Braves Offseason trade targets: NL Central


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This is the sixth in an 8-part series on the offseason options of the Atlanta Braves.  The schedule will be as follows:

Monday, November 4: Free Agents

Tuesday, November 5: AL East trade options

Monday, November 11 PM: AL Central trade options

Tuesday, November 12 AM: AL West trade options

Tuesday, November 12 PM: NL East trade options

Wednesday, November 13 AM: NL Central trade options

Wednesday, November 13 PM: NL West trade options

Thursday, November 14: “Best” options for the Braves in the 2013-2014 offseason

Today, we will explore the teams in the NL Central and how they fit with the Braves as trade partners this offseason:

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Chicago Cubs

The Cubs spend 2013 in the throws of a major rebuild, siphoning off players of value to the highest bidder multiple times, moving players like Carlos Marmol (pictured in his tremendous winter hat), Scott Feldman, Scott Hairston, Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano, and David DeJesus.  They have now stocked their minor league system with high-end prospects like Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and newly acquired Mike Olt.  They still have a need for arms in their system, but as many experts will say, bats can buy arms.  The Cubs are still working to trim payroll and figure out who will be the focus of their future team.  This season showed that perhaps their future star, Starlin Castro, may not have the ability to be the on- and off-field leader that the team had hoped.  Manager Dale Sveum took an unearned amount of blame for Castro’s lack of personal development, and many feel that was a big reason behind his firing.  The good thing the team did with their trades this summer was acquiring promising arms in Jake Arrieta, C.J. Edwards, and Pedro Strop.  The Cubs also made some interesting pickups to this writer as evidenced by taking a chance on Daniel Bard on waivers from the Red Sox.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Cubs are still looking to trim salary and build a wealth of young players over one or two “stars”.  The Braves should have no interest in Edwin Jackson, rumored to be very available in trade this offseason.  However, if the Cubs put Jeff Samardzija on the block for a price that didn’t resemble all of the Braves’ top 5 prospects, the Braves should take a hard look.  Samardzija has a lot of traits that Max Scherzer had coming into 2013.  Now Scherzer is considered an ace, and Samardzija could be acquired just on the cusp of that while still in the midst of arbitration.

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Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati has won more games in the last two seasons than any team outside of Atlanta and Oakland (190 for both, respectively, to Cincy’s 187).  Now they may be at a point where they choose to do some rebuilding in their lineup.  Shin-Soo Choo is a free agent, Brandon Phillips is very publicly on the trade block, and they’re reportedly listening on Ryan Ludwick as well.  That would take away 3 of the top 4 in the final lineup used once everyone was healthy.  They plan to utilize Billy Hamilton in CF next season, and his speed should be exciting as long as he can get on base.  Other than that, they aren’t exactly stacked in the minor leagues in hitters.  They could use their stash of arms to acquire more hitting, and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that Johnny Cueto is moved this offseason.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Reds just signed former Brave Brayan Pena, and this may open the door for a player that I’ve long loved, Ryan Hanigan, to be moved or even non-tendered.  He is a very, very good defensive catcher and handles a pitching staff well while being a typically solid contact hitter.  He had a rough 2013 at the plate during an injury filled season, but he could be a David Ross-esque player for the Braves in developing the young pitching staff, depending on the trade cost.

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Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers would like a mulligan on 2013.  First, Corey Hart didn’t play a single game in 2013.  The Brewers wish Rickie Weeks would have missed 2013.  Worst, team leader and superstar Ryan Braun was suspended for PED use and then admitted his use very publicly.  The team offered discounted tickets and concessions to fans in an attempt for goodwill.  Things weren’t all dung piles and ragweed in Milwaukee, however.  Shortstop Jean Segura, acquired in the Zack Greinke trade, emerged as a budding star, Carlos Gomez emerged as a legit superstar player, and Jonathan Lucroy emerged as one of the best-hitting catchers in the entire NL.  The Brewers were also proven correct for their deal for Kyle Lohse as he sported a very solid 2013 in spite of missing much of spring training.  This offseason will likely lead to trade offers on Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, and others, but the Brewers just don’t have much depth behind those two starters, and if they want to continue to be competitive, trading either away would be a step in the wrong direction.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Brewers will be shopping Weeks after Scooter Gennett came up from the minors and hit .324 while playing solid defense.  Weeks is only signed for 2014, so the fact that he could be let go after one season may be attractive, but he is arguably a worse defender than Dan Uggla, and hitting as he did in 2013, he’s not much different on offense.  That said, if he could be acquired for a C-level prospect or two, I’d have to think about it in Frank Wren’s shoes.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

Sid Bream‘s slide is no longer the last moment of Pittsburgh Pirate playoff baseball.  Instead, they can remember the fact that they were one of the toughest environments to play in during the playoffs with noise that typically is only rivaled by a football environment.  Clint Hurdle won the manager of the year award for his work with the Pirates this season.  They got an ace pitching performance from Francisco Liriano for a mere $1M investment in 2013 and had an MVP-esque performance from Andrew McCutchen.  The Pirates still have one of the best minor league systems in the game to support their new-found success as well.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Pirates are a team on the way up, and they have some excellent young players, but they could be looking for rotation help with A.J. Burnett possibly on the way out of town.  I am a huge fan of Neil Walker, but with him just entering his arbitration seasons and the Pirates without an easy choice to step into his 2B role, it will likely be a tough trade.

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St. Louis Cardinals

After a tough World Series loss, the Cardinals can now point to being deep in the postseason for three straight seasons, and there’s really no sign that the team could be letting up.  They have really one hole in their entire team, shortstop.  This offseason they are rumored to be seriously talking about a deal involving Elvis Andrus/Jurickson Profar or Troy Tulowitzki.  While those are huge names that would require major pieces, this is one organization that could have those kinds of pieces.  The Cardinals young talent is unmatched in baseball.
What can they trade with the Braves: Short of a recall on Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ young players in positions of need for the Braves would cost a pretty penny to acquire.

There are some nice pieces in the NL Central that could be intriguing, much like the AL Central, but it would take significant reduction in rumored cost in order to make any of these options possible.