Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: Michael Brantley rumors, hot stove lit

Looking for a rumor?… we’ve got one, plus some thoughts on the Yankees’ acquisition of James Paxton

Getting information out of the (appropriately) tight-lipped Atlanta Braves Front Office that Alex Anthopoulos runs is difficult – if not impossible. Fortunately for us, perhaps, there are always 2 sides to baseball conversations, and sometimes the other side will speak.

Such is the case this week involving free agent outfielder Michael Brantley. While I am positive that the Braves would prefer to let this play out a bit longer, it seems that others may have forced their hand a bit.

Brantley is definitely a viable target option for Atlanta in the wake of the Braves’ decision to allow Nick Markakis’ contract to expire, but there are clearly other clubs that are interested in his services as well.

To wit, it was almost a throwaway comment in a long discussion about Brantley that an anonymous MLB.com writer threw in yesterday that caught my eye… one that suggests that Brantley could be moving sooner than most outfield free agents this Fall.

Here’s that comment:

Philadelphia has reportedly already made Brantley a contract offer.

Yeah… that’s it.  Talk about ‘burying the lead’.   But it’s one that makes you think about at least 2 other things:

  • “But wait – I thought Philly was ‘in’ on Bryce Harper!”
  • “But what about the Braves?”

Turns out that this Philly news was old news. But it also turns out that the Braves haven’t exactly been caught flat-footed, either.

In fact, it was two weeks ago that this report from Paul Hoynes over at Cleveland.com surfaced as part of a story about Brantley not being likely to return to the Indians:

Brantley has reportedly received offers from Atlanta, Philadelphia and the White Sox. The Indians did not offer Brantley a one-year $17.9 qualifying offer on Friday.

So the Braves are also in the thick of this rumor.  If true, this report is clearly more than just “has contacted” or “has shown interest in”… this is a lot more like they are “in active pursuit of” this player.

What are the Phils Doing?

I can explain away the initial query regarding Philadelphia: the Phillies desperately want Rhys Hoskins out of left field. They are willing to dump Carlos Santana back onto the market just so that Hoskins can return to first base and stop being a horrific defensive liability.

As a result, they actually do need 2 outfielders and if they were to land both Brantley and Harper, then so much the better for them.

Furthermore, they – and the Braves – are clearly thinking “act now while choices exist” since it’s hardly a forgone conclusion that Harper will sign with them. In fact, Harper will likely not sign with anyone for quite a while – that’s part of the Standard Scott Boras Operating Procedure (SSBOP).

Ergo, if Atlanta wants Brantley – and it’s clear they do (the other best free agent option – A.J. Pollock – has a draft pick as part of his price), then Anthopoulos had to get started early.

So why hasn’t Brantley made a choice yet?  Frankly… he doesn’t have to.

Maybe he doesn’t have a site preference. Maybe he does, but that site hasn’t yet made an offer (he lives in Port St. Lucie – the Mets Spring site – in the off-season).  Maybe no offer has separated itself from the pack.  Maybe he wants an extra year on the current offers.

Maybe at this stage in his career he’s looking for the best place to win and he wants to see what other moves are made by his suitors before deciding.

Still – the Braves are indeed on the prowl… but Brantley is making teams wait for him.

 

Yankees Light the Match

The first major trade of the year is now official: James Paxton is a Yankee. This single act is likely to set the bar for trade values and it will also start things moving in the pitching market.

The free agent pitching market includes names like Happ, Corbin, Keuchel, Eovaldi, Kikuchi, and Morton.

The trade market?  Greinke definitely, perhaps one of the group of Kluber/Carrasco/Bauer, maybe Baumgarner, probably Fulmer, maybe a precious few others.

In my opinion, the Yankees just made their trade.  While they will get another premium arm this Fall, I do not believe it will happen via trade, since they loathe to spend their prospects and just parted with their (supposedly) best one in Justus Sheffield.  Unless a miracle occurs, I expect they will simply sign their next pitcher – probably either Corbin, Keuchel, Eovaldi or Happ – in that pecking order.

That leaves the Braves in an interesting position.  As noted previously, I believe they have a trade offer on the table for J.T. Realmuto.  It’s become annoyingly/painfully clear that the Marlins would love to do anything other than deal with the Braves (or Phils or Mets or Nats).

The Nationals apparently saw the trade price for Realmuto and balked immediately, thus the decision to pursue and sign Kurt Suzuki for a return trip to Washington.

The Braves will almost certainly attempt to use their trade resources, then, to obtain either Realmuto (if Houston opts out) or Corey Kluber… and we’re waiting on the Marlins  At least that’s my read at this point.

Having the Yankees pull the trigger yesterday almost certainly leaves the Braves alone at the top of any trade talks involving anyone that they want to pursue.  That’s a great position to be in… but you still have to have a willing trade partner.

At some point, this game of chicken between the Marlins and Astros needs to end… and hopefully the Fish figure out that 2 years of Realmuto in Atlanta is preferable to not having the prospects that Atlanta is willing to serve up.

If we get any news soon about Houston inking a catcher… that will be the lighter fluid (gasoline?) added to the fire that the Yankees just got started.