The Trading Post: Trade Options for the Braves


 

Today marks 37 days until the July 31st Major League non-waiver trading deadline.  With teams closing in on the actual halfway point in the season (the 81st games coming later this week) and the All-Star break right around the corner, the time is right for teams to start considering trades to fill their holes for the stretch run this summer.  At this point, the bottom-dwellers are making peace with the reality of their situation and are reluctantly starting to accept phone calls.  But for the first time in recent memory, the Braves find themselves needing very little at this point in the season.

The Cubs are leading the way here, having put out the word that they are “ready to sell”  their players, and have made it known that they will use their major league talent to fuel a strategy of loading up on high-ceiling young players.  The White Sox are likewise close to admitting their own failures, and with one of the worst farm system in baseball, they NEED to sell their assets to have any hope of improving their longer-terms fortunes.  By contrast, the Blue Jays – who can’t seem to pass up a waiver claim (excepting one named Jordan Schafer) – are loaded with AAAA players… but still can’t win.  That notwithstanding, their farm is also ranked fairly low.

Atlanta is actually floundering in several areas offensively, but there is likely only one specific hole they aim to fill via trade:  the bullpen.  Here’s why:

  • Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty.  Lost for the year with ligament replacement surgery… the second time for Venters.
  • Luis Ayala.  working back through anxiety issues slowly.  Return not imminent
  • Alex Wood.  Filling in admirably, though the Braves would prefer him to be a starter, and to continue his development in the minors.
  • Cristhian Martinez.  Injured early.  Has not returned.

It is indeed a testament to this patchwork group of pitchers that despite all of this adversity, the bullpen staff actually has the best ERA in the majors.  We’ll also do a shout-out to the starting five since the bullpen has also been required to throw the fourth fewest innings in the majors… exactly what the Braves were hoping for this year.  Nonetheless, you do have to wonder if the starting staff can possibly keep up this incredible run that they’re on (4th in baseball in ERA; tied for second in most innings pitched; only one game using a 6th starter).

 

Here are three ways that Atlanta can help the bullpen out down the stretch:

1.  Help from the Offense.  Sounds strange, but Atlanta is only 18th in run scoring in June, and only 21-21 since their 13-2 startJustin Upton wasn’t hitting much this month, but now he’s battling a hand injury.  The woes of others are well documented in these pages.  Clearly, better run support takes that pressure off the pitching staff and makes their efforts a lot easier.

2.  Help From WithinBrandon Beachy could help – clearly the team wanted him to start, but between the performances of the starting staff and his own recent setback, a Medlen-esque bullpen stint would seem to be a reasonable solution for all concerned.  Also, if Luis Ayala can be returned to form, that would also help a lot.

3.  Help From a Trade.  Here’s where things get interesting.  There are actually a LOT of possible candidates that are highly ranked.  But here’s my top fifteen:

  • Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Jesse Crain. White Sox.  There are fears that he is being over-used (35 innings thus far), but he’s giving up nothing: 0.52 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, lots of K’s.  Contract Status:  free agent at end of year; $4.5m this year.  I would also inquire about Matt Lindstrom ($2.3m this year; $4m option for 2014 w/$500K buyout).

 

 

 

  • Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers.  Has returned to his former form.  The Braves just saw this first-hand.  0.59 ERA.  Dirt-cheap deal (uncertain numbers, but likely under $3m; free agent after this season).

  • Selections from the Marlins’ Pen.  Specifically LOOGY Dan Jennings (0.71, only 13 innings), or Mike Dunn, though there are others of possible interest.
  • Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

    Selections from the Cubs’ PenKevin Gregg, James Russell, and possibly Carlos (“I’m the other Carlos”) Villaneuva.

  • Bring Home Somebody from KC?  Atlanta is in Kansas City for the first time ever today, and (briefly a) former Brave Tim Collins would be an interesting pickup (2.33 in 27 innings).

 

 

 

About Trading for Relievers:

  • Affordability (cash considerations).  Atlanta has plenty in reserve to pay for anybody named above.  No problem.
  • Affordability (trading prospects).  This will be trickier.  Two philosophies:  [1] When you trade sooner, you get the guy you want; have time to see if the problem is really solved [2] When you trade later, the price might drop.  I’ve listed 15 names above (and there are more).  Relievers should not cost that much to acquire, and the supply should keep the price down to a reasonable mid-level prospect.   This should especially be the case for end-of-contract guys, though I expect that Crain and K-Rod will nonetheless cost a lot.
  • Trading Partners.  This is actually good, since the General Managers with the “goods” are traditionally excellent to deal with.  Alex Anthopolous (Blue Jays) has never seen a trade he didn’t like.  Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein of the Cubs are definitely interested in improvements via trade (and the Braves talked with them a lot last year).  The White Sox (Rick Hahn now) have ‘blown it all up’ before… and likely should now.  This is not Kevin Towers (Diamondbacks) we’re talking about here.  Then again, others will know this, too.

