Trade the Beloved Bear?
In one of Mark Bowman’s, MLB beatwriter for the Atlanta Braves, latest pieces…
…it sure does sound that way. The article in question is mostly concerned with the soon-to-come expansion of roster in September and what the Braves will do with top prospects Christian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza. However, the money quote is discreetly placed at the tail end:
“Bethancourt, who is on Triple-A Gwinnett’s seven-day DL with a bruised left hand, will almost certainly be with Atlanta at the beginning of next year. The success he had while handling the catching duties for the first few weeks of July increased reason to believe the Braves should try to trade Evan Gattis to an American League club this winter.”
Let’s analyze this a bit before we pull out the ol’ Jump to Conclusions Doormat! Beatwriters, especially Braves’ beatwriters, have been accused of 2 things:
1. Attempting to build trade value for future deals.
2. Airing out the Braves’ dirty laundry.
What we have is a fairly generic quote of which may have been purely Bowman’s speculation, or it might be deeper than that. Regardless, each word needs to be looked over with scrutiny and judgment so we can extract every single possibility that could be underlined and/or shouted from the rooftops from that one, tiny paragraph.
Pulling out the Jump to Conclusions Mat. Ready to jump with me?
1. Building trade value for Bethancourt- “The success he had…” During his small stint with Atlanta, Bethancourt was worth -0.2 WAR. Regardless of what any of us might believe, Bethancourt is not having a great season at AAA. His OPS is sub-.700 and his defense, which could be other-worldly in due time, is, like his bat, still raw. Bethancourt gets “stabby” behind the plate sometimes meaning he doesn’t always slide his body into harm’s way. There’s no questioning his arm and there’s no doubt that his frame is built for a catcher, but by now we should have heard praise from the pitchers that throw to him about his game-calling ability or framing. When Brian McCann was coming through the organization, pitchers at every stop raved about his game-calling ability, and when he was promoted, many Braves’ fans were questioning the move as Jarrod Saltalamacchia was killing the ball in the minors and had been rumored to be the “catcher of the future”. Those questions quickly were put to rest as McCann had a solid offensive season, but more importantly received rave reviews from Tim Hudson and John Smoltz on his game-calling ability. With as much attention that has been put on Christian Bethancourt as a prospect, there should have been leaked praise about his game-calling, but all has been quiet on that front. Pulling it together, the success he had at the Major Leagues was minimal and so has it been in the Minors. This is likely the last year Bethancourt makes the Top-100 Major League prospects and it could be that the Braves know that and are preparing to trade him this offseason.
2. Preparing “Braves Country” for the inevitable trade of beloved White Bear, Evan Gattis- “… increased reason to believe the Braves should try to trade Evan Gattis..” Make no mistake, Gattis is not a great defensive catcher, merely average to below average. There have been numerous times this year where it seemed like the pitcher on the mound and Gattis had difficulty finding common ground (especially Julio Teheran) and his proneness to the passed ball/wild pitch is concerning. With that being said, Gattis has outperformed almost everyone’s expectations as a defensive catcher. Coming in at -4 DRS for the year, Gattis’ defense is far from good, but as an everyday catcher, ranks 18th out of 23 in that category. However, overall defensive value, according to Fangraphs, puts Gattis at 15 of 23, slightly below average. With his body type and the back issues that popped up, the Braves might be preparing the fans for the inevitable outcome: Evan Gattis traded to become an AL DH.
3. Airing out the dirty laundry: Questioning Gattis’ work ethic?- “ success he had while handling the catching duties” As stated above, many a time this year have we seen the Braves’ pitchers and Evan Gattis not on the same page, which begs the question: Does Evan Gattis not work on his overall game enough? While I’ve never read anything to suggest such a thing, I’ve also not read anything in quite a while that suggests he’s “studying hard”.
My take on the article
The Braves are in a tight spot financially and are in no position to commit a ton of salary to a catcher. Both Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt should be a catcher for some team next season and I think the Braves will listen on both guys. If presented with a good return for either, I think they will bite. However, I hope that the chip traded is Christian Bethancourt, not Evan Gattis. There are many that might disagree, and even some of the writers here will disagree, but I don’t foresee Bethancourt ever living up to his “Yadier Molina” hype, or coming close to it. He’s young, catcher’s bats usually develop late, and I might have written him off too early, but I just don’t think he’s a game-changer like Evan Gattis. In my opinion, this Braves’ team can sacrifice some defense for an offensive boost, and that is what Gattis provides.