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Braves offseason trade options: AL West

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This is the fourth in an 8-part series on the offseason options of the Atlanta Braves.  The schedule will be as follows:

Monday, November 4: Free Agents

Tuesday, November 5: AL East trade options

Monday, November 11 PM: AL Central trade options

Tuesday, November 12 AM: AL West trade options

Tuesday, November 12 PM: NL East trade options

Wednesday, November 13 AM: NL Central trade options

Wednesday, November 13 PM: NL West trade options

Thursday, November 14: “Best” options for the Braves in the 2013-2014 offseason

Today, we will explore the teams in the AL West and how they fit with the Braves as trade partners this offseason:

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Houston Astros

The Astros were simply the worst team in baseball in 2013.  They had the lowest payroll (by percentage of the average of the rest of the league) since Connie Mack infamously cut anyone who had every played before from his team in the early 1900s.  Because of this, they posted record MLB profits in spite of having lower TV ratings than Roseanne reruns for many of their games.  The team is in a full-out rebuild, but in that rebuild, they’ve found a number of players who could be building blocks for the future.  They are likely not going to hold on to any player at this point making any major money, so there is an opportunity for a team interested in a player to offer a solid deal and snake a very good player simply because he’s more expensive than the team would like.
What can they trade with the Braves: So, the Astros quite literally have no player locked up long-term and only one player who is even arbitration eligible this offseason, catcher Jason Castro.  If the Braves thought that Bethancourt would never make it or that Gattis wouldn’t be able to survive behind the plate, Castro could make an interesting trade option.  Other than that, getting after a guy like Jose Altuve next year in July could be a way to utilize the Astros cost-saving model (Altuve is arbitration eligible after 2014) to the Braves advantage.

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Los Angeles Angels

The Angels once again bought the biggest bat on the market.  They also once again missed the playoffs.  The team is now in a major pitching need, and they are rumored to be throwing around major money for pitchers this offseason, already topping rumor lists for Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco (among others).  Their bullpen is also in major need of help as far as depth behind Ernesto Frieri.  You would think they would be all over trades, but oddly, they are rumored to be looking to trade any pieces of interest (Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo) for prospects, which is odd, but also makes some sense as their minor league system is among the bottom two or three in the entire league.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Angels would be an interesting trade partner for Howie Kendrick, but with his nearly $19M in salary the next two seasons for below-average defense and middling offense, it seems like the Braves would be making a lateral move with Dan Uggla to Kendrick, as remarkable as that may sound on the surface.  Other than Kendrick, there simply isn’t a lot to want to go after with the Angels.

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Oakland Athletics

Two seasons and two improbable division championships.  Even after winning the division last season, most gave the Athletics little to no chance to win again in 2013 entering the season, yet they were one game behind Boston for the best record in the league and were tied for the largest margin of division lead in the AL at the end of the season.  They then found that their patchwork rotation simply was no match in the playoffs for the Detroit Tigers’ loaded rotation.  The Athletics have their normal run of great, young pieces and cheap filler pieces.  The A’s have no one signed beyond 2015, so they have lots of flexibility going into the offseason.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Athletics don’t really have a lot that they would likely move without a big overpay, but they acquired Alberto Callaspo last season, and while Callaspo isn’t a player to build your team around, his flexibility at 2B and 3B could be a huge pickup for the Braves if the price was right.  The Braves could also make a push for versatile Jed Lowrie, though he would cost likely significantly more in prospects to pry away from Oakland than Callaspo.

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Seattle Mariners

Coming into 2013, the Mariners were a trendy selection to make a run at the wild card.  Then their pitching behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and lineup really didn’t show up like most pundits were expecting.  The failure of Jesus Montero was hard on the club, but it did allow the team to move up uberprospect  Mike Zunino to catch without any excuses.  The Mariners head into 2014 with only Hernandez and Iwakuma under contract with Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak as the only two who are even arbitration-eligible.  The Mariners are rumored to be big offseason players for big names like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and even possibly Robinson Cano.  The Mariners have a very talented middle infield with Nick Franklin and Brad Miller.  Dustin Ackley‘s move back to the outfield will be an interesting thing to watch this season as a last-ditch effort to get some value from a former #2 overall pick.  The Mariners also have some deep pitching depth in their minor league system, and Taijuan Walker should get a shot to start the season in the majors.  He could easily be the most exciting pitcher in the league to watch next season.
What can they trade with the Braves: If Ackley was looking to continue at 2B, the Mariners may be looking to move him, but as he was an outfielder in college, he very well be more comfortable moving back to the outfield rather than staying at 2B, so there’s really nothing here for the Braves that makes sense outside of pursuing some prospect-for-prospect deals, which rarely are seen.

