Deal or no deal?

The Mets tried their best to give the division away this June. Unfortunately, there were no takers. Atlanta scuffled for the second straight June, while the Phillies made strides but still had to overcome their slow April start.

I think the National League East could prove to be one of the tightest division races in all of baseball. Come to think of it, all of the NL races could be fun to watch this September. No team has really run away with things to this point.

Just one road-trip separates the Braves from the season’s second half, when they will hope to have things solidified and add the final pieces via trade for the stretch run. That is assuming there is a trade, which almost everyone feels is more of a question of when than if.

Despite some clubhouse disagreements that usually never find their way into the mainstream media coverage, the Braves have other things to concern themselves with. Those post-game rants have been swept under the carpet with the promise that all is forgiven… of course, that being that the team wins. Losing has a way of getting to everyone in some way.

The puzzling slump of Andruw Jones gets the attention of every group of writers, broadcasters and other media types. There aren’t any answers to what exactly is to blame for this slump that has seemingly stretched over the first three months of the season. Jones is on track to have one of the worst seasons ever by a superstar player heading into a contract season in the prime of his career.

With their clean-up hitter batting .199 with 12 homers and 46 RBI, Atlanta has had to rely on a different cast of characters. Matt Diaz and Willie Harris have formed a formidable platoon in left-field. The two have combined to hit .356 overall, with combined totals of five homers, 29 RBI and 12 steals.

How about the exciting pair of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Yunel Escobar? Both made the jump from Mississippi and both have made contributions to the club. Saltalamacchia’s potential and success thus far convinced Atlanta to ship Brayan Pena back to Triple-A Richmond. Meanwhile, Escobar filled in capably for Chipper Jones while he was on the DL earlier in the month.

Other clubs are going to note the talents of both Escobar and Saltalamacchia and ask for them in return for Atlanta’s needs at the deadline. So then we have the age old question, "Trade the future for today, or not?"

John Schuerholz has certainly made some great deals to bring over key players by using the rich farm system. Remember the trio of Melvin Nieves, Vince Moore and Donnie Elliot going to San Diego for Fred McGriff? How about another trio that featured Chuck Thomas, Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer heading to Oakland for Tim Hudson? Even sending Nick Green to Tampa Bay for Jorge Sosa paid dividends in 2005.

There are a few pitchers that Atlanta might like to have back in mix at the back of the rotation. Adam Wainwright springs to mind. The bottom line is that Atlanta always seems to get top value for its prospects, even if they never blossom into full-blown stars.

So, I’ll leave you with a question. Should the Braves dip into the farm and trade a Saltalamacchia or an Escobar and others for a front-line starter or veteran slugger?

Please discuss, comment and debate. You can even argue if you like!

Till Next Time

Grant M-C

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