The Atlanta Braves have already made one trade this month, though it was only a minor backup-stopgap at shortstop. From here until July 31st, we will hear more and more about the Braves loftier pursuits. Such is the case with this tweet from ESPN's Jayson Stark:
Other teams say #Braves only looking for a "top-of-the-rotation guy." So be dubious of rumors linking them with Liriano, Vargas, etc.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 16, 2012
I like this tweet for several reason. First off it narrows down what the Braves are looking for, and allows us to ignore all the Francisco Liriano rumors (thank you JEEZUS!). Secondly, it's source is more appropriately named. While it's the still vague "other teams," at least it's not the even more vague "sources." By saying "other teams" Stark lets us in on the trade discussions that the Braves are having with ... other teams.
Who might that be? Well, there are only a few top-of-the-rotation guys out there, so my guess is this narrows it down to Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster, and Matt Garza. Maybe we should also include "mystery arm" in there.
What I've said all along in acquiring either Greinke or Dempster, who can both be free agents at the end of the year, is that the Braves shouldn't give up any true prospects for a two or three month rental of these pitchers -- akin to what the Giants did last year when they traded top-of-the-rotation pitching prospect Zack Wheeler for two months of Carlos Beltran.
That kind of deal would be beyond Texeiraesque folly. One player impacting a team's chances of making and going deep into the postseason is such a roll of the dice. Especially when it's a guy who only plays every fifth day. If the Braves can negotiate an extension with one of these pitchers as part of the terms of the trade, then that seems more acceptable.
At this point I would say that Dempster is the most likely guy for the Braves to land, but he's getting more expensive every time out (because he's pitching so well).