With the Mets having already traded Carlos Beltran to the Giants, the Braves have put a greater focus on other options. They have talked to the White Sox about Carlos Quentin and continued to evaluate the possibility of adding Rays' outfielder B.J. Upton.
But early Thursday evening, a Major League scout said Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is at the top of the Braves' wish list. Ludwick would fill the club's desire to add someone who could play each of the outfield positions and provide some offense.
Ludwick has hit just .238 with 11 homers and a .675 OPS through his first 99 games with the Padres this year. The 33-year-old outfielder will be a free agent at the end of the season, and the Braves could acquire him now without having to part ways with the kind of prospects needed to land Quentin or Hunter Pence from the Astros.
If the Braves acquired Ludwick, they would likely platoon him in right field with Jason Heyward and allow him to spend some time playing left field. With uncertainty surrounding how much third baseman Chipper Jones will be able to play down the stretch, the Braves know there is a chance Martin Prado could spend a lot of time playing third base during the season's final two months.
Ludwick has struggled to regain the form he possessed in 2008, when he hit .299 with 37 homers and a .966 OPS for the Cardinals. He saw a slight decline in '09 and an even greater one after he was traded to the Padres last year, when he started calling pitcher-friendly PETCO Park his home.
Ludwick has hit .264 (24-for-91) with three homers and a .727 OPS against left-handed pitchers this year, and has gone .229 (64-for-279) with eight homers and a .658 OPS against right-handers.
While Ludwick might not be viewed as a significant upgrade, he has the potential to aid the Braves as they attempt to overcome injuries suffered by Jones and Brian McCann, who could miss at least three weeks with a strained left oblique muscle.
The Rays have had a scout at Turner Field all week, and the Braves have some interest in having Upton serve as their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter for the remainder of the season. But it does not appear Atlanta is willing to acquire him in exchange for any of the club's top pitching prospects.
The Astros are asking for a greater return for Pence, who makes approximately $11 million in his final arbitration-eligible season next year. The Phillies seem to be the favorites to land Pence if the Astros decide to trade him.
Quentin is another option, but sitting just 3 1/2 games out in the American League Central standings, the White Sox might opt to keep his power potential in their lineup.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.