Braves Hunting for Ace

According to several published reports, the Braves are delving into the trade market - and have made known their interest in Bartolo Colon, Kris Benson, and even Curt Schilling. Are the Braves willing to move the prospects required to get a coveted ace?

It looks like yet another interesting trade deadline from the eyes of Braves GM John Schuerholz. Sitting pretty in first place in the NL East with a record of 45-23 with a comfortable 6 1/2 game lead on Montreal, the Braves have but one hole. Their pitching. Yes, it may come as a shock to some - but it's true. The Braves are ranked 9th in the National League with a 4.09 ERA and 278 earned runs served up (14 of which were homeruns).

While the numbers at first glance don't look so bad, consider this - The Braves are tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for last place in complete games. A whopping zero. The Braves have used a relief pitcher in every one of the 68 games they've played this year. Their sum of 218 relief appearances leads the National League.

With that much strain on an already notoriously weak and unproven bullpen (John Smoltz aside), the Braves know that they must make a move to solidify their pitching if they plan to stick in the playoffs past the first round.

This years trading deadline should prove to be an interesting one as big name hitters such as Rafael Palmeiro, Brian Giles, Sean Casey, and Ryan Klesko are rumored to be on the trading block, while pitchers such as Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson, Kris Benson, Bartolo Colon, Armando Benitez, and Scott Sullivan round up the availabilites on the pitching side.

According to the Beaver County Times out of Pittsburgh, the Braves are one of several teams who have inquired about Pittsburgh Ace/Clemson Alum Kris Benson. However, the Pirates reportedly want 2B Marcus Giles, who they highly covet, in any deal involving their Ace. Giles, a candidate to start at 2B in the All-Star game isn't a player the Braves are going to part with anytime soon - especially with no immediate replacement avaliable in the minors.

The Braves have also been mentioned as having a mild interest in Bartolo Colon, however in addition to having to eat Colon's pricy contract for this season - they would be involved in a bidding war with both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. A deal here isn't likely.

However, the most shocking rumor comes from Houston where the Braves sent two scouts to Tuesday's game against Arizona. According to several sources, the Braves are heavily interested in acquiring D'Backs ace Curt Schilling, who is currently on DL with a fractured right hand.

Being on the Dl, a team can't make a deal involving a player on the disabled list unless it's cleared by the commissioner's office. However, The Arizona Republic reports that Schilling isn't expected to return until after the All-Star break, which would give him three starts before the July 31 trading deadline.

Keep checking BravesCenter for the latest news and rumors straight from Atlanta as we hear them.

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