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Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Are Braves the team to beat in NL?

ESPN.com

Trade season is heating up. We asked our experts to weigh in with their thoughts on three separate topics.


1. Will the rumored Ryan Dempster deal shift the balance of power in the National League?

David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot: I think it makes the Braves the clear favorite for the first wild-card spot. Dempster would be a big improvement over Mike Minor or Jair Jurrjens, and combined with the sinking fortunes of the Marlins and Mets, the once-tough NL East doesn't look so tough the rest of the way.

Kevin Orris (@kevinorris), Capitol Avenue Club: If the trade goes through, I see the Braves as the team to beat in the NL East. Adding Ben Sheets was nearly a deadline deal itself, but to bring in Dempster as well, the Braves would have solidified their rotation for the stretch run. I would still bet on the Braves and Nationals both making additional deals as the deadline nears.

David Gershman, Marlins Daily: I think so. He's a definite No. 2 or 3 starter, and those types of pitchers are tough to find. Additionally, they are extremely difficult to hit. Dempster would add innings and some pretty decent numbers to the Braves' rotation. From what we know, the teams with the most interest in him already have pretty solid rotations: the Braves and Dodgers. Adding Dempster could push one of those two teams over the top.


2. True or false: The Tigers will now run away with the American League Central.

Anibal Sanchez
Anibal Sanchez has allowed 32 hits in 25 innings pitched (four starts) in July.

Schoenfield: False. Omar Infante is a minor upgrade, with a .681 OPS since May 1. Yes, better than what they were receiving from second base, but not exactly Lou Whitaker-type numbers. Anibal Sanchez has some decent numbers, but he also has a 5.00 career ERA against AL teams. Small sample (12 starts), but perhaps noteworthy.

Orris: True. Ever since Paul Konerko came back to earth, the White Sox have struggled to score runs and now find themselves a game out of first place. Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante are solid additions to a Tigers team that already has a lethal lineup. I'd expect the Tigers to win the division by at least five or six games.

Gershman: The Tigers will run away with the AL Central, but it isn't solely because of their newest acquisitions, Sanchez and Infante. The Tigers have been playing very well of late and, at least for me, have the best team in the AL Central even without the aforementioned Sanchez and Infante. That said, adding a top-of-the-line pitcher and offensive-minded infielder never hurts, so I do expect Detroit to breeze through the division and possibly contend for the AL pennant.


3. Is it bad business for the Marlins to start selling after all the offseason spending they did?

Schoenfield: Wait, are you suggesting the Marlins haven't built a loyal fan base despite two World Series titles in the past 15 years? I do think the Marlins run the risk of losing some of the interest they generated this year. Plus, it seems like you could still build around Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez.

Orris: I don't necessarily feel it is bad business, especially because of what they fetched in return. Considering they are 11½ games out of first place in the NL East with just over two months left to play, their playoff hopes are minimal at best.

Gershman: Some of their offseason signings were silly at the time, such as the Heath Bell deal, and certainly don't look any better now. The problem with the Marlins this season is that they possess some of the best talent in baseball but also have some of the biggest holes. Unfortunately, their plan to contend hasn't yet worked out, but Monday's trade continued to stock an already improved farm system.