Santa, Are You Listening???

So here we are on the last Saturday of November, recovered (or recovering) from our turkey comas and hoping we can find SOME way to eventually pay off the credit card bills that we (and/or our significant others) ran up Thursday evening and yesterday on Black Friday (while also still trying to figure out what the name for Thursday’s portion of that will be referred to as one day). Like millions of folks this time of year, I began compiling my Christmas wish list yesterday. I only made it to number one before my head began to spin as much as my stomach after jotting down the same item that always seems to top the list – another Braves’ Championship. Taking the afternoon off may or may not have been such a good idea since it gave me time to think about how to make that wish come true, sooner rather than later – and WITHOUT compromising the organization’s rebuilding/reloading/restocking process.

When taking into account the most recent rumors making the rounds as well as trying to line things up with the organization’s stated goal of becoming competitive again by the time 2017 rolls around, it’s tough to see that happening without another drastic trade or two given the current group of players available via free-agency and the one presumably available next winter. Braves’ Chairman Terry McGuirk has been recently quoted as saying that payroll will increase substantially beginning in January of 2017, but unless several prospects’ timelines move up quite a bit (threatening to hurt their development), there will still be holes that can’t be filled simply by “buying” players. So…

New GM John Coppolella not so eloquently (or particularly convincingly, truth be told) shot down rumors that current face-of-the-franchise and 1B Freddie Freeman was available and/or being “shopped”. While it’s probably safe to say that’s the case for the time being, it’s also likely that Coppy earned himself a “how to deal with the media” session with President of Baseball Operations John Hart and Team President John Schuerholz. Everyone’s always “available” for the right price in today’s MLB – especially when you’re trying to rebuild your organization. However, many of the national writers have continued to run with that thought, surmising at the very least that even if Freeman can’t be had everyone else with value can. Since that’s the prevailing feeling, we’ve identified several potential trade targets that would help fill the perceived holes the Braves could have as they move into SunTrust Park to begin the 2017 season as well as a couple free-agent signings that would seem to make sense along those lines.

Trade 1:

Nick Markakis to the Baltimore Orioles for Brian Matusz and Jason Garcia. Matusz would be able to step right in and give the Braves a quality lefty in the pen to help avoid the constant pen meltdowns it dealt with in 2015. He would be tough for the Orioles to lose given the impending departure of Darren O’Day, but it’s going to be harder for them to find a comparably-priced and productive OF on this winter’s market. Garcia would provide another potential live pen arm for the future, possibly even helping in 2016.

Why? Trading Markakis would clear more salary to be used for other purposes, perhaps even “buying” another prospect by taking on an undesirable salary. With Hector Olivera moving to LF, one corner spot will be taken. Markakis would be much easier to move than Nick Swisher – Baltimore’s been rumored to be interested in a reunion, so they provide the obvious landing spot. Swisher could take over in RF for the time being to earn at least some of his salary as well as hopefully providing a little more power to an offense that’s starved for it – at least keeping the spot warm until the target of our next deal is ready to step in.

Trade 2:

Shelby Miller to the Texas Rangers for Nomar Mazara. Mazara is another big (6’4″, 195 and still growing) left-handed hitting RF with a plus arm (25 assists in the last two seasons) that would help limit the opposition’s running games. The 20 year old is almost a finished product (ending last season on a tear at AAA Round Rock), and could potentially be ready to send Swisher back to a bench role as early as the All-Star Break. Plugging Miller into Texas’ rotation behind Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels would make the Rangers an extremely tough out for anyone come playoff time for the next three years.

Why? While not quite as good a defender, Mazara would remind Braves’ fans of Jason Heyward (the one who hit 27 HRs as a 22 year old in 2012), and would be under team control for six years – in essence allowing the team to recreate its once-feared “Dynamic Duo” – just without committing upwards of $200 million to Nomar. The recent signing of Bud Norris wouldn’t be so much a “replacement” for Miller, but will provide an experienced veteran who’s had past success (and with something to prove) to buy more time for the higher upside arms (Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims, and Tyrell Jenkins – all of whom could be ready by 2017 if not sometime this season) to polish things up before assuming full-time roles in the rotation.

