Wren looking within first for Braves' needs
Players getting healthy, ending slumps should bolster offense
ATLANTA -- As the Braves near the All-Star break, they remain hopeful that their offense will prove more productive in the second half. But this certainly does not mean they will aggressively pursue acquiring a position player before the Trade Deadline passes on July 31.
With Martin Prado set to return after the All-Star break and the belief that both Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward can only get better in the second half, the Braves have reason to believe they already possess the pieces that will provide the offensive upgrade.
"We're going to have to watch some more before we know if there is a specific area of need," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We've got some ideas. But it might very well be in our clubhouse right now. It might be on our roster. It's just about guys getting healthy and seeing how the pieces fit."
While the offense has been their greatest concern during the season's first half, the Braves might put more of an emphasis on landing a reliable right-handed setup man to lessen the load experienced by top setup men Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty down the stretch. San Diego's Mike Adams will be at the top of the wish list for every team looking to strengthen its bullpen.
But Wren said the expected returns of Peter Moylan and Kris Medlen in August might erase the need to add a reliever via trade.
When Prado returns from a staph infection after the All-Star break, he'll go back to left field and the Braves will have to decide what to do with Nate McLouth, who has manned the position since returning from the disabled list a couple weeks ago.
While Jordan Schafer is still learning the leadoff role, he is a sound center fielder who has the support of many members of upper management. Thus there is strong reason to believe Schafer will remain in center field and McLouth will serve as a backup outfielder when Prado returns.
If the Braves stick with this plan to keep Schafer in center, they do not have an obvious position where they could improve via trade. As much as Uggla has struggled, they certainly aren't going to send him the wrong message by moving him away from second base in the first year of his $62 million contract.
"It might be the end of the month before we determine what we really need," Wren said. "We need to get the guys together, get the team clicking and see where we stand."
The Twins' Michael Cuddyer, the Astros' duo of Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn and Carlos Quentin of the White Sox have all been linked to the Braves in trade rumors. But it does not appear Wren and his staff are aggressively pursuing a trade that would land any of those players.
Over the course of the past couple weeks, the Braves have seen some brief flashes of encouragement from Uggla, who spent the first half of this season hitting below .200 and sporadically showing the power that was envisioned when he was given a five-year deal in January.
If Uggla continues to progress and Heyward starts making the adjustments that will help him find some consistency, the Braves might realize why they were so optimistic about their lineup entering this season.
"I think we've been in second gear most of the year and have played really well in second gear," Wren said. "If we could ever get in third or fourth gear offensively -- and I think we will -- then it's a whole different story. Then it becomes a harder decision to make a definitive decision as to what you need."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.