pitching prospect Matt Belisle is not available.  But there is a chance they could move right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt.  — Mark Bowman

Braves monitoring the pitching market

Concerns about the Braves’ rotation have lessened as Ben Sheets has found success during the early stages of his comeback and Mike Minor has turned his season around.  Still general manager Frank Wren and staff have continued to evaluate the trade market for both starting pitchers and relievers.

All seemed quiet on the trade front as the Braves prepared for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Phillies.  But things could certainly heat up as Tuesday afternoon’s Trade Deadline approaches.

While many industry sources seem to doubt the possibility of Ryan Dempster ending up in Atlanta, the next 24 hours could be telling.  Dempster, who blocked a trade to the Braves last week, is scheduled to make his next start for the Cubs on Tuesday night.

There is still a chance Dempster will get his wish to be traded to the Dodgers.  But the Cubs and Dodgers have struggled to reach an agreement while discussing this possibility over the past couple of weeks.

If this continues, there is a chance Dempster could end up in Atlanta.  But if he does, the Cubs might not be compensated with Randall Delgado, the highly-regarded pitching prospect who was included in the trade the veteran pitcher blocked last week.

The Braves are among the teams that have shown interest in James Shields.  But the Rays have not yet provided clear indication that they are willing to deal Shields without getting a significant return.     –  Mark Bowman

Braves still have shopping for a starting pitcher

Fans are not the only ones excited about who might be involved in trades over the next couple of days.   When Braves general manager Frank Wren got on the team bus before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Marlins, Chipper Jones greeted him by audibly saying “Josh Johnson” multiple times while coughing.

It seems unlikely that the Marlins would trade Johnson to any National League East club for any thing less than a king’s ransom in return. But contrary to some speculation on Friday, the Braves remain focused on attempting to find a top-flight starting pitcher before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline.

While Braves general manager Frank Wren and his staff spend the next few days evaluating their options, they will explore the possibility of improving their bench and bullpen.  But they have not lost sight of the possibility of acquiring Zack Greinke or possibly landing Ryan Dempster if he does not end up getting his desired trade to the Dodgers.

“Frank and I talk all the time and keep in touch all the time about stuff,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “You can’t help it this time of year when you watch MLB Network to notice a rumor out there or a Tweet.  But I’m to the point where whoever gets here, gets here.”

The Braves are also among the teams that have shown interest in the Rays’ James Shields and the Padres’ Edinson Volquez.  The asking price for both has been high.  But as the demands could lessen as the Deadline approaches.   -  Mark Bowman

Braves continue to evaluate Greinke and other options

As Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is making it clear Zack Greinke will be traded before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline, the Braves are paying close attention and evaluating the cost of acquiring the former Cy Young Award winner. Greinke has been at the top of Atlanta’s wish list for more than a month and they have made it known they want to sign him beyond this year.

To get Greinke, the Braves will likely have to part with top pitching prospect Julio Teheran and at least one other highly-regarded prospect. It’s an incredibly steep price for a two-month rental.  But the Braves want to keep Greinke beyond this season and if they are confident it would be a possibility, they might be willing to pay this price.  The Brewers veteran is the one available pitcher who could be considered a legitimate ace, who could match up against other top starting pitchers in October.

Greinke has provided indication that he wants to play in Atlanta and the Braves’ Spring Training headquarters are located approximately 20 minutes from where he was raised in the Orlando area.

But the Braves’ ability to sign him this winter could be influenced by the six-year, $144 million contract extension Cole Hamels received from the Phillies on Wednesday.

If the Braves do not land Greinke, there is still a chance they could land Ryan Dempster, who blocked a trade that would have brought him to Atlanta earlier this week.  Dempster is holding out hope that the Cubs will send him to the Dodgers.  If this does not happen, he could still end up with the Braves.

The Braves have interest in James Shields of the Rays.  But like the Marlins with Josh Johnson and the Padres with Edinson Volquez, the Rays are providing every indication that they will not move him unless they are blown away with an offer.

The Rangers, White Sox and Angels are among the other teams showing definite interest in Greinke.