Free-Agent Signing #1:

Mat Latos – 1 year, $10-$12 million. A Latos signing would represent several things. First, he’d be a gamble on a Pitcher coming off a very disappointing 2015 season who actually could provide a replacement for Shelby Miller at the top of the rotation. Prior to an injury-shortened (yet successful) 2014 campaign, Mat was an “Ace” in the making that the Reds traded only because they weren’t going to be able to afford him. He had posted four consecutive seasons with more than 184 IP, with ERAs below 3.50, WHIPs below 1.25, and more than 8 Ks/9 IP. He’d obviously help buy time for the young guns, and if he rediscovers his prior form, would give Coppolella a huge trade chip come deadline time (or even a potential extension candidate). The organization currently has somewhere in the $20-$30 million range to spend on upgrades to the 2016 squad, and a Markakis trade would provide even more flexibility.

Trade 3:

Julio Teheran to the Colorado Rockies for Ryan McMahon and Jesus Tinoco. Yes, losing Julio would be another tough pill for the fanbase to swallow, but the deal could land the organization its long-term answer at 3B and another middle-of-the-order bat that would be under control for years to come. A Gold-Glove level defender at the hot corner, McMahon should be ready to take over the position full-time by 2017. Tinoco would give the Braves yet another young (20 years old) RHP with a live arm (touching 95 currently) and time on his side. Teheran would give the Rockies an inexpensive SP to pair with Jon Gray and Jeff Hoffman at the top of their rotation as they continue to try to find some way to pitch at Coors Field.

Free-Agent Signing #2:

Bartolo Colon – 1 year, $10 million. Colon would provide many of the same things you’d hope for in signing Latos – a capable starter to replace Teheran in the 2016 rotation to provide a bridge to the young arms. Neither signing would cost the Braves an unprotected draft pick since they weren’t extended Qualifying Offers. While Colon wouldn’t be an extension candidate (even if he pitches well), he’d provide quality innings as well as becoming a nice trade piece if he has a typical first half. Most importantly, he’s probably the best example the organization could hope to have its youngsters watch as they continue their development – his impeccable fastball command is proof of how successful they could become with nothing other than improvement in that area.

Free-Agent Signing #3:

Chris Young – 2 years, $12 million. Young would provide the perfect fourth OF – a plus defender at all 3 OF spots with pop (14 HRs in a platoon role with the Yankees last season), he could be a right-handed platoon mate for Bourn in CF or slide over and play RF everyday in the event Swisher is unproductive.

 

These moves could not only help meet the goal of becoming legitimate contenders as early as 2017, but also could make the team more competitive this season. They’d also result in the following future lineups…

Opening Day 2016:

SS- Erick Aybar, LF- Hector Olivera, 1B- Freddie Freeman, C- A. J. Pierzynski, RF- Nick Swisher, 3B- Adonis Garcia, 2B- Jace Peterson, CF- Michael Bourn

Bench: C- Christian Bethancourt, 2B/SS/3B- Daniel Castro, RF/LF/CF- Chris Young, 2B/3B/SS- Pedro Ciriaco, RF/LF/CF- Eury Perez

Rotation: Latos, Colon, Norris, Matt Wisler, Foltynewicz/Banuelos/Williams Perez/Ryan Weber

Bullpen: Jason Grilli, Arodys Vizcaino, Matusz, David Carpenter, Chris Withrow, Ian Krol, Daniel Winkler

 

Midseason 2016:

CF- Mallex Smith, SS- Aybar, 1B- Freeman, LF- Olivera, C- Pierzynski, 3B- Garcia, RF- Nomar Mazara, 2B- Peterson (Bourn and Swisher traded or released)

Bench: C- Bethancourt, SS/2B/3B- Castro, CF/RF/LF- Young, 2B/3B/SS- Ciriaco, CF/LF/RF- Perez

Rotation: Latos, Newcomb, Foltynewicz, Wisler, Sims (Colon and Norris traded or released)