Thus, I would personally like to see Atlanta get a deal done sooner than later (no later than the All-Star break).  I would not expect a bigger name, as the Braves’ farm system is a little thin now, but I do have one bold move to suggest…

 

Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Bold Move:

Make AA Catcher Christian Bethancourt available to the highest bidder.  He’s been on something of a power surge (for him, at least) lately and this might be his ‘sell high’ moment.  The emergence of Evan Gattis makes him ‘touchable’ now, and this is the time to consider moving the almost-22-year-old.

 

Bolder Moves?

I do not see anyone being traded from the major league roster.  Though there is clearly room for improvement, there is too much risk in doing so (risk that replacements would not perform well enough to justify the move).  Any thoughts that people might have had about maybe moving a starting pitcher to make room for Beachy were dashed by the reality that you truly can never have enough starting pitching… a truth underscored by Beachy himself.

In terms of position players, Uggla isn’t going anywhere  (and who knows?  maybe the contacts will help).  Chris Johnson is actually a very highly ranked 3rd base threat… there’s truly no place to even find an upgrade for him.  The rest?  Nope.

The bench is actually as solid as it has ever been, with Schafer, Gattis, and Pena all taking lead roles.  If anything else were to happen, then it could be in the form of a LH bench bat (which could require the release of Reed Johnson).

But even this LH bench bat need represents a minor consideration:  the only true issue with the Braves’ roster is the need for bullpen help.  Aside from this, the outfield bats really need to get going and improve on that .500 record since mid-April.

Let’s see your ideas!

 

Tags: Atlanta Braves Bullpen Christian Bethancourt Trade Deadline Trades

  • cheadrick

    Going to comment on this when I have more time to read the whole piece, but let me just say from the outside, that although there are risks with Crain, I’ve been keeping my eye on him all year, and I like what I see. Again, risks with the overuse issue, but I think he’s a good fit with Atlanta. We’ll see. More later… ;)

  • Jeff Schafer

    The Blue Jays have won 11 straight!!

    I like your ideas here with the possible trade options

    Even tho people are claiming Christian Bethancourt can’t hit, I’m still a fan of his and he’s still only 22

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      There must be a rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum.

  • fireboss

    I like James Russell from the Cubbies. I was going to write about him myself but life won;t let me finish a post these days. Russell is a lefty and backs up Avilan well while allowing Wood to go be a starter. Don;t care for either of The Marlins in fact wouldn’t deal with the Fish at all right now.

    K-Rod makes $2MM plus incentives this year but I don’t think he’s a Braves kinda guy from a off the field perspective.

    Jays aren’t trading anyone. Kansas City will buy, McClain and Yost jobs on the line.

    Wouldn’t mind asking the Red Sox about Bard. Power arms are useful.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      That particular power arm has lost both the power (now lower 90′s instead of upper 90′s) and the whole feel for pitching. His K/BB ratio is 1:3 (not a typo).

      Aside from that, to the disdain of the Royals faithful, you can never rule out the annual Braves/Royal player exchange. You’re right that they should be buyers, but their troubles run deep and their reality is that they are barely sustaining their current record. No way will they challenge for the Central this year… they need to plan for 2014.

      • fireboss

        Knew he was having control issues, is he injured or just struggling? i.e. is is control or velocity or both or is he just at cross purposes with management?

        • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

          To me, it *sounds like* a Wohlers problem… but I’d definitely have to wait for the scouts’ opinion. He was placed on the DL with an ‘abdominal strain’ on 6/11. Published reports color the Red Sox as ‘perplexed’.

          • fireboss

            Wow hate things like that Boston pressure got the best of him mentally perhaps. . .

  • TomAHawk

    I would be curious what Gattis would bring back at this point from an AL club?

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      I have to believe that Evan is untouchable UNLESS the organization opts to aggressively get McCann under contract for the next 4-5 years… and taking everything into account (contracts, needs for extensions, future, his age) I just don’t think they’re gonna try real hard to do that. Hence, Evan Gattis is the starting catcher beginning in 2014.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      (That said: here’s my answer to your question: Boston would probably kill to get him on their roster… the Yankees might, too. They would both probably give up one of their precious bullpen arms. But no, it won’t happen.)

      • TomAHawk

        I understand very very unlikely plus that he is a pretty key part of the offense thusfar and great to have off the bench. I see him as a late bloomer prospect that may not be an ideal replacement for McCann…Unless he is a Boras client I wouldnt mind a deal to keep McCann a Brave. Gattis is an ideal DH at possibly the peak of his value ever. If an AL club wanted to knock my socks off I would listen. As big a fan as I am I think its going to be pretty tough to beat out the Cards,Nats, Giants, and best of AL with our current roster even with Gattis…

        • fireboss

          I heard a rumor today that the Yankees are waiting on Mac with a 6 year offer that we can’t and should match. I love Mac but in Yankee stadium he’ll hit 35 a year and drive in 80 while earning 17M or more.

          • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

            Would not be surprised.