Want Felix Hernandez as a member of the Atlanta Braves? Maybe the better question is ‘who are you willing to give up for him?’
There’s no way to sugar-coat this: if the Atlanta Braves want to add a non-roster invitee to the active roster in a month, then it’s possible someone you like will have to be dropped from the 40-man roster to make the space.
The reason that we’re picking on Felix Hernandez right now is because of the extra rotation spot that has to be filled due to the (hopefully temporary) loss of Cole Hamels… and because we think that there was likely some assurance that King Felix would get every opportunity possible to make the club.
He’s not the only possible addition, of course: there are at least a couple of other possibilities:
- Charlie Culberson. In the wake of the possible oblique injury to Adeiny Hechavarria, Culberson would be the next logical man up… and he’s not on the 40-man list.
- Yonder Alonso. This is a longer shot situation, but if Freddie Freeman’s elbow doesn’t respond as expected, then another 1st baseman would need to be added (unless Culberson filled that role, too).
- Josh Tomlin. Another late NRI signing, Tomlin might need some other things to happen for him to make the squad, but the reason he’s in the mix is thanks to his helpful work last year.
Such occurrences are not unusual, but what is unusual is that the Atlanta Braves are still holding on to a very deep 40-man roster of talent that they’d rather not lose on the waiver wire.
If any of these events were to come to pass, Alex Anthopoulos might resort to a prospect-for-prospect trade to rectify the situation.
For example: take a pitcher like Touki Toussaint. Still with demonstrable upside, yet having him toil for a third year at the triple-A level seems like a poor use of his talents. Heck, the Braves don’t really even have a bullpen slot they could give him.
Instead, find a rebuilding club who has roster space available (or a team willing to outright a fringe prospect) and a pitching need, then engage a deal to exchange Toussaint for a high-upside prospect currently at the High-A-or-lower level.
In this way, both teams solve their problems with minimal overhead required. The Braves would have the added bonus of refilling a prospect slot who is a bit further away – an area that is currently running a bit thin in their system.
The example of using Toussaint is merely a hypothetical scenario: there are certainly multiple other pitchers who could be used in this manner. But better to give these blocked players a place to play rather than see them grow stale with little chance to break through to the majors.
Better for the player... though maybe not for the fans of that player.
You might well ask "why did you pick on Touki?" Fair question. There's a profile that would have to be met by whoever Atlanta wants to shop around:
- On the 40-man roster
- More-or-less blocked at AAA
- Solid upside... likely major-league ready
- Overall: desirable to have
As fans, we hate to lose these kids we’ve seen growing up, but part of the realities that contending teams face is that you can’t always allow prospects to grow into their positions at the major league level… you need proven contributors.
That’s why Hernandez, et al, are competing for roster spots now. It’s also why we might very well see a trade or two during the week when Spring officially begins.