Bullpen: Vizcaino, Shae Simmons, Matusz, Withrow, Garcia, Banuelos, Winkler (Grilli and Carpenter traded or released)

 

Opening Day 2017:

CF- Smith, SS- Ozhaino Albies (or veteran stopgap), 1B- Freeman, 3B- McMahon, RF- Mazara, LF- Olivera, C- Bethancourt/free-agent signing or veteran from trade, 2B- Peterson

Bench: C- Bethancourt/free-agent signing or veteran from trade, SS/2B/3B- Castro, CF/RF/LF- Young, 2B/SS- Johan Camargo, LF- Dustin Peterson

Rotation: Stephen Strasburg (2016 FA Target), Latos (extended), Newcomb, Sims, Wisler

Bullpen:

Vizcaino, Simmons, Foltynewicz, Paco Rodriguez, Withrow, Banuelos, Garcia

 

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8 responses to “Santa, Are You Listening???

  1. Nicely thought out and stated. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Look, the prospects these deals would net are certainly good. However, in the magical world where Mat Latos provides enough at the TOP of our rotation to make up for the loss of Teheran and Miller, and Chris Young provides little more than a BJ Upton-esque bench bat, the Braves may as well win the World Series every year for the rest of history. There is just no way the Braves will deal Teheran and Miller this offseason, maybe one of them, but not both. It goes completely against the plan they already have in place for the future (to build around young controllable pitching). It’s also incredibly unrealistic to imagine all of those prospects in the Major League lineup in 2017. It’s almost impossible that the Braves don’t trade some of their young pitching for at least one or two quality bats if they really want to be successful in 2017. The Braves have a long history of over-hyping prospects, and it’s likely that only a handful of the pitching prospects they’ve acquired will develop into #1 or #2 starters in the rotation. As far as the FA signings mentioned here, the Braves have already acquired their veteran starter in Bud Norris. The signing of Mat Latos would be a dreadful mistake for the club, as it would represent a significant financial commitment for a player who has not recently put up numbers close to those he posted in his first few years. Latos is a number 5 starter at best these days. Bartolo Colon is 42 years old, and despite the control he still has on his fastball, would not come close to replacing Teheran or Miller. Also, why would the Braves spend north of $20 million on aging/statistically declining pitchers just to fill up the rotation for a year or two? The money owed to Latos and Colon would likely haunt them for all of the 2016 season, with Latos continuing to get crushed by the opposition (picture a Latos line of 2-8 with a 6.71 ERA) and Colon moving to the bullpen after getting smacked around a couple times. The two veterans would also just represent expensive logjams in the rotation preventing young arms like Wisler, Sims, or Newcomb from getting any reps. As far as the projected 2017 team, why would the Braves spend money on Stephen Strasburg? Strasburg (since his call-up) has proven incredibly injury-prone, and has really only had one above average season on the mound. His mechanics are miserable, and he’s likely to continue suffering injuries until an early retirement. Why would the Braves pay the likely $100+ million over 5+ years for a PITCHER when the system is chock full of young talent? It’s far more likely the Braves will trade a couple of arms for a young bat in 2017, hopefully a 3B, since realistically there’s no way Rio Ruiz is the answer. Although there is a lot of hope in this article, there is not a lot of evidence to provide reason to believe these moves would really help the Braves. The Braves currently have holes at C, 3B, 2B, and about 4 holes in the bullpen. The return of Simmons and Grilli could help the ‘pen, and a player like Matusz would also provide depth, but there is no true 8th inning arm in the Braves ‘pen going into 2016. In Bethencourt, the Braves have a young prospect whom they vastly over-hyped at a time when their farm system was one of the weakest in baseball. There is no way he earns a long-term starting spot with the Braves, unless his bat picks up considerably and his defense begins to at least reach league average. As it stands, he represents a catcher with a .205 average and the most pass balls in the league. At 3B, the Braves have no real solution. Hopefully Austin Riley will be as good as advertised when he’s ready (likely in 2018). At 2B, Jace Peterson is definitely not a long-term answer. He’s a .240 hitter with minimal speed and a league average glove. The rotation is also full of question marks, with a 1-2-3 punch of Miller, Teheran, and Norris the only sure things. The Braves will likely give the #4 spot in the rotation to Matt Wisler, and the rest of their prospects will have to duke it out for the 5th spot. Hopefully the Braves make the smart choice and move Folty to the ‘pen… a guy with one pitch (a 100 mph fastball) is never going to enjoy much success as a starter, especially with his shaky control. The Braves need to keep building their farm system while conserving money and biding their time, making good moves (like the Simmons trade) in the offseason and avoiding mistakes (like the Gattis trade, which left them with jack sh*t as far as prospects go). Then, and only then, will they be successful in 2017. Signing declining veteran pitchers with injury problems is not the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Several of those points are certainly legitimate (and much appreciated) wcwbryant. However, you’re completely discounting the fact that the whole world knows teams that have traded for Braves’ over-hyped pitching prospects in the past have been burned. It’s going to be painful to trade either of Miller or Teheran (if it ever happens), but moving at least one appears to be the only way they’re going to be able to get a young, controllable, impact bat. They didn’t get one in the Heyward, Upton, Gattis, or Kimbrel deals, and I personally believe Coppy when he says no one else offered to give one up before they settled on the return for Simmons.

