Atlanta Braves fans are frustrated, and they should be.
It’s not because the Braves don’t compete. They do. It’s not because Atlanta, dubbed “the team of the 90s”, doesn’t win division titles on a regular basis. They do. It’s not even because the team underperforms at times. Stretches of poor play will happen with every team, including the Braves, over the course of a 162-game season.
It is, however, because the team, front office and management included, seems to be content with regular season success.
Sure, Atlanta is competing again in the division, currently trailing the first place Washington Nationals by just half a game. But this Atlanta team isn’t comprised of the necessary pieces to make a deep run into October.
The starting rotation is solid, but it’s only solid for a team that wants to compete for a division and then fizzle out in October. Julio Teheran has been absolutely dominant for Atlanta this season, but there is a significant drop-off after that. Mike Minor is a popular name that everyone recognizes, but saying he has been awful in 2014 would be a massive understatement. Minor has a 5.23 ERA with a 1.56 WHIP, and the lefty has given up 15 runs over his last three starts. Ervin Santana would make for an awesome 1-2 punch with Teheran if he stays on the tear he’s currently on, but a strong rotation would have Santana as a No. 3 or 4 starter. Aaron Harang and Alex Wood have been decent as well for Atlanta, but both pitchers are probably best suited to be the fifth starter in a good starting rotation.
The Braves’ pitching has had to carry the majority of the burden for Atlanta at times, as the team’s offense will score tons of runs for a few games and then turn into one of the most anemic offenses in all of baseball. So there is absolutely no knock on Atlanta pitching. They’ve done great with what they have, especially with Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen sidelined.
But why not upgrade the rotation? Why not turn it from merely solid into elite?
A David Price conversation on Twitter sparked rumors that Atlanta might be interested in the Tampa Bay Rays‘ ace, but those rumors were quickly shot down in a disappointing but predictable fashion. There’s no good reason why the Braves shouldn’t make Tampa an offer to land one of the most coveted trade names tossed around this season. Price might even be willing to sign long-term with Atlanta. But the Braves will stay content, just like every other year.
What would Atlanta look like with Price? A starting rotation of Teheran, Price, Santana, Minor and Harang/Wood would be absolutely dominant come playoff time. The Braves would have a great chance of winning any and every October series the team competed in. But, again, Atlanta simply won’t pull the trigger.
And it isn’t that Atlanta fans are demanding Price. Simply adding a reliable arm to the rotation would suffice. Jon Lester‘s name is one of several arms that have been tossed around before the trade deadline. Why not make a run at one of those guys?
Adding a solid bat would be huge for Atlanta as well. The Braves are in the bottom third of baseball in runs scored, so acquiring someone to boost the team’s scuffling bats seems like a logical step for Atlanta to take. Tampa’s Ben Zobrist would probably push Atlanta to the top of the NL East, and adding Marlon Byrd, Josh Willingham or Alex Rios would also be huge for the club.
But the trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and things are mostly silent in the Atlanta camp.
As an example, the Oakland Athletics are one of 2014’s best teams. What did the A’s do before the deadline? They addressed a need. Oakland is one of the best offensive teams in baseball, so they added pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to boost the rotation.
Oakland will play deep into October.
Will Atlanta even make it to October? Sure, chances are pretty high. But will the Braves, a team content to make no changes at the deadline, play deep into the playoffs? Probably not.