June 21, 2021
Late last week, a lot of information regarding the Braves came out of The Athletic: first it was a joint piece by both David O’Brien and Jim Bowden in which they discussed potential trade packages; and next it was a mailbag post by O’Brien regarding whether or not the team should be a buyer or seller at next month’s trade deadline.
And given what we learned from last Monday’s conversation between Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos and The Athletic‘s Jeff Schultz, we should have a rather solid understanding of what the team’s looking for come deadline day.
Over the last several days we’ve learned that it’s going to take more losing than what we perhaps thought before the Braves ultimately throw in the towel this season. According to O’Brien, we’re talking 10 or so games back in the division by the time July 30 rolls around. We also know Anthopoulos has the OK to add to the team’s payroll this mid-season, although we don’t know exactly how much. And in terms of Atlanta’s needs, Anthopoulos has mentioned specifically his intentions to add to the bullpen, along with a sort of alluding comment regarding the fact that the Braves have “two guys starting for us who were not part of our projected outfield.” Yes… that is true.
With optimism regarding a possible return for righty Mike Soroka, to go along with Huascar Ynoa being expected back by mid-August, not to mention the fact that starter/reliever hybrid Touki Toussaint just made his second rehab start on Sunday with Double-A Mississippi, in my opinion the likelihood of Atlanta trading for a starter is quite small… at least one that comes with a substantial cost. So that leaves bullpen help and an outfielder as the two targets that we should probably focus on.
Using the trade simulator at Baseball Trade Values, here are some trade packages that have been floated around recently, and in my opinion, make sense for the Braves…
*MTV is “median estimate of trade value”, compiled by Baseball Trade Values
Braves get — (72.1 MTV) – Ketel Marte (OF)
D’Backs get — (62 MTV) – Drew Waters, OF / Kyle Muller, LHP / Braden Shewmake, SS
This is essentially what Bowden countered with following O’Brien’s initial attempt at this deal from the article the two published mentioned above. Originally, O’Brien wanted to trade Waters, Shewmake or Dansby Swanson, Kyle Wright AND Jasseel De La Cruz, but understandably, Bowden went a different direction and actually suggested that Atlanta include what I have listed above, except instead of Muller he named Jared Shuster as the feature lefty-pitcher.
For reasons that Bowden states in their article, I think IF Arizona were to even CONSIDER trading Marte — who’s only 27 and is signed through 2022 — they must feel as if they’re being overpaid, which is why I believe it would take the more established Muller instead of Shuster to make this deal work. I’ll admit, though, this is one hell of a price to pay for one player. But with Marte the Braves would instantly solve the outfield problem. I don’t love this package as I would hate to see Waters go, but it’s an interesting proposal… even if it feels like quite an overpay by Atlanta (per BTV, the Braves are actually receiving more value than the D’Backs).
Braves get — (45.7 MTV) – Bryan Reynolds, OF / Richard Rodriguez, RHP
Pirates get — (50.7 MTV) – Drew Waters, OF / Kyle Wright, RHP / Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP
This is another O’Brien/Bowden proposal in which the former began by offering an absolute haul to the other team, before the latter came in with a much fairer counter offer. To me, this deal with the Pirates gets the most bang for the Braves buck as it would add improvements to two positions of need. A lot of this is going to depend on your opinion of De La Cruz, which usually varies rather widely from person to person. For me, he’s a top-10 prospect (ninth on my top 30) and a potential starter in the majors, but for some, De La Cruz is a top 20ish or top 15 prospect.
O’Brien was willing to give practically the entire farm system to Pittsburgh in this one, listing outfielder Trey Harris, catcher Logan Brown AND Kyle Wright to go along with the three I have listed. However, I believe quality is better than quantity in this case as Waters is a top-100 prospect position-player fully capable of replacing Reynolds one day, and even if De La Cruz’s future as a starter is pure fantasy, his stock as a big time reliever is certainly still there.
