CHICAGO -- Julio Teheran's name will be mentioned in many conversations leading up to the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Braves will spend these next couple of weeks determining whether they can get a return significant enough to trade the affordable All-Star who could continue to strengthen the front of their rotation over each of the next four seasons.
Braves general manager John Coppolella has said his days of simply attempting to compile top prospects via trades are complete. As he moves further along in the massive rebuilding process he has engineered, he is seeking players who can compete at the big league level this season or at least by the start of 2017.
Teheran stands as Coppolella's most attractive trade piece and arguably the best starting pitcher available before this year's Deadline. The 25-year-old right-hander, who is owed slightly more than an average of $9 million through the 2020 season, could net the big bat Atlanta needs. But the Braves are not in a position where they must immediately move Teheran, and they likely won't unless they get something similar to the package (Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair) they received for Shelby Miller in December.
While Teheran will steal the headlines, the Braves may also have a chance to garner some value for Jeff Francoeur, veteran reliever Jim Johnson or closer Arodys Vizcaino. Given that Vizcaino's stock has dropped recently, Atlanta may opt to hold onto him. As for Francoeur, the club loves his leadership and may not get a return that warrants trading him before the end of the season.
Much of the trade talk surrounding Teheran has been geared toward the Red Sox, who would likely need to include Andrew Benintendi, and the Rangers, who would likely need to include Joey Gallo. But if the Yankees opt to be buyers, they could fill a couple of the Braves' needs with two of their top prospects -- catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Aaron Judge, who recently underwent knee surgery that will sideline him for at least three weeks.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
While winning 13 of their final 25 games before the All-Star break, the Braves at least positioned themselves to possibly avoid a 100-loss season. Brian Snitker wasn't considered a top long-term candidate when he became the interim manager after Fredi Gonzalez was dismissed in May. But if he guides the team to a strong finish, and the young players continue to respond favorably to his leadership, he'll have a strong candidacy to remain in his current role next year.
THE ROAD AHEAD
This season's final months will give them a better chance to get a feel for what Matt Wisler and Mike Foltynewicz could bring to the rotation over the next few years. But the most important development for the future will come when the team decides to promote its highly regarded prospect duo of Swanson and Ozzie Albies to Atlanta. Thoughts of the pair reaching the Majors by the end of July might be optimistic, but the two middle infielders could both make their big league debuts within the near future. There is also hope Mallex Smith will return from a fractured right thumb in time to play during a significant portion of September.
Though Freddie Freeman will continue to be the position player who has the most influence on the team's success, the Braves' plans for the future might be most greatly influenced by what they see from outfielders Inciarte and Nick Markakis. Inciarte has shown an ability to create excitement on the basepaths and with his glove, but his plate discipline remains a concern. Markakis might draw some interest on the trade market, but teams will first need to determine whether his brief home run flurry before the break was an indication that he still has some power left in his bat.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH
While Swanson and Albies have the potential to immediately energize the clubhouse with their youthful talents, Blair stands as the prospect who can most significantly impact the club's rotation needs beyond this season. Blair has struggled during two stints at the big league level and he hasn't had recent success with Triple-A Gwinnett. But if he can consistently command his fastball, he still has the potential to serve as a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter over the next few years.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.