Texas Rangers

The last two seasons have been tough on the Rangers.  After consecutive World Series appearances, the Rangers were knocked out of the division win in 2012 on the last day of the season and missed the playoffs completely this year.  The Rangers have been pointed to as an organization that should be modeled with their excellent minor league system and solid production in the major leagues.  Now, with the fallout of Nolan Ryan leaving the organization, we’re starting to see behind the curtain on an organization that couldn’t decide on a path at the highest levels, which could mean very good or very bad things for the Rangers going forward.  The Rangers have some amazing young prospects on the way and already have seen what young prospect Jurickson Profar can do at the major league level.  They also signed a deal with Martin Perez that I would love to see as a model for Julio Teheran or Mike Minor extensions.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Rangers have prospects that I would love to get my hands on, but it’s just hard to see them moving any of them short of a major return, and the Braves don’t really have the pieces that would intrigue the Rangers, most likely.  If the Rangers decided they absolutely had to get rid of Ian Kinsler to get room for Profar, the Braves could come in, though Kinsler’s $57M owed over the next 4 seasons would really put a damper on the Braves’ tight payroll.

The AL West has some solid players available, though they’re likely going to require more in cost than what the Braves are willing (or should be willing) to pay.  Comment with any other trade possibilities you see!

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  • Lee Trocinski

    You are severely undervaluing Howie Kendrick. He has a 106 wRC+ for his career and only has one season with a below-average UZR. He is basically Brandon Phillips without the attitude. As far as Ackley goes, he will play wherever it takes to get in the lineup. He’d be a nice buy-low target.

    • Lee Trocinski

      Then I go to the NL East post and you call Daniel Murphy great. Murphy is Kendrick but worse on defense. You gotta check your stats before you judge players…

    • Benjamin Chase

      I guess it depends on your definition of “good” on defense. The big thing that I don’t like with Kendrick is the contract for what he brings to the table. As far as your comparison to Murphy, Murphy is 2 years younger, just entering his “prime” years, walks more, strikes out less, has a 108 career OPS+ vs. Kendrick’s 107 OPS+, and outside of his major knee injury that cost him a full year, he rarely misses games while Kendrick has cleared 600 plate appearances once in his life. For the price and production, Murphy is a much better trade target.

      Lastly, Brandon Phillips is an otherworldly defender at 2B. Even if they’re offense was equitable, Kendrick isn’t in the same atmosphere as Phillips as a player.

      • Lee Trocinski

        I wouldn’t say Kendrick is good on defense, just average-plus, while Murphy is nowhere near that. Murphy’s walks have dropped to Kendrick levels, and Murphy hits too many flyballs for his lack of power (alas Simmons).

        Overall, Kendrick is the better player, but Murphy will make about half the money in those two years. Overall, they’re about equal in trade value.

        Phillips is a better defender, but he turns 33 next year and he’s only eclipsed Kendrick’s career 106 wRC+ mark once in his career. Phillips is only a slightly better player, so they’re also of similar trade value.

        • Benjamin Chase

          We’ll agree to disagree on who is the better player, but I don’t think the difference is very large, which is why the major difference in contract, age, and durability all weigh Murphy as a better trade target to me.

          • fireboss

            Murphy should be less expensive that Kendrick. He peaked a couple of years ago and has been trending down since. wOBA, ISO and BB% all down and his glove isn’t close. His only real + is age and second basemen age pretty well in the field as. Most folks here will know I’ve wanted Murphy all year but I don’t value him as highly as Kendrick

    • fireboss

      Thank you Lee you said it perfectly. He plays solid defense and has a steady bat. He was also raised in an organization that before Moreno went free agent crazy stressed taking the extra base, playing hard all the time and teamwork. Kendrick is a very good player.

      • Benjamin Chase

        I’d have Kendrick way above Phillips as a trade option, but as a player, I’d have Phillips higher because his defense is simply that much better than Kendrick’s. That said, that’s not the discussion here. I never stated Murphy to be great in and of himself, I believe him to be a great trade value at this point in his career based on his contract, skills, age, and durability.

        The big thing with Ackley is that he’s never kept a batting approach for more than a few hundred plate appearances before altering it in some way. That worked for Cal Ripken, Jr., and pretty much no one else in history (George Brett did it at the end of his career, but he was fairly consistent early on in his stance and swing). Ackley was also an outfielder for most of his life before going to Seattle, so who knows if a move to the outfield could actually help his bat enough to make him valuable. He certainly wasn’t going to win a Gold Glove (even if the award actually valued true defensive merit) at 2B, but he wasn’t terrible either.