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#Braves have little left to deal, and the dominant bullpen that could be

Arodys Vizcaino might have brought back an intriguing prospect. But after a series of bad outings, and now a DL stint, Coppy would be selling low on Viz.

Keeping him would give the Braves a dynamic, and extremely cost-effective, bullpen in 2017 that could be the envy of baseball. From the left side, Ian Krol has been a revelation, holding lefties to a .584 OPS, holding his own vs. righties and striking out more than a batter per inning. Dario Alvarez has missed even more bats, averaging two strikeouts per inning. Hunter Cervenka has struggled with control but has shown an ability to pitch out of trouble. Perhaps the best of the southpaws available to the Braves is 2015 draft pick A.J. Minter who, in 20-2/3 IP, has allowed six hits, 5 walks and struck out 27.

From the right side, Vizcaino, Mauricio Cabrera, Shae Simmons (die to be activated soon), Chris Withrow and Dan Winkler, if healthy, provide just as much firepower.

So back to Coppy’s favorite pastime: Trades. What’s left to deal? Don’t be surprised if he attempts to package some prospects to Milwaukee for Jonathan Lucroy, a gifted hitter and among the top defensive backstops in the game. He’s signed through next year, so seemingly any deal would be contingent on an extension, but there would be risks involved, mainly Lucroy’s age (he turns 31 next June).

It would seem to be Coppy’s best chance to make a significant deal. Hopefully he can unload Markakis but he wouldn’t get much in return. Aybar, Jim Johnson, et al will fetch even less. If anything.

 

Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar tosses the ball to second to force out Houston Astros' Jose Altuve after diving for a ball hit by George Springer during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 5, 2014, in, Anaheim, Calif.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) 
 ** Usable by LA, DC, CGC and CCT Only **

Aybar, Markakis should be available to the highest bidder

If I was Coppy the call to Cards GM John Mozeliak would’ve already been placed. St. Louis is likely to be in the market for a shortstop after learning Jhonny Peralta will be sidelined for up to three months with a bum thumb.

Erick Aybar is a nice player who have zero impact on the 2016 Braves. He’s a free agent after the season and there’s zero chance he’s re-signed. Yes, watching Daniel Castro or Gordon Beckham man shortstop wold be painful but temporary.

Aybar isn’t the only Brave who belongs on the trading block. Baltimore apparently is interested in a reunion with Nick Markakis but, according to Peter Gammons, the Bravos aren’t listening.

Which makes zero sense. He’s still owed $33 million over three years and at the moment seems destined to block Mallex Smith. That may not be an issue if Hector Olivera is a bust but the Braves are going to be very patient with the Cuban import considering their investment.

Aybar and Markakis won’t fetch premium prospects but should net some useful parts. Hopefully neither player is wearing a Braves uniform come August.

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Adrian Devine, the all-time throw-in

Three trades consummated over three years and three days in December.  The one constant? Adrian Devine, drafted by Atlanta, traded to Texas, dealt back to the Braves then re-acquired by the Rangers. That’s a lot of movement for a guy whose career compares most closely to former Braves farmhand Zach Miner.

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Meet the 2016 Braves

We have a pretty good idea how the 2016 Braves will look, and that’s why I don’t like the trade with the Indians.

Bourn, Peterson, Markakis, Freddie, Olivera, Maybin, Simmons, Catcher TBD

Bourn and Swisher take up two roster spots. God forbid Jonny Gomes’s option vests because then you’ll have five outfielders under contract in 2016. Sure, you could trade Maybin but I’m not sure the return would be worth it.

The Braves have left themselves with little flexibility for next year. Unless they bring in a superstar catcher, which isn’t happening, 2016 is going to look a lot like 2015.

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#Braves front office, Rowland thinking alike

Column one features moves we proposed on July 17, two weeks before the trading deadline.

Julio Teheran for Yasiel Puig/Braves reportedly offered Julio for another RH-hitting Cuban RF, Jorge Soler

Cameron Maybin for Giants C Andrew Susac/We learned today Braves offered Maybin for another young catching prospect … 

Jose Peraza to the Yankees for catching prospect Gary Sanchez/Yankees didn’t bite on Maybin for Sanchez, but with Brian McCann blocking his path to New York this is something the Braves may revisit. The Steinbrenners need pitching, the Braves need a catcher and Sanchez looks to be finally fulfilling his promise, batting .266-15-49 between Double and Triple-A ball, with a .823  OPS. 

 

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I sort of like the #Braves trade

It seems like a lot to give up. Alex Wood has a career 3.10 ERA and won’t be eligible for free agency until 2020. Jose Peraza is, according to many evaluators, the Braves’ top prospect. Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan are solid bullpen arms.