A wealth of prospects could aid the Rangers in their pursuit of Greinke. But on Thursday there was a sense they might be showing at least equal interest in Johnson.  -  Mark Bowman


Braves move past Dempster, focus on Greinke

Braves general manager Frank Wren has not completely rule out the possibility of adding Ryan Dempster to his starting rotation before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline.  But as he prepared to watch Wednesday’s series finale against the Marlins, it appeared his clubs focus had returned to Zack Greinke and other starting pitchers that could be available via trade.

“We’ve moved on,” Wren said. “Like I told you guys last night, it’s highly unlikely that we make that (Dempster) deal.”

The Braves and Cubs agreed on Monday to a deal that would have brought Dempster to Atlanta in exchange for Randall Delgado and at least one other Minor Leaguer.  But utilizing the trade veto rights he has earned by playing in the Majors for at least 10 years and with the same team for five years, Dempster has not provided his blessing.

Because the wait extended beyond Tuesday, the framework of this deal appears to be dead.  Dempster was scheduled to start Wednesday afternoon’s game for the Cubs in Pittsburgh.

“We had certain parameters for us that expired,” Wren said. “The Cubs were fully aware of it and understood.”
Greinke has always been at the top of the Braves’ wish list and they are still evaluating the possibility of adding the former Cy Young Award winner.  Their top scout Jim Fregosi was in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to see Greinke limit the Phillies to one run and three hits in seven innings.  The veteran pitcher also homered off Cliff Lee.
Indications are that the Brewers will want top pitching prospect Julio Teheran and at least one other highly-regarded prospect in exchange for Greinke, who is set for a big payday on the free agent market this winter.
The Braves are willing to provide the five-year contract and $20-plus million annual salary that Greinke will be seeking. But the package they would be willing to provide the Brewers will be based on their confidence that Greinke would not simply be a two-month rental.

Report: Dempster still hoping to land with Dodgers

When the Cubs visited Turner Field at the beginning of this month, the Braves gained the impression Ryan Dempster wanted to play in Atlanta. But now that he has an opportunity, Dempster continues to weigh other options.

The Braves and Cubs agreed upon a trade on Monday that would send Dempster to Atlanta for right-handed pitcher Randall Delgado and at least one other Minor League player. But Dempster has the right to veto any trade because he has played at the Major League level for at least 10 seasons and with the same team for at least five seasons.

A National League source said Dempster has not yet officially exercised this right.  But as Tuesday progressed, the Braves had less reason to feel confident about this deal being completed.

According FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Dempster is holding out hope that he will eventually be traded to the Dodgers.  The Cubs and Dodgers were unable to reach an agreement when they discussed a potential trade earlier this month.

Dempster has told reporters over the past few weeks that his first preference would be to play for the Dodgers.  The Braves are believed to be second on his wish list.

If Dempster does indeed reject this trade, it is unknown whether the Braves would be receptive to trading for him if the Cubs are unable to strike a deal with the Dodgers.  Over the next couple of days, they will likely turn their attention other starting pitchers available on the trade market.

Zack Greinke has been at the top of the Braves wish list over the past month. But with hopes of potentially keeping Greinke, the Brewers are asking for a significant return that would include Julio Teheran and at least one other highly-regarded prospect.

With this kind of asking price, the Braves will be more interested in attempting to sign Greinke as a free agent this winter.

Braves reach agreement to acquire Dempster

The Braves reached an agreement to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs.  But the trade has not been officially completed.

Because he has played in the Majors for at least 10 years and been with the same team for at least five years, Dempster has the right to veto any trade.  After arriving at PNC Park on Monday afternoon, he said a trade had not been completed.

Dempster has the potential to serve as the stabilizing asset the Braves have been seeking to add to their inconsistent starting rotation.  The 35-year-old right-hander has posted a 2.15 ERA in 15 starts this year and a 3.63 ERA in the 147 starts he has made since the start of the 2008 season.

Once Jair Jurrjens struggled again during Sunday’s loss to the Nationals, it became more apparent the Braves would aggressively pursue the acquisition of a starting pitcher.  Their rotation has posted the third-worst ERA (4.34) in the National League this year.  <p>

Dempster will be a free agent at the conclusion of this season and he is owed approximately $5 million for the remainder of this season.  It is not known whether the Braves will be responsible for the entire portion of this figure.

