Thankfully the team FINALLY gets the medication it needed – cheese steaks and a strong start from one of the kids – and the long losing streak is over. This gives Braves’ Nation a chance to catch its collective breath and back away from the edge – even if only for a day or two. Since we all get a chance to wake up with the sun shining and good thoughts for at least one morning, I thought this might be a good time to kick around another potential offseason fix for John Hart & Company to ponder this winter. Our last look was an approach to “fixing” the OF while adding some offense, and this entry will look to address that situation as well.
With the emergence of Jackie Bradley, the Red Sox have another huge logjam in their OF, so they become an obvious potential offseason trade partner yet again. They’re currently discussing a permanent move of Hanley Ramirez to 1B to create room for both Castillo and Bradley to play every day with Mookie Betts. Of course they have Top 100 prospects in fellow international transplant Yoan Moncada, Manuel Margot, and 2015 draftee Andrew Benintendi in the pipeline behind Castillo. Boston learned the hard way that a rotation with five #2/#3 SPs (on paper anyway) just isn’t going to get anything done in the always competitive AL East.
Hart & Company have sent mixed messages (at best) about their plans for this winter thus far – being quoted as saying “they’re not going to be in on the big bats” while more recently stating that there’s plenty of financial flexibility this winter and even more next winter. The team is desperately in need of offense if it wants to be even somewhat “relevant” in 2016, as in not in the hunt for the #1 pick in the 2017 Draft as well. The young Pitchers have taken their lumps while learning on the job this season, and while there were pleasant signs of making adjustments in Matt Wisler’s relief appearance after getting pounded by the Nats in his last start last week and a nice start from Williams Perez against the Phillies last night, there’s still that feel that only one or two will eventually work out (much less reach his ceiling). There’s always a chance that a couple of them could become fixtures in Atlanta’s pens moving forward and the organization could bring in an established starter (or two).
While Castillo hasn’t yet shown the power of the available free-agent options (Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes) or previously profiled trade candidate Ryan Braun, he’s both younger (27) and far less expensive than those three. He struggled early this season and was sent down, but since being called back up in late July and getting regular ABs (33 games, 120 ABs) he’s quietly slashing .317/.347/.458/.804 with 4 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 3 HRs, 20 RBIs, and 23 runs scored. The Sox owe Rusney ($57,000,000) $16.4 million more than the Braves owe Julio Teheran ($40,600,000) over the same time period assuming Julio’s 2020 option is picked up, so a deal involving the two would only slightly affect future payrolls.
So here’s another trio of proposals I wouldn’t mind seeing Hart & Company make this winter…
1.) Julio Teheran for Rusney Castillo,
2.) Christian Bethancourt, Adonis Garcia, Rio Ruiz, Lucas Sims, and Ricardo Sanchez for Jonathon Lucroy, and…
3.) Cameron Maybin for Willson Contreras.
Trade One – Why Boston Says “Yes”…
Whether Teheran returns to form and can be a #2 level SP in that Division is questionable, but he would provide an inexpensive option to pair with Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, and Brian Johnson for solid depth that would allow them to turn around and play on one of the Price/Greinke/Cueto/Zimmerman “Aces” if they decided to move Clay Buchholz for more prospects this winter. Julio gives them another high-upside arm that allows them to unload Buchholz and create the additional financial flexibility to go after a true “Ace” to front their rotation. If they chose not to aggressively push another of their prospects to fill Castillo’s spot, we’re all aware that they’ve always got the money to go after another top-flight OF as well, and going after say Jason Heyward might not only help them but would keep him away from the hated Yankees. Boston was below the luxury tax penalty threshold by ~$5 million to begin 2015, and clearing Buchholz and Castillo from their payroll would provide new President Dave Dombrowski another $20,200,000 to make additions with for 2016 without exceeding the luxury tax cap.
Trade One – Why Atlanta Says “Yes”…
Castillo provides a high-upside young OF bat that’s controllable at potentially below market value for the same period the Braves currently control Teheran. Yes, Julio’s the most well-known commodity of the organization’s young Pitchers and has shown signs of returning to form of late, but while the Braves’ MO looks like they’re not going to go after top of the market free-agents, there are several more affordable second-tier options that might be available to them to mix with the kids and round out a very good rotation (eventually, of course).
