The Braves are seven games up on the Washington Nationals in the NL East, but they've struggled to pull away from a sluggish Nats team. That being said, they'll be in it until the end and looking to add pieces at the deadline.
Needs (likelihood to deal for position in italics)
Bullpen-Low: When Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty went down, many speculated that the Braves would need to make a move to improve their bullpen. Instead, the Braves' pen has been outstanding since those injuries and the Braves will get back Brandon Beachy soon, pushing another strong pitcher from the rotation into the bullpen. They could still bring in reinforcements, but the situation is not nearly as dire as it once looked to be.
Shortstop-Low: Andrelton Simmons is known as one of the best young shortstops in the game, but he's having a terrible second season offensively, showing just a .609 OPS so far this year. It seems highly unlikely they do anything here and they'll probably just let Simmons work out of his slump.
Right Field-Low: Jason Heyward has taken a big step back this year with just .700 OPS after a solid season as a 22-year-old last year. It seems unlikely the Braves would dedicate resources to replace him and they'll probably just let him work his way out of this funk. That being said, Heyward has been bad throughout his career against lefthanders, so a righthanded option could be utilized if the Braves wanted to platoon Heyward.
Center Field-Low: Justin Upton? Great. B.J. Upton? Yikes. B.J. is 28, which for most players is a prime year, but BJ has hit for a paltry .594 OPS so far this year. The Braves gave him a monster contract this offseason so they're going to let him work out of his funk. BJ has traditionally struggled against right handed pitching, although Jordan Schafer has seen time filling center field against righties.
Fits on the Cub Roster
The Braves have been rumored to be looking at Kevin Gregg to help their bullpen and James Russell could be another option for them there. If the Braves are looking for a right handed option to complement Heyward, they could look at bringing in Alfonso Soriano and pushing Justin Upton to right field. If they're not sold as Schafer as an option against righties in center field, they could look at David DeJesus, but I think it's unlikely.
What's in it for the Cubs?
Sickels' Top 20 Braves Prospects
Fangraphs' Top 15 Braves Prospects
MLB.com Top 20 Braves Prospects
Ranked the 18th- and 26th-best organization for talent by Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America, respectively, the Braves don't have a ton of quality in their system. That's OK, because the trade pieces the Cubs are offering aren't likely to bring back top shelf quality. Julio Teheran, J.R. Graham and Christian Bethancourt aren't worth talking about, because none of the guys listed above will return that kind of quality. Lucas Sims was a 2012 first round pick out of high school that's been very good in Low-A, producing a 2.83 ERA and 10.2 K/9. He's going to be tough to pry away from the Braves and was recently named a top 50 prospect by Baseball Prospectus. Sean Gilmartin is an advanced RHP that has mid-rotation upside, but he's really struggled in Triple-A so far this year (5.83 ERA) and he doesn't strike a lot of guys out (6.0 K/9).
Some other interesting guys in their system include Alex Wood, a 2012 second-round pick who was destroying the minor leagues as a starter until the Braves called him up to help their bullpen. He's continued to pitch well in the majors, producing a 3.29 ERA after posting a 1.26 ERA in 10 starts at Double-A. There are some questions of whether his delivery will relegate him to a bullpen arm. Mauricio Cabrera is a very raw 19-year-old in Low-A who's struggling a bit to adjust to full season ball (4.30 ERA) but throws mid-90s with other pitches that show promise. Lastly, Cody Martin is a control artist who's pitching well so far between Double-A and Triple-A and projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter or bullpen arm.
Who says no?
James Russell for RHP Cody Martin & RHP Mauricio Cabrera
Kevin Gregg for LHP Luis Merejo
Sickels on Merejo: "Could plausibly rank as high as 11th depending on how you want to balance risk/upside/distance from the majors. Bargain signing at $65,000, not a big guy but looked solid in rookie ball low 90s, throws strikes, and has a promising breaking ball."
Kevin Gregg for C Josh Elander
Fangraphs on Elander: "A sixth-round draft pick from 2012 out of Texas Christian University, Elander could turn out to be a real steal as an offensive-minded catcher. His drop in the draft, though, was related to the concerns that other teams had about his ability to stick behind the dish. Elander, who did not catch regularly until his junior year of college, is athletic with a strong arm but he's a raw receiver and is just learning how to call a game."
Overall Fit- Low
They're supposedly interested in Kevin Gregg and James Russell would be a fit as well. No other Cubs seem to make a lot of sense here, though, and Russell will be hard to pry away from the Cubs, despite his recent failures.
Next Up: Washington Nationals