When the Braves began evaluating ways to improve their starting rotation, Dempster and Zack Greinke sat at the top of their wish list. But as the past few days passed with the Brewers have providing clear indication that they are willing to move Greinke, the focus fell on Dempster.

To get Greinke, the Braves would have had to likely part with top pitching prospect Julio Teheran and at least one other Top 15 prospect.  Now they will likely simply pursue him on the free agent market this winter.

Braves continue their search for a starting pitcher

While Zack Greinke remains on the radar, the Braves have certainly not limited their search for a starting pitcher.  They recently asked the Red Sox about Jon Lester, who does not appear to be available at this time.  In addition, they have closely monitored Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, who remains scheduled to start tonight’s game against the Cardinals.

With the Dodgers and Cubs struggling to complete a deal, the Braves are among the teams who could end up landing Dempster.  Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez have known Dempster for approximately 15 years, dating back to the days when they were with the Marlins together.

Because there is some demand for him right now, the Braves might have to put together a decent package to land Dempster, who will be a free agent at the end of this season.  But the cost would likely not be as significant as the one needed to lure Greinke out of Milwaukee.

The Braves are not interested in mortgaging their future for a two-month rental.  So their interest in Greinke continues to hinge on the confidence they have in being able to sign him beyond this year.

It appears they are willing to provide the former Cy Young Award winner approximately $20 million a year.  Greinke has made it known that he would like to play for the Braves, who annually hold Spring Training within 20 minutes of the neighborhood he was raised in Orlando.

But instead of giving up prospects to get Greinke for the final months of this season, the Braves might choose to make a run at him on the free agent market this winter.

Speaking of the Marlins, they could become significant players on this year’s trade market if they decide they need to cut some payroll.  Josh Johnson could be among those players shopped and if he was the Johnson of old, the Braves might be more interested.  But for now, it does not appear the Braves will be aggressively pursuing any of Miami’s starting pitchers.

The Braves showed interest in Omar Infante before last year’s Trade Deadline. Given they once again have a need to improve their bench and possibly find a solution if Dan Uggla’s struggles continue, there is a chance they could once again discuss the possibility of Infante returning.

- Mark Bowman

Braves’ Wish List Starts with Greinke

The Braves will keep their starting rotation in place with the intention of spending the next two weeks determining how aggressive they should be leading up to the Trade Deadline.   Barring a drastic change during this period, they will enter the All-Star break interested in the potential to land Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke via a trade and then sign him before he would be eligible to hit the free agent market at the end of this season.

With Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson currently standing as the only reliable assets in their starting rotation, the Braves will likely make landing a starting pitcher a priority before the Trade Deadline.  Greinke, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Edinson Volquez would be among their potential targets.

But if the Braves reach a point where they are committed to land a starting pitcher they will target Greinke, who would be the top-of-the-rotation asset that could capably replace the injured Brandon Beachy and have the ability to compete in a postseason setting.

The Braves would like to avoid giving up the prospects that would be required to land Greinke.  But they will likely be tempted to do so unless Jair Jurrjens spends the next couple of weeks proving last Friday’s  start against the Red Sox was not a fluke.

But even if the Braves enter the break confident that Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens will solidify the front end of their rotation for the remainder of the year, they still might be tempted to add another veteran presence to their rotation.

If the Brewers opt to trade Greinke, the Braves’ interest would hinge on being able to lock the former Cy Young Award winner up with a long-term contract.  They are not interested in landing the right-hander to be a two-month rental.  Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, they would no longer be eligible to receive draft pick compensation if he exited as a free agent after this season.

This means the Braves would likely have to be willing to offer something similar to the contract recently signed by Matt Cain, who will be guaranteed $112.5 million over the course of the next five seasons (2013-17).

Though the Braves do not have much payroll flexibility this year, they have already discussed the potential of using the money budgeted for 2013 to address their needs via the trade market this year.

With Chipper Jones ($14 million), Derek Lowe ($15 million), Michael Bourn ($6.84 million) among those coming off of the payroll at the end of this year, the Braves will have some money to play with this winter.  But some of these funds will be needed to either re-sign Bourn or acquire at least one more outfielder.    –  Mark Bowman


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