    Riley’s defense at 3B could be a concern eventually, forcing a move to LF or 1B if his bat develops as hoped.

    I’d love to see some of the young guns get shots with the big club as well, but the brass isn’t going to throw them into the fire if they don’t feel they can mentally handle getting their brains beat in at this level for awhile. The point behind signing another arm or two isn’t to slow their paths, it’s to make them work harder and force their way into the rotation for good. This front office combination has already proven they’re willing to eat money when it’s time to cut bait with a veteran to make room for the kids – one year signings of Pitchers like Latos, Colon, and even Norris would be designed to improve the return you might get by dealing them at the deadline. I’ve been on the record as someone pleading for them to transition not only Folty but Banuelos as well to the pen for some time. If you’ll look at those future projected lineups closer, you’ll notice that. The organization has long been known as one that will give guys like them every chance to develop as starters – to its detriment at times IMO. When healthy, a pen consisting of Vizcaino, Folty, Simmons, Paco, Withrow, Banuelos, and Mauricio Cabrera (if his control would improve) would have a legitimate chance to rival what we’ve seen from the Royals in recent years.

    I’m guilty of “pie-in-the-sky” hopes at times as much as any fan – I regret that that apparently offends you, but appreciate your right to voice your opposing opinions all the same.

    Thanks for reading and sharing them!

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    • Hey man, I really didn’t intend to come off as so aggressive and rude, and after re-reading my initial post, I apologize. I guess my problem with the signings of Latos and Colon specifically is that Latos has not shown at ALL in recent years that he’s capable of leading a rotation, and Colon’s age is certainly a factor (PEDs or not). I think they definitely need a young controllable bat, but I don’t think they’ll receive that for Miller or Teheran. I’ve heard they’ll only sell Miller for a huge return, but I can’t think of a lot of teams who would be wiling to give up a Corey Seager-esque player in exchange for an arm who really projects as a #2 or #3 guy. Selling Teheran right now would be selling low, after his struggles in the early half of the season. I think they would be much better off starting the season w/ those two in the rotation and then sell high on one or both at the Deadline if their record is poor and their numbers are good.

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      • There’s certainly an argument that can be made that dealing Teheran now would be selling low, you’re right. However, he recovered quite a bit of value with his strong finish and his contract is one of the best values out there. Most teams sound as if they see his first half as an aberration – particularly since he altered his mechanics to take pressure off his knee after being hit by a line-drive early on. You might not be getting full value by dealing him now, but you wouldn’t be selling him at a huge discount either. Miller has suddenly become the biggest name out there over the last 24 hours since both Price and Greinke may be off the market before the Winter Meetings begin Sunday and Johnny Cueto and the Diamondbacks seem to be at least relatively close to the framework of an agreement. The market is quickly adjusting to place huge value on what it always has – young, controllable starting pitching – and the Braves are loaded with it.

