ESPN’s David Schoenfield writes that if the Braves are serious about contending, they should trade for Evan Longoria. I disagree. While an upgrade at the hot corner should be a priority — Adonis is a modern-day Jim Presley, minus the mother issues — the Braves don’t need another everyday player over 30. Longoria will be 32 in October, and, despite a major uptick in his power numbers last year, he’s not the player he was in his 20s.
Tampa’s lone star walked just 42 times last year, the fourth year in a row they’ve decreased, and finished 2016 with a career-worst .318 OBP. His contract is reasonable (averaging a little over $16 mil annually) but runs through 2022, when Longoria will be 38, but the cost in prospects would be steep. The Rays would no doubt demand Albies be a part of any deal, along with at least two of the Braves top pitching prospects.
There’s a more natural trading partner for the Braves, a team which needs pitching depth and have a young, big league ready (or close) third sacker currently blocked by the Cubs’ talented core. Switch-hitter Jeimer Candelario is the natural option. He’s improved every year in the minors, posting a .374 OBP and .462 slugging percentage last year between Double-and-Triple-A ball. There’s varying opinions on his defensive skills but he couldn’t be worse than Garcia. Seeing the Cubs lack of pitching depth in the high minors, and the lack of an opening for Candelario, Aaron Blair would probably be enough to swing a deal.
Ian Happ is even more intriguing. The 9th overall pick in the 2015 draft, the switch-hitting Happ can play all outfield positions and second base. He’s playing some third base this spring, seeking to model himself after fellow Cub Ben Zobrist. How badly could the Braves bench, which in its present state is abysmal at best, use a player like that? Happ’s been killing the ball this spring, batting .467 with 3 HR. The 21-year-old may not be ready to break camp, but he’s close.
Blair wouldn’t be enough to get him, but Sean Newcomb, often compared to Jon Lester, might get it done. They could have Matt Wisler too. It would be a coup if the Braves could get catcher Victor Caratini back in a deal. Drafted by the Braves in the 2nd round in 2013, Caratini projects more as a back-up. He’s adequate defensively and hit .291 with a .375 OBP last year at Double-A Tennessee.
The Braves shouldn’t be playing for this year. They’re not going to contend, not with that bench behind an aging line-up and a pitching staff that’s even older. Longoria might get them to .500, but that’s not worth mortgaging the future for a player on the wrong side of 30.