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Posted at 03:04 PM ET, 07/23/2012

Report: Braves close to landing Ryan Dempster in trade to bolster rotation for pennant race


Is Ryan Dempster the key to the postseason puzzle for Atlanta? (Nam Y. Huh - AP)
The Atlanta Braves squandered an opportunity to gain ground in the National League East over the weekend in Washington. But presented with a chance to trade for a veteran starter in the midst of a career year, the Braves aren’t blinking.

Atlanta is reportedly close to acquiring right-hander Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs, according to a report from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The full terms of the proposed trade have yet to become available, but ESPN.com reports rookie right-hander Randall Delgado could be heading to Chicago.

(UPDATE 3:45 p.m.): According to Ryan Dempster’s official Twitter feed, no deal is complete.

CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan also reported that that the Cubs have not received approval from Dempster for a trade to Atlanta, according to sources.

Dempster, 35, is 5-4 with an NL-best 2.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. The ERA and WHIP totals are career lows. He had a string of five consecutive scoreless outings — which included 33 straight scoreless innings — snapped Friday in a 4-1 loss at St. Louis.

Dempster would fill a void in an Atlanta rotation that has been in flux since Brandon Beachy’s sterling start to the year was derailed by Tommy John surgery in June. Ben Sheets, back on the mound after two lost seasons due to injury, has been a pleasant surprise with scoreless gems in each of his first two starts. But Jair Jurrjens has struggled mightily this summer, and Dempster should allow Atlanta to bump his fat 7.04 ERA out of its five-man rotation.

Dempster was among several highly coveted pitchers rumored to be on the trading block ahead of next Tuesday’s trade deadline. He is currently in the final year of a four-year, $52 million deal, and according to reports, the Braves will not require him to sign a contract that would keep him in Atlanta beyond the end of the season.

Brewers righty Zack Greinke is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the bunch, but getting full value for him is proving difficult for Milwaukee. Atlanta was said to be pursuing Grienke, but the team did not want to part with prized pitching prospect Julio Teheran for a half-season rental.

The addition of Dempster would instantly upgrade an Atlanta rotation what boasts a very uncharacteristic 4.34 ERA and a 3.4 walks-per-nine rate this season. And Dempster has been even better on the road than at blustery Wrigley, sporting a 1.52 ERA and 0.92 WHIP).

The Braves are chasing the Washington Nationals, whose Stephen Strasburg/Gio Gonzalez-led pitching staff leads the majors in ERA (3.26), WHIP (1.21) and batting average against (.234).

With Strasburg set to be shut down before the end of the season, the Nationals could try to counter Atlanta’s move — should it be completed as expected — or simply pull from within their loaded minor league system for the stretch run. After the Braves took the opening two games of a critical weekend series, former opening day starter John Lannan swung the momentum back in Washington’s favor on Saturday night with a clutch spot start in which he allowed just two runs in seven strong innings.

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By  |  03:04 PM ET, 07/23/2012

 
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