It takes a quality headliner to acquire impact talent on the trade market, and the Braves have the former in spades. The question is which top prospect will GM Alex Anthopoulos feature as he attempts to fill a critical need.
Tuesday evening ended a sweepstakes for the Atlanta Braves, though it was one that they unfortunately lost, as free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson signed with the Twins, landing a 4-year, $92 million contract that also includes a club-option for a fifth season.
Before the ink on Donaldson's contract had even dried on Tuesday, several of my cohorts here at the site quickly shared their stance on this latest bit of news, ranging from personal reactions to that oh so important and interesting question of… what now?
That question won't be answered here, as no one really knows exactly what's currently hiding up Braves' GM Alex Anthopoulos' sleeve, but perhaps it's quite reasonable to make one conclusive assumption: we will most likely see a Braves' prospect traded before Opening Day.
And given that we just recently released our Atlanta Braves Top-30 Prospect Rankings, attempting to decipher who could be the prospect headliner seems like a task currently worth doing.
Here's five that currently stand out (prospect ranking in parentheses):
The 'Most Wanted' List?
We've already talked about these two at length last week (also as a pair), but the likelihood of either one (or both) being moved just increased a notch now that the Braves weren't able to fill its need at third base simply using money.
Currently, there's no other duo in the system with both the projected upside AND the recent failure to reach the Braves' expectations as Wright and Wilson did in 2019. The pitching-needy Pirates, Rockies and Mariners would certainly be interested in at least one, if not both.
- (No. 4) Tucker Davidson, LHP
Tuck is another prospect I recently profiled, as his performance in 2019 was one of the best by a Braves' prospect pitcher.
In terms of when to cash-in on a prospect, the time is now with Davidson, coming off a campaign in which he led the Southern League in ERA (Double-A) and made impressive gains to both his fastball velocity and repertoire. Seeing the talented lefty go would surely hurt, but Davidson's current value is as high as it's ever been.
- (No. 2) Drew Waters, OF
Assuming Cristian Pache is the key player to the Braves' future and the fact that the organization currently benefits from a bit of prospect surplus in the outfield, maybe it's time to move the switch-hitting Waters?
As a toolsy 21-year-old already at the minor's highest level (played the last 2 months of the year in Gwinnett in 2019), Waters could serve as an impressive headliner for just about any trade offer by the Braves.
- (No. 23) William Contreras, C
I don't have him anywhere near the top of my prospect rankings (contrary to many other Braves' lists) and I'm not so sure he's quite headliner material, but Contreras IS a young catcher that not so long ago (2018) belted 11 homers and hit .285 altogether with Single-A Rome and High-A Florida.
My perception of him is obviously irrelevant, and like I said… there are still plenty of folks in the industry still high on Contreras. Plus, with Shea Langeliers (No. 16) now in the picture, the Braves could survive the hit.
A sense of urgency
It would perhaps be unwise to expect Alex Anthopoulos to act with emotion, considering he's never shown such tendencies as the Braves' GM.
However, there has to be somewhat of an amount of urgency regarding his next move(s), especially considering pitchers and catchers are set to report in essentially one month. At this juncture in the offseason, it will be imperative that Anthopoulos sticks with his guns, for it's far too late in the game to scrap the plan he has already constructed.
With that being said and the fact that Anthopoulos has already eluded to the fact that he's open to moving top prospects for impact players, I expect him to not only act quick but also aim high in terms of a potential deal.
The only question now is will it be a solution for the hole at third base or the gaping one currently in the Braves' batting lineup. We shall soon find out.