        Latos and Colon are just examples of veterans the team could go after to fill out the rotation to buy time for long-term pieces like Newcomb, Sims, and Jenkins to have the time needed to polish things in Gwinnett without being “rushed”. Is it likely that Latos rediscovers his top-of-the-rotation form? Probably not, but he’s still relatively young and does possess that kind of upside. Colon is definitely more of a mid-rotation starter (at best) at this point, but signing him would be intended to provide the younger Pitchers someone they could learn from (much like the Grilli and Jim Johnson signings were last year and the Johnson re-signing last week). Both would be low-risk signings that would likely accept one year contracts as stopgaps, and most importantly wouldn’t cost the Braves a draft pick. Like Bud Norris, the hope would be that they pitch well and you can move all three for even more prospect depth come deadline time – all three would be exactly the types of Pitchers contenders look for when dealing for rentals. If you don’t get anything for them you really haven’t lost anything and they’re not in the way if the young guns take steps forward and prove rotation-ready in 2017.

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  4. Jonathan shrewsbury

    Sounds all very reasonable. Just wish they would make some positive moves.

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  5. A joke I hope. Colon? Latos? Why don’t we just open a Senior Citizens Home or Has Been Heaven. Norris you see as a starter? Oy!
    How about Shelby, Markakis and Shae Simmons for Soler and Baez of the Cubs?
    Or Williams Perez and two other young arms for Brett Lawrie? You have Adonis Garcia penciled in for 3B. He never hit for power before so his 10 homers are an aberration.

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    • Assuming Miller and/or Teheran are traded, you can bet you’ll likely see other veterans signed for the rotation. The brass won’t go into the season with a rotation full of nothing but the young arms plus Norris. They’ve stated this several times. There are very few Pitchers that can experience a year like Shelby Miller did last year or a rookie season like Tom Glavine did without it destroying their confidence. The organization showed last season that they’re not going to rush prospects – shuffling Wisler, Foltynewicz, Banuelos, and Perez back and forth between Atlanta and Gwinnett. They won’t keep them in the rotation if they’re getting their brains beat in and aren’t making adjustments if they don’t feel they can handle it mentally.

      Unfortunately Miller, Markakis, and Simmons won’t come close to getting you Soler AND Baez, but both are interesting targets and would help fill long-term needs. The general consensus around baseball right now is that Teheran’s not enough to get the Braves either of them, and given the buzz surrounding Miller over the last 24 hours he’s too much to give up for either of them alone. A Miller for Soler and Willson Contreras deal could potentially work for both sides. Shelby’s currently the hottest name in baseball circles following the news that David Price signed with Boston and Zack Greinke’s likely to choose between the Dodgers and Giants within the next 48 hours, but he’s probably not enough to fetch a truly elite young player/prospect (Arizona said no when told he’d cost A. J. Pollock, the Dodgers said no when the Braves asked about Corey Seager) on his own but we all know things can change quickly this time of year.

      Garcia is currently the Braves’ 3B following the choice to move Olivera to LF. As for his power (which is typically the last tool to develop), his final 368 AAA ABs with the Yankees produced an ISO of .155 (9 HRs) and his 198 ABs with the Braves last season produced an ISO of .220 (10 HRs). That’s 19 HRs in less than a full season. His MLB pace is likely unsustainable, but 15-20 HRs over a full season is not out of the question. FWIW, Derek Norris (14 HRs), Buster Posey (19 HRs), Ian Desmond (19 HRs), Brett Lawrie (16 HRs), Marcus Semien (15 HRs), Jason Heyward (13 HRs), Jose Altuve (15 HRs), Brett Gardner (16 HRs), and Billy Butler (15 HRs) all posted ISOs below the .155 line Garcia did just before the Braves picked him up. Giving up potential rotation options to “upgrade” to someone like Lawrie doesn’t make much sense when you consider he’s not likely to be a long-term option as well (Lawrie’s projected to make $3.9 million through arbitration in 2016, and would only be controllable through 2017).

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