We've been hearing the Adrian Gonzalez-to-Boston rumors for months now, though there have been whispers that Boston may not have the minor league package necessary to extract Gonzalez from San Diego, the Padres might just keep Gonzalez if they don't find a deal to their liking, and that other teams will be taking just as hard a look at the slugging first baseman.
FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi suggests that Atlanta may be one of those other teams. Morosi spoke to an unnamed scout who said that the Braves "may have the greatest need" for a hitter of Gonzalez's caliber given Atlanta's team-wide struggles at the plate. The Braves entered Friday's action with a .229 team batting average, tied with the Mets for sixth-lowest in baseball.
Going into the offseason, Atlanta's greatest need was to add a big bat to give more support to one of baseball's strongest starting rotations. The Braves instead made several small moves to add the likes of Eric Hinske, Melky Cabrera and Troy Glaus rather than splurging on a high-priced free agent. While it's still too early in the season to fully judge how these moves will pan out, Glaus (as Morosi points out) has particularly struggled at first base, posting a .524 OPS in 58 plate appearances. Given that Glaus is on a one-year, $1.75MM contract, the Braves would have no hesitations about benching, trading or even releasing Glaus if the right opportunity at Gonzalez came along.
In picking up Gonzalez, Morosi notes that the Braves would be blocking the progress of slugging first base prospect Freddie Freeman. However, since this is Bobby Cox's final season, could the team be in an all-out "win now" mode? If the Braves find themselves fighting for a playoff spot in July, Freeman's future promise might be considered a necessary sacrifice for Cox's last postseason push. Also, Freeman would be a logical addition to the hypothetical package to San Diego.
Of course, adding a star first baseman is no golden ticket to the playoffs. The Braves know this all too well — they sent Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones to Texas at the 2007 trade deadline for Mark Teixeira. While Teixeira hit well for Atlanta, the Braves only finished third in the NL East in 2007 and wound up trading Teixeira themselves the next July. No doubt this recent deal will make the Braves think twice before offering up another big group of prospects for what might end up being a short-term rental of a player.