The return isn’t what you’d expect. Hector Olivera is a right-handed hitting 3B with a sweet swing and questionable health. Paco Rodriguez is a left-handed reliever who, if healthy, is better than Avilan. But he has’t been healthy for a few years.

But did the Braves give up that much? Wood has regressed, and the decline in his peripherals is even more striking. He’s gone from an averaging 8.9 K/9 IP from 2013-14 to 6.8 this year. He’s given up two more hits per 9 this year than last, and his WHIP has risen from 1.142 to 1.408.

Batters are making more contact against him than they ever have at the major league level. Year-over-year, his outside of the zone contact and zone contact percentages have increased:

2013: O-Contact% 60.4%, Z-Contact% 85%
2014: O-Contact% 63%, Z-Contact% 86.8%
2015: O-Contact% 74.1%, Z-Contact% 91.4%

Then there’s that delivery, and the fact he’s already undergone one Tommy John surgery.

Peraza can hit, but can he hit enough to overcome Chris Johnson-like walk levels? He’s drawn just 32 bases on balls since the beginning of 2014, and even though he’s batting .295 this year his OBP is lower than Andrelton’s. He’s stolen 25 bases, down from 60 a year ago (in 15 more games). More alarming are the 19 errors he’s made in 81 games at second base.

I’d rate Ozhaino Albies ahead of Peraza at this point. Albies is only 18 but has shown much more plate maturity than Peraza, walking 33 times and showing surprising power, with 20 doubles and 8 triples. He’s also considered superior defensively.

Olivera is at least as much of an injury risk as Wood, but his potential is far greater. But he is 30 years old and will be under contract for the next five years. But if he produces as expected, his $32 million salary will be a steal. The Yankees paid $20 million more for a 30-year-old Chase Headley (career ,753 OPS). Olivera is a lifetime 323 hitter with a .407 OBP and .504 slugging percentage. It would be overly optimistic to expect him to repeat those numbers, but good luck finding a plus bat who plays the hot corner and bats from the right side.

Rodriguez has barely pitched the last two years and is currently rehabbing from surgery to remove loose debris from his throwing elbow. But he’s been terrific when healthy, allowing 55 hits in 85 innings and striking out more than a batter per inning. Paco has held lefties to a .174 BA.

The Braves received question marks but dealt some, too. I’m surprised the Braves couldn’t have gotten more, but, if Olivera stays healthy, John Hart just filled a major need.

Unfortunately, the Phils did better in trading Cole Hamels to Texas for a package including three of the top 100 prospects in the game.

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Rumored #Braves deal called by the Office

UPDATE: Braves will be receiving young arms for Uribe and KJ, per Joel Sherman. It’d be nice to get some bats for a change, but I’ll reserve judgement until the deal is made official.

Mets Nearing Deal For Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson

The Mets may be closing in on a deal with the Braves for two utility pieces, according to a report from Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Both Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson appear to be ticketed for Queens if the deal goes through.

New York will send “young arms” to Atlanta to add the two veterans, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter).

John Hart must read the Office. Three days ago I wrote:

Here’s my pitch: Uribe, Pierzynski and KJ, if necessary, for C Kevin Plawecki

No word on what the Braves will receive in return, but if it’s Plawecki credit the Braves GM with yet another steal.

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Trade talk: #Braves, Mets a good fit

The Mets, as you’ve probably heard, need offense. But getting the bat(s) they need won’t be easy because A.) The Mets are cheap an B.) they have no intention of dealing any of their prized young arms.

The Braves have a number of players that could help contenders, but individually they are unlikely to bring back anything beyond a marginal prospect. Better one good prospect than three mediocre ones.

Here’s my pitch: Uribe, Pierzynski and KJ, if necessary, for C Kevin Plawecki. The Mets rookie backstop arrived in the majors earlier than anticipated due to injuries to Travis D’Arnaud and has struggled at the plate, batting .238 with a .603 OPS. But he’s a .292 hitter in 296 minor league games, good for a .368 OBP and .435 slugging. He was ranked the 6th best catching prospect prior to the season by mlb.com.

“Throughout his climb up the Mets’ ladder, Plawecki has shown a penchant for making consistent contact. He rarely strikes out and has hit for average at every stop, with a career .295 average entering the 2015 season. He has a contact-over-power approach, but he does have enough strength to clear some fences. Plawecki hit 11 homers in 2014 and that sounds about right in terms of what’s fair to expect in the future. Drafted as an offensive-minded backstop, Plawecki has been solid behind the plate, with good hands and enough agility to block balls well. His arm is average, and he’s never going to be the kind of catcher who completely shuts down a running game.”