Even more than the impressive stats from both players, the money aspect of Reynolds and Rodriguez is really attractive for the Braves as the former is controlled through 2025 and the latter through ’23. I mean, we’re talking the league-minimum for Reynolds this season and just $1.7 million for Rodriguez. I think this would be a solid deal for both teams.
Braves get — (23 MTV) – Mitch Haniger, OF
Mariners get — (9.4 MTV) – Bryse Wilson, RHP / Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP / Johan Camargo, INF
This is admittedly a pretty light offer by the Braves, value-wise, but considering Haniger would simply be a 1 ½ season rental, it at least should be in the ballpark. The thing that makes Seattle a difficult trade partner is that they already have a surplus of prospect outfielders (which Atlanta does too), so the featured player most likely needs to be a pitcher, and De La Cruz is about as high as the Braves should be forced to go on its Top 30 (which, again, could be a top 10 or as low as a top 20 player… depending on your opinion of him).
Camargo is where the value is hard to really determine, if there is much left anymore (according to BTV his MTV is exactly zero). At 27-years-old, Johan never became what we thought he was on the cusp of becoming following that big 2018 campaign, and so far this season he’s hitless in 15 at-bats at the big league level. However, I also don’t think you can completely ignore what he’s done in Triple-A Gwinnett lately, which has basically been “hit everything in sight. Why his success at the plate doesn’t translate to the majors is the million-dollar question, but like Wilson, perhaps a change of scenery could help him.
At 30-years-old, Haniger is having a solid season so far with Seattle, playing right around his career norms with a .257 AVG and 119 wRC+ to go with 16 home runs in 69 games. He’s not the best corner-outfielder in the world defensively, but at just over $3 million this year and a bit of a raise next season in his final year of arbitration, he’s certainly an affordable player who’s capable of 20-25 homers and a .270 AVG when healthy.
Braves get — (13.4 MTV) – Adam Frazier, 2B/OF
Pirates get — (12.4 MTV) – Kyle Muller, LHP / Trey Harris, OF
I look at this one as a deal perhaps similar to the Bryan Reynolds/Richard Rodriguez trade above, except with just Fraizer involved it could allow the Braves to keep Waters out of the mix. MLB.com’s Jake Crouse made a good point in a mailbag post he did earlier this month in which he comped Frazier’s value to that of Jonathan Villar, and though the scenarios are a bit different (Villar was set to be FA at the time of his trade in 2020, while Frazier is controlled through ’22), the cost could be fairly close. Regardless, Crouse believes it will take two or three prospects to land Frazier, with one of those being a top 30 player.
As one of the worst clubs in the sport, Pittsburgh needs essentially anything and everything, although they’ve done pretty well recently with trades, landing a top-five prospect shortstop and righty-pitcher in the Marte trade with Arizona. The Josh Bell deal also netted them one of their current top-10 prospects in pitcher Eddy Yean. The Braves will have to give the Pirates something of value for sure, but I believe Atlanta can get a deal done without involving Waters.
Reynolds wields a bit more power at the plate than compared to Frazier and is naturally an outfielder, but the two aren’t much different (despite the former being worth twice as much value-wise, per BTV). Frazier primarily plays second base but has played all three outfield spots in his MLB career, rating above-average per FanGraphs UZR/150 in left. At 29-years-old this year, Frazier is earning $4.3 million in 2021 as an ARB 2 player and will hit the free agent market in 2023. As a solid bat with doubles power, he could be a solid improvement over what the Braves are currently fielding in the outfield. And it appears the Pirates are very interested in moving Frazier.
I have Trey Harris listed here, given, outside of Waters, Cristian Pache and Michael Harris, he’s both the most valuable outfielder and the closest to the majors in the system. Coming into the 2021 campaign, Pittsburgh was known for needing outfield help, and with Harris holding his own in Double-A Mississippi so far this year, he could possibly work his way to a major league outfield in the next season or two. If you recall, Harris was the 2019 Player of the Year for the Braves entire minor league system as he rose three levels and was invited to the Arizona Fall League following that season.
Let me know which trade packages you like or dislike!