The Atlanta Braves lack of depth and lack of moves this off-season may finally be catching up to them. In the starting rotation they absorbed the loss of Tim Hudson by replacing him with Randall Delgado. Chipper will be replaced at third base by Martin Prado, but there is no one to replace Prado in left field other than a platoon of Matt Diaz and Eric Hinske.
While that type of platoon could be effective in some scenarios, both Diaz and Hinske are far from everyday players. The Braves AJC beat writer reports that Atlanta could seek other options:
#Braves GM Wren said team has been looking to acquire backup OF help even before Jones injury, and will continue to do so.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 24, 2012
The injury to Chipper could speed up whatever trade talks may have been going on with other teams. This time of year is a decent time of year to seek trades as teams attempt to reduce their rosters down to 25, and may have some spare parts. Of course, the Braves likely only have prospects to offer in return, and non-MLB ready prospects at that. This will limit the caliber of player that they may be able to acquire, as another team may not want to jettison a Major League piece for prospects this early in the season.
The Braves most obvious trade chips are on the pitching side, though the Atlanta front office has repeatedly said they do not wish to part with any more of their top flight pitching talent. That notion is reinforced by the loss of Arodys Vizcaino for the season to Tommy John surgery.
The next most obvious trade chip for the Braves is catcher Christian Bethancourt. He had a tremendous Arizona Fall League, and followed that up with a strong showing in spring training. With Brian McCann in place for at least the next two years, and further depth in the system at catcher in Evan Gattis, the Braves seem well-positioned to move the young catcher Bethancourt for a major need. But his prospect pedigree should return an everyday outfielder, and not just a backup.
Not sure how much interest #Braves have in Johnny Damon, but he's still out there unsigned— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 24, 2012
Damon is an interesting possibility as a free agent. The Braves were considering him several years ago, and instead opted for Garret Anderson (we know how that went). Damon is 38 years old, and coming off a season in which he was still fairly productive for Tampa Bay. He is a Boras client, and even this late in spring training, he probably wouldn't sign for anything South of $4 million. It's doubtful the Braves have that much available cash to spend on a free agent.
Damon has also never been on a National League team, though his style of play seems to lend itself to an NL style. He would also be an upgrade over Matt Diaz, and likely an upgrade over Eric Hinske.
There are some interesting possibilities here, but as we've learned this off-season, don't start thinking something is going to happen on the trade or free agent front, because the Braves will likely continue to be extremely cautious with their prospects and their cash.