W

ith just a few hours left before Wednesday’s Major League Baseball trade deadline, the Atlanta Braves have their last chance to make major improvements to one of the best squads in baseball.

Over the past several years I’ve preached patience in regards to the Braves. Atlanta went through an extensive rebuilding process, accumulating as many promising young arms through trades from 2014-16 as any franchise in recent memory. The rebuild has gone about as well as can be expected with Atlanta claiming an National League (N.L.) East division title in its second season at SunTrust Park in 2018. And now, the Braves, who were not surprisingly ousted quickly from the playoffs by the powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers last October, seem poised for bigger things this fall.

That’s why the next few hours are critical for Atlanta’s front office. Patience is no longer a virtue when it comes to these Braves. Other than the two-time defending N.L. champion Dodgers and the ever-dangerous Chicago Cubs, there are no teams in the National League with as talented or as well-rounded a roster as the Braves. With just a minor trade or two, Atlanta could be in position to challenge L.A. in an N.L.C.S. for the right to go to the World Series.

But the Braves should be thinking bigger this week. MLB is about as wide open as it ever gets right now. The defending champion Boston Red Sox are virtually out of the American League (A.L.) East race and will likely have to settle for a Wild Card berth, if they get in the playoffs at all. While any team that makes it into the postseason could get hot and win it all, the only really dominant teams in 2019 are the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and the Dodgers. The Braves won’t play either the A.L. power Yankees or the Astros until at least the World Series, so that leaves L.A. Atlanta should be thinking in terms of what it’s going to take to topple Los Angeles this year.

The Braves’ starting lineup and bench are every bit as good as the Dodgers’, offensively and defensively. Both teams have somewhat shaky closer situations, but both somewhat off-set that flaw with a number of talented power relief arms. Where Atlanta really lags behind L.A. is in starting pitching. That’s why Atlanta needs to be willing to trade talented minor leaguers (other than perhaps former first-round pitcher Ian Anderson) in order to obtain a premium ace. There are several available to be had for the right price: Madison Bumgarner, Zach Greinke, Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard to name a few. All of these stars would come at a price, but the Braves are knocking on the door of greatness. It’s up to the Braves’ brass to bust it down.