Two additional points of intrigue coming from Dave O’Brien today in the wake of Ken Rosenthal’s report about the Braves turning down an opportunity to move B.J. Upton and an unnamed Starting Pitcher at the trading deadline:
In #Braves proposed trade for B.J. and a SP, I’m told ATL would’ve taken a contract other team looking to shed. ATL ultimately backed away.
— David O’Brien (@DOBrienAJC) August 11, 2014
On Saturday, we learned of the this trade discussion – which DOB confirms took place prior to the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. In that story, Rosenthal mentioned that tabling such a discussion for this coming off-season was a possibility. As you see above, DOB confirms this as well.
What Does This Mean?
Some critical points:
- Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: this is more than mere speculation. Two insider sources telling the same story essentially confirms it.
- The Braves are tired of B.J. Upton‘s schtick and probably his attitude as well. Never mind that he’s not nearly been the offensive force you would normally expect from a $75m player. They would like to move him.
- The Braves would rather do this sooner than later, based on the Dan Uggla experience. At this point, Upton still has some trade value. Undoubtedly, they’d rather not wait until that value drops to zero, as was the case with Uggla.
Okay, then: Who?
There’s the big question: Which team was involved? There are 3 clues here:
- The other team also wants to dump a ‘bad’ contract
- The other team wanted a major league starting pitcher back.
- There isn’t necessarily a time-constraint on the deal (i.e., both teams were thinking longer-term)
The second clue can suggest either (a) there was a contender looking for extra pitching – particularly pitching to replace an injury loss; (b) the other team had a bad contract involving a pitcher and wanted to replace the pitcher as part of the deal to take Upton; or (c) the other team’s bad contract didn’t last as long as Upton’s (which goes through 2017), and they needed a sweetener.
So let’s run down the possibilities:
- Fred suggested on Saturday that the Giants made sense… and they did… except for the “contract … looking to shed” part. The worst-looking deal they have right now is Matt Cain, who is injured. He is due almost $21m per year through 2017 with a large buyout/option in 2018. But it’s still too early to call even that one ‘bad’ right now.
- Cincinnati. Homer Bailey‘s contract was bad before the ink was dry on the paper: 6 years/$105m through 2020, counting the mutual option at $25m ($5m buyout). I can’t imagine the Braves taking on more salary to dump Upton’s deal… and getting a league-average pitcher in return.
- Yankees. Their worst contracts (A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia) aren’t moveable. Jacoby Ellsbury is another example of a deal that was bad from Day 1… but runs through 2020 (at least). Carlos Beltran is possible, but doesn’t really fit for Atlanta (rightfielder; already 37 years old).
- Dodgers. They’ve got multiple outfielder contracts I’m pretty sure they’d consider dealing… but none of them make sense for Atlanta. Matt Kemp goes through 2019 and is not a good defender. Andre Eithier goes through 2017 (+ buyout) and is more expensive than Upton by a lot. Carl Crawford‘s contract is even bigger than that.
That leaves these:
- White Sox. John Danks. They tried to move him – no doubt. Owed $15.75m for each of 2015-2016.
- Cubs. Edwin Jackson. Still due $13m per year for 2015 and 2016.
Of these choices, it almost has to be one of the Chicago clubs… either one. The numbers match fairly well with B.J.’s deal – excepting that both are a year shorter and thus they fit the idea that (a) a pitcher is involved; and (b) the deal requires more from Atlanta – namely a starter in return. Additionally, Mike Minor is controllable through 2017, so that pretty well fits, too. Yes, I expect that Atlanta would want more in return… I’m not gonna dabble in those details today.
Pros and Cons
EDWIN JACKSON – The most likely suspect… plus, if Atlanta wants to pursue this in the off-season, the Cubs have the better selection of possible prospects to make it more palatable.
Jackson is nearly 31 years old and has at least worked a bunch of innings. But he’s been bad lately – ERA’s of 5.00-5.50 over the past 2 years. He’s become homer-prone since 2012 and seen a drop in fastball velocity. He peaked in 2007 with the Rays at 95 mph. He’s now under 93 on average while maintaining consistent speed on his secondary pitches. His pitches have been far too hittable as well…so he looks to be “nibbling” more, which translates into a big jump in walks in 2014.
Jackson’s tERA (fangraph’s “true” ERA) for 2014 is 5th worst in baseball. His ERA- score is the worst of all. If you like FIP, then Jackson is your guy: 4.18 (3.98 xFIP) vs. his actually 5.61 ERA (I’m using these figures in an attempt to compare these pitchers despite league differences – not because I like them).
JOHN DANKS - His fastball speed has also dropped noticeably, but his went from 91.5 (2007) to 88.3 this year – with a big reduction in curve speed in 2013 (down 5 mph). His changeup is also slower, so at least he’s maintaining a speed differential… if that’s important on pitches between 80 and 90 mph.
Danks is still comfortably under 30 years old and is a Lefty. He is also relatively injury-prone and big-time homer-prone, nearly doubling his big fly totals starting in 2013. If he could cure that, he’d be a lot better.
Comparing Danks to the league, he is 10th worst on that aforementioned ERA- list, and 2nd worst in baseball with tERA. FIP and SIERA both hate him, too: he’s 2nd and 4th worst with those (but note that Aaron Harang is 15th on the SIERA list).
No, we don’t really want these guys. But there are reasons for considering either one:
- Moving B.J. Upton creates a spot for somebody else. We have a dream that Jose Peraza could play out there, but note that the Braves haven’t tried that themselves, so take that for what it’s worth. Either way, Melvin hasn’t lived up to expectations and we could do better.
- Moving Mike Minor – if that’s the choice – might not be a horrible thing. This slump he’s in could indeed portend a long-term decline to mediocrity. I hope not, but it’s now a multi-month slump. Either of the above pitchers, could do about as poorly. Yes, it would be “selling low” – but just think about Jair Jurrjens for a minute and how things went for his career.
- It would not be a resource drain – believe it or not. Minor is probably in line for about $5m in 2015… and right now you can’t say that would be well spent. Saving a year of Upton’s deal would clear the decks for something better by 2017.
The bad part: unless either pitcher could be “fixed”, there’s a spot in the rotation that would have to be overcome with improved offense every 5 days.
But without Upton in the lineup… maybe that’s possible.
I expect we’ll hear more about this in the off-season.