The games have begun, and we now wait to see who blinks first. Several confirmed reports say the Braves and Cubs had been talking about a trade centered around Shelby Miller and Jorge Soler (before the announcement that Chicago had agreed to a 2 year/$32 million deal with John Lackey last night), and Jerry Crasnick has reported that the Braves may just hold onto Miller for now to see what happens as the market unfolds. We’ve seen this time and time again – teams seem to line up pretty well, but one or the other pulls back for a little bit to see if they can squeeze just a little bit more value for their guy since the other team needs him more. Many of the “experts” felt that Jorge Soler alone probably wasn’t quite enough alone to merit trading Miller from the Braves’ perspective (and I have to agree with them – of course I’m also a Braves fan) – Atlanta controls Miller for three more seasons, and interest in him has never been higher – but also needs controllable impact bats to help complete their rebuild. Soler definitely fits that profile, but also comes with question marks as well – specifically a high (25+%) K-Rate and marginal defensive value. That said, there’s another powerful right-handed power bat out there (who’s widely speculated to be “unavailable” – as if there was such a thing) who just so happens to belong to a team desperately looking to add to its rotation but really only shopping for 0-3 SPs. That player of course is Aaron Judge, and his team is the New York Yankees.
Truth be told, the Yankees and Braves have probably lined up better than anyone else as trade partners since the Braves began their rebuild. They have the makings of a good young rotation (Masahiro Tanaka is expensive, but they have youngsters behind him in Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi) that could become really strong with the addition of Miller. Sliding each of those last three down a slot would allow the Yankees to line up with just about anyone’s rotation for the next three years (other than maybe the cross-town Mets, of course).
Given the craziness that’s taken place over the last 24 hours – Zack Greinke shocking everyone by signing with Arizona, Lackey signing with the Cubs, and the Giants scooping up Jeff Samardzija after missing out on Greinke – Miller’s value has substantially increased. The Dodgers are all but backed into a corner and have to sign Johnny Cueto at this point, health concerns and all. While they may also line up as someone that could target Shelby, the Yankees still look to be the “perfect match”. New York has two Top 100 prospects (reportedly the minimum someone’s going to have to pony up) to offer to land him, and they both happen to be not only MLB-ready, but also perfect fits.
So how could the teams’ brain trusts even things out to make a deal suitable for both teams’ needs and situation? Here’s a “best-guess”…
Miller and Jason Grilli for C. C. Sabathia, Judge, Gary Sanchez, and $15 million.
Why It Works For The Yankees: Miller gives the Yankees the high-end SP they need to complete a formidable rotation The Braves would also agree to take on half of the remaining money owed to Sabathia, saving New York $15 million to use in other areas. They could then dangle Brett Gardner for an upgrade at 2B (Starlin Castro, perhaps). They’d then be in position to swoop in and make a run at signing Jason Heyward to play RF – who’d be imminently affordable given the money coming off their books over the next couple of years. Sanchez is blocked by Brian McCann‘s untradeable contract, and they’d be much better defensively with Heyward patrolling the right-center gap in the Bronx instead of Judge. Grilli gives them an inexpensive reliever with closing experience to provide an almost “bulletproof” back end.
CF- Jacoby Ellsbury, RF- Jason Heyward, DH- Alex Rodriguez, 1B- Mark Teixeira, C- Brian McCann, 3B- Chase Headley, 2B- Starlin Castro, SS- Didi Gregorius
Rotation: Tanaka, Miller, Severino, Pineda, Eovaldi
Pen: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Grilli, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson, Branden Pinder
Why It Works For The Braves: The Braves get two controllable bats at positions of need to put an exclamation point on their rebuild. Judge is that perfect right-handed power bat to protect Freddie Freeman, and Sanchez shares time with A. J. Pierzynski to ease him in behind the plate for the first part of the season until a contender needs a Catcher or OF and they try to add a couple pretty good prospects in return for A. J. and Nick Markakis before the deadline. Sabathia’s contract does contain a buyout that Atlanta would have to pay when at the non-tender deadline next winter, but he fits the mold the organization established when it took on Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to clear Chris Johnson’s money from the 2017 ledger. Assuming he returns from his alcohol problems, C. C. fills a rotation slot until one (or more) of the youngsters force their way into the rotation for good. This kind of deal could shock many of the naysayers (Braves fans included) who see no way the stated goal of becoming competitive again by 2017 can be reached. Offering a Qualifying Offer to Erick Aybar next winter would bridge the gap to the team’s SS of the future (Ozhaino Albies) perfectly and allow him to develop at his own pace. The Braves would then give flamethrowing (and control-challenged) new acquisition Jose Ramirez a shot at filling Grilli’s spot in the pen since he’s out of options.
Opening Day 2016 Braves:
SS- Erick Aybar, LF- Hector Olivera, 1B- Freeman, C- Pierzynski/Sanchez, RF- Nick Markakis, 3B- Adonis Garcia, 2B- Jace Peterson, CF- Michael Bourn
Rotation: Julio Teheran, Bud Norris, Matt Wisler, Sabathia/Mike Foltynewicz/Manny Banuelos/Williams Perez/Ryan Weber
Pen: Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson, Chris Withrow, Sabathia/Ian Krol, Jose Ramirez, Matt Marksberry, Daniel Winkler
Midseason 2016/Opening Day 2017 Braves:
CF- Mallex Smith, LF- Olivera, 1B, Freeman, RF- Judge, C- Sanchez, SS- Aybar, 3B- Garcia, 2B- Peterson
(Markakis and Pierzynski traded, Bourn and Swisher released or traded)
Rotation: Sean Newcomb, Teheran, Lucas Sims, Wisler, Tyrell Jenkins/Perez/Weber/John Gant
(Sabathia released and Norris traded)
Pen: Vizcaino, Foltynewicz, Shae Simmons, Banuelos, Withrow, Ramirez/Winkler, Krol/Marksberry
(Johnson traded, Sabathia released and Paco Rodriguez returning in 2017)