Uribe, Pierzynski and KJ won’t cost the Mets much, and all are free agents at the end of the year. And D’Arnaud blocks Plawecki’s path in Flushing.

Thoughts?

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Should the #Braves trade Jose Peraza? (Yes)

It appears we underrated Jace Peterson. He doesn’t have Peraza’s speed but is said to be superior defensively and is better at getting on base. Peraza is hitting .286 but has walked only 12 times, good for a .323 OBP, about .30 points below Jace.

Peraza has been playing some CF, but there’s no great need there. Cameron Maybin’s renaissance looks increasingly legit, and Mallex Smith has a .423 OBP and 21 steals at Mississippi.

Plus, 18-year-old Ozhaino Albies, playing SS for Rome, continues to impress, batting .318 with 22 SB and a .378 OBP.

A shortstop with speed has plenty of value, much more than a part-time OF. I would trade Peraza for another prospect, preferably a catcher or third baseman with some pop from the right side

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John Hart may never make a better trade

I love Kimbrel. Who doesn’t? But there wasn’t going to be much to save for the Braves this year, or next. And he’s guaranteed $33 million over the next three years.

Melvin Junior was due roughly $46 million.

The Braves take on a couple of bad, but not crippling contracts, in Carlos Quentin ($8 mil this year, $3 mil buyout for ’16) and Cameron Maybin ($15 mil guaranteed over the next two years, $1 mil buyout in ’17). Maybin was once a top talent, and Quentin had some nice years in Chicago but neither has done much in recent years. Maybe the Braves get lucky with one or both. But it doesn’t really matter — the Braves have saved $50 million.

AND … they picked up San Diego’s top prospect, RHP Matt Wisler, who will be a Brave before season’s end, if not right way.

Ohio native Matt Wisler looks every bit a future rotation anchor. In 20 AA starts last season, Wisler struck out almost exactly one batter per inning while walking barely more than one per game. That’s exactly the sort of performance that the control-obsessed Padres love to see, and it’s enough to put him in the mix for MLB consideration in mid-to-late 2014.

Wisler works a couple of different low-90’s fastballs with accuracy to both sides of the plate, but it’s his slow curve that turns heads and misses bats most often. How he’ll perform against better opponents is an open question, but if he continues his careful, clever approach while trusting his stuff, he should succeed.

Hart also acquired an actual bat, Jordan Paroubeck, a switch-hitting OF selected by the Pads in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. He put up solid numbers in rookie ball last year but is probably three years away from making it to the bigs.

The Braves also receive the 41st overall pick in this June’s draft.

I didn’t like the Markakis signing and wonder if he got enough for J-Up but, in one offseason, Hart has unloaded B.J., transformed the farm system from the bottom five to the top five and saved a boatload of money. My faith is renewed.

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How Shawon Dunston and Jose Canseco nearly torpedoed the ’91 Braves

Perusing through the AJC archives I came across two major trades that almost were — deals that would’ve dramatically altered the course of the Worst-to-First Braves.

From 12/6/90:

The Cubs and Braves discussed a trade that would have sent pitcher Tom Glavine and infielder Jeff Blauser to the Cubs for (Shawon) Dunston but (agent Eric) Goldschmidt insisted “there is no way Shawon would sign with Atlanta.”

Dunston confirmed as much, saying, “I’d go there and play as hard as I always do. But after the season, I’d be a free agent and go to the West Coast.”

Thank you, Shawon.

Glavine’s name would come up in an even bigger rumor just a few months later.

3/1/91:

The National, a sports daily based in New York, wrote that a well- placed management source said (Jose) Canseco would be traded to the Braves in exchange for National League Rookie of the Year David Justice, a left- handed pitcher (presumably Tom Glavine) and a couple of prospects.

A year earlier the future Hall of Famer was almost dealt to the Red Sox in what would’ve been the worst trade in franchise history. Thankfully, Boston got greedy.

12/5/89:

Despite their vow not to trade their frontline starting pitchers, the Atlanta Braves on Monday proposed a three-player deal that would send pitcher Tom Glavine and outfielder Ron Gant to the Boston Red Sox for left fielder Mike Greenwell.

The proposal, made after an unsuccessful attempt to spark negotiations for Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs during baseball’s annual winter meetings, is under consideration by Boston general manager Lou Gorman, who has requested that the Braves include left-handed pitcher Kent Mercker in the deal.

A source close to the negotiations said Braves general manager Bobby Cox is pushing 26-year-old rookie Gary Eave instead of Mercker.

