B.J. Upton. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Braves Trade Deadline Not As Quiet As We Thought

This afternoon Ken Rosenthal reported that the Braves were close to a surprise and big, in terms of names involved, deal at the deadline.  According to the reliable Rosenthal, the Braves were prepared to deal B.J. Upton plus a starting pitcher thought to be either Mike Minor or Ervin Santana. The deal failed because the Braves didn’t see enough value in the players offered. That begs the question to whom and for what?

All Aboard The Trade Speculation Express!

Rosenthal said his information indicated that the Braves (Frank Wren) felt that the deal would shake things up in the clubhouse. I can guarantee that would happen. The other whys and to whom begs for some educated guesses.

Why

The answer to why trade B.J. is simple. He’s a $15M albatross around the Braves neck and as I noted a few days ago statistically the all around worst hitter in baseball. He’s not really a good defender either. Any trade of him would have to include a strong second piece and a top half of the rotation pitcher fills that bill thus the link to Santana or Minor. I doubt the pitcher was Santana.

Anyone trading for Santana has him as a rental and can’t make him a qualifying offer to recover a draft pick. After spending their $14M on Santana and giving up a draft pick the Braves wouldn’t go their either. Minor on the other hand is a completely different story.

As we all know Minor’s not having a great year I’ve speculated about the reason for that recently and suggested prior to the deadline that in spite of his off-year. he was a useful trade piece. Then there’s Minor’s history of discontent. In the spring of 2012 Minor was vocally upset that he was being asked to compete for a  spot in the rotation.

“Overall, it’s not really – it’s about making the team, but if … I can control my third pitch and have a decent fourth pitch, then there’s no reason I shouldn’t pitch in the big leagues somewhere. If they don’t have room for me here, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t trade me or just do something with me.”

As hardball talk noted in the linked piece, “. . .He sort of backed off that later, saying that the Braves should trade him if he hasn’t earned his spot in the rotation.  Which is sort of the same, but definitely different in tone”

We know the story from there, his first half was rough – 5.97 ERA. 1.424 WHIP, 92 1/3 innings, 91 hits, walked 40 and struck out 78 – but his second half and most of the 2013 season he was brilliant. In 298 1/3 innings during that span he posted a 2.90 ERA and a 1.009 WHIP walking 64 and striking out 254. Those numbers made him one of the top three pitchers in baseball.

This spring the Braves extended a bunch folks but in spite of those numbers Mike wasn’t one of them. Yes he has years of control left but the Braves extended Julio Teheran and at that time he hadn’t performed as well for that period of time.  Based on his reaction to competing for a rotation spot that cannot have made him a happy camper.  That’s why I believe it was Minor.

To Whom

Guessing who the discussions were with is a more complex process so let’s eliminate options.

The team would be a contender – or the Marlins – but really a contender so that’s the Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Nationals, Yankees, Orioles, Rays, Tigers, Royals, Indians, A’s, Angels, Pirates and Mariners

  • The team would have to be in need of a pitcher (everyone except the teams that got top arms) goodbye Oakland and Detroit
  • They Would need an outfielder – so Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Nationals, Yankees, Orioles, Rays, Tigers, Royals, Indians, A’s, Angels, Pirates and Mariners
  • They would need prospects or major league ready players to trade and more than a couple if we as I suspect would have to eat half of BJ’s contract
  • They would need a strong manager. Handling these two in a deadline deal requires more skill than many have. The Rays don’t want BJ back and I think the Reds know they are done.

That leaves the Giants.

From the Giants point of view

Bruce Bochy is is the best manager in the NL, If anyone can handle hard-headed players it’s Bochy. The Loss of Matt Cain and ineffectiveness of Tim Lincecum (4.22, 1.295) led then to acquire Jake Peavy and cash to bolster a rotation that also featured Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong, good pitchers but not good enough to challenge the Dodgers. Minor is (or should be) better than Peavy and less expensive in the long term as well as being controllable through 2017.

Their outfield consisted of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Mike Morse Juan Perez and Angel Pagan who was on the DL at the time. BJ would be seen as an upgrade defensively in center – don’t snicker it isn’t polite – over Blanco and would be used as a fourth outfielder when Pagan returned playing left, and acting as a defensive replacement for Morse an an insurance policy against Pagan going down again. BJ is actually hitting better than Perez sad as that sounds.

From the Braves point of view

I’ve already given the obvious reasons for such a trade. The Braves would have inserted Hale into the rotation and kept Jordan Schafer to play center while they looked around the wire for an outfielder like Alex Rios. They might also have made the Cub trade anyway and called it good with Emilio Bonifacio playing center. That as well as what they might have asked for is really hard to know.

They would likely have wanted a ranked pitching prospect like Edwin Escobar who went to Boston,and perhaps a bullpen arm. The deal would have had to have included enough prospect potential to make them feel good for sending $7.5 or so to Frisco. In the end whoever the unknown partner was failed to offer what the Braves considered enough value in return.

That’s A Wrap

As this was going final MLBTR suggested that “. . .Ultimately, the conception of the move was intended more to shake up the roster and clubhouse (in addition, no doubt, to shedding Upton’s future obligations), ” I’ve listened  to the Rosenthal video a few times and while he says that the trade was meant to shake up the clubhouse, never does he suggest that just the concept of the trade was meant to do that. The fact that it gets out nine days after the deadline makes that a little hard to believe. Leaking word of such an attempt is more likely to cause unrest that create a new urge to excel among players particularly players such as B.J.

Rosenthal does suggest and I strongly agree, that this formula will be revisited in the off-season as the Braves will no doubt try to shuffle the deck and get the joker out of center field.  Whether they will trade some names fans don’t expect  and don’t want to see leave is not even up for debate. Wren – or his successor – must revamp a lineup that has too many strikeouts and too few hits while working within tight payroll constraints. That means moving big contracts to make room for new faces.

It will be interesting to if any more information about this incomplete trade comes out as well as watch the post season moves.  we’ll be watching closely here at the Take and pass along the details to you.

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