Trade Two – Why Milwaukee Says “Yes”…
Bethancourt gives the Brewers a young and controllable option behind the plate that might simply need a change of scenery to reach his ceiling, Garcia gives them an inexpensive 3B option with some pop to possibly bridge the gap to Ruiz, and Sims and Sanchez give them a couple high-upside arms (one of whom may not be that far away given Sims’ strong finish in 2015).
Trade Two – Why Atlanta Says “Yes”…
Lucroy provides the Braves their “answer” behind the plate for the near future. He’d provide even more inexpensive offense with a short-term exposure contract. He’s under control through 2017, at which point one of the youngsters (Lucas Herbert or Jonathon Morales) could be getting close to ready. Perhaps even more importantly, Lucroy wouldn’t cost much more than it’s likely to cost to bring A. J. Pierzynski back.
Trade Three – Why Chicago Says “Yes”…
Maybin provides the Cubs the perfect replacement for pending free-agent Dexter Fowler as well as the perfect bridge to Billy McKinney or Albert Almora. Cameron would seemingly be a much better fit for Chicago than trying to retain Fowler on a 4 or 5 year deal, providing Theo and Jed more flexibility to add that one more SP this winter to really help them stand on the gas in 2016.
Trade Three – Why Atlanta Says “Yes”…
The organization committed to paying Michael Bourn’s 2016 salary when they were able to clear Chris Johnson from their 2017 books, so you’ve got a veteran to lean on in CF in the event Mallex Smith isn’t quite ready to handle the job at the beginning of next season. Contreras replaces Bethancourt as the organization’s Catcher of the future (with potentially more offensive upside) who could be ready to step in when Lucroy’s deal ends.
If completed, the three deals would bring the organization’s projected 2016 payroll to $88,357,858 without an extension for Shelby Miller (who could simply be renewed without one). Offering him a 5 year/$37.1 million extension including a 2021 option for $13 million structured similarly to the one given Teheran would bring that total to $90,857,858, leaving substantial wiggle room to add a significant piece or two to the rotation. Potential second-tier SP targets who would look great in such a scenario might include Jeff Samardzija and Jaime Garcia. Ken Rosenthal surmises Samardzija might be attainable for something similar to James Shields’ Padres deal in today’s column. A much more reasonable $19 million/year gamble on Samardzija than one of the proven “Aces” would be much less dangerous long-term, and would only bump that projected payroll number to $109,857,858. Another sensible 2 year $20 million offer to someone like Garcia or Brett Anderson would re-establish serious rotation depth moving forward AND keep payroll below $120 million.
Potential 2016 Roster (Contract expiration and future replacement with ETA)
1.) CF- Michael Bourn (2017…Mallex Smith – Late 2016)
2.) RF- Rusney Castillo (2020…Braxton Davidson – Early 2018)
3.) 1B- Freddie Freeman (2021…Juan Yepez – Early 2019)
4.) 3B- Hector Olivera (2020…Austin Riley – Late 2018)
5.) LF- Nick Markakis (2018…Connor Lien – Late 2017)
6.) C- Jonathon Lucroy (2017…Lucas Herbert – Early 2019)
7.) 2B- Jace Peterson (2021…Ozhaino Albies – Early 2017)
8.) SS- Andrelton Simmons (2020…Derian Cruz – Early 2019)
SPs – Shelby Miller, Jeff Samardzija, Jaime Garcia/Brett Anderson, Matt Wisler, Manny Banuelos, with Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins, Williams Perez, Andrew Thurman, Kyle Kinman, Rob Whalen, and John Gant for depth
Pen – Arodys Vizcaino, Shae Simmons, Chris Withrow, Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos, Andrew McKirahan, Paco Rodriguez, Matt Marksberry, Danny Burawa, and the rehabbing Jason Grilli and Daniel Winkler.
Bench – C- Ryan Lavarnway ($750,000), INF- Daniel Castro ($530,000), 1B/OF- Nick Swisher, INF/OF- Pedro Ciriaco ($750,000)