Greenwell, whose career ended in 1996, never topped 15 homers or 83 RBI following 1989.

 

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#Braves should pass on Charlie Blackmon

The Rockies have made the All-Star outfielder available in their endless quest for pitching. But unless Colorado would accept a return of, say, Jason Hursh and David Hale, I’d pass on Charlie Blackmon.

The North Gwinnett High School grad, who went on to play for Georgia Tech, hit .288 last year with 19 homers, 72 RBI and 28 SB — numbers he’d be unlikely to repeat playing his home games closer to sea level. On the road, Blackmon, 28, was no better than B.J., batting .241 with a hideous .269 OBP and and .347 slugging percentage. His .617 OPS as a visitor was nearly .300 points below his home total.

He’s essentially a left-handed hitting version of Jeffrey Hammonds.

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Conjuring up a Gattis to Royals trade

Of all the Braves’ needs, a new center fielder is going to be the toughest to find. Even if they can’t trade B.J. an option is needed in center, where the elder Upton struggled defensively.

The free agent market offers nothing, unless you consider Colby Rasmus an option (and you shouldn’t). Rasmus had Chris Johnson-like numbers last year, striking out 124 times compared to just 29 walks in 104 games. He has a .234 BA and .295 OBP in his 4 years with the Blue Jays.

Trading Evan Gattis would leave the Braves short on right-handed power, but a corner OF who can hit homers and do nothing else is a lot easier to find than a CF. Jarrod Dyson isn’t ideal, but he’s an excellent flychaser with speed to burn. He needs to do a better job getting on base (career .323 OBP) but regular playing time may help him develop a better eye. Think Otis Nixon, a 32-year-old part-timer before he came to Atlanta in 1991.

I’d ask for Royals 2B prospect Christian Colon along with Dyson. Baseball America ranks him as KC’s 10th best prospect; he batted .311 with a .366 OBP and .433 slugging percentage last year at Triple-A Omaha. He could platoon with Phil Gosselin at second or, more likely, win the job outright.

 

 

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#Braves trade Jay Hey, Walden for Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins

We knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make the news of Jason Heyward’s trade any easier to stomach.

John Hart did well, considering. Jay Hey will be a free agent in one year; the Braves will have Shelby Miller under team control for four years. Tyrell Jenkins hasn’t pitched up to his potential in the minors but he has impressed in the Arizona Fall League, where his fastball was consistently touching 95 MPH.

The 22-year-old righthander, the 50th overall pick in the 2010 draft, bloomed in the desert. With a spot on the 40-man roster at stake, Jenkins put an exclamation point on his season with a 2.22 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings (six starts) for Peoria.

Four years after the Cardinals drafted him out of high school as a raw, Baylor-bound athlete, Jenkins looks less like potential and more like a pitcher than ever before. He has simplified his mechanics. His delivery can be repeated. His fastball still has zip, but also movement. His changeup plays. He’s working on a hard curve. And, most of all, his shoulder is finally healthy.

Jay Hey will be missed, of course, but the Braves have the makings of an outstanding rotation, with four accomplished young starters all under the age of 26.

Still … I’m a little depressed.

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Trading B.J.: Seattle

There’s only a few scenarios where a trade of B.J. can happen. Either the Braves will have to take on a bad contract or they’ll have to part with an attractive piece in tandem with B.K. Regardless, they’re almost certainly going to have to pay a portion of the $46.5 million remaining on his deal.

Seattle could be possible fit. They fell a win short of the playoffs and, with Oakland facing a reboot and the aging Angels lacking pitching depth, are probably the favorite to win the AL West in 2015 — assuming they add some bats, particularly right-handed ones.

Here’s my offer: B.J.  and Gattis (plus $23 million to cover half of Upton’s contract) for outfielder Michael Saunders and reliever Charlie Furbush. Seattle would take on about $18 million in salary in return for the right-handed power bat they covet, one under team  control for four years.

The Braves would get a left-handed corner outfielder who’s yet to reach his potential but appears poised to turn the corner. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik singled out Saunders in a year-end press conference, saying he needs to improve his conditioning. It was broadside that took people by surprise, so it’s difficult to gauge the merit of his critique.

Saunders played in only 78 games last year but posted the best batting average, OBP and slugging percentage of his career: .273-.341-.450. He’s also demonstrated better plate discipline and his strikeout rate has declined steadily over the last three seasons. He has two years remaining until free agency.

Furbush, a power southpaw, limited lefties to a .594 OPS in 2014, .568 over his career. He might be a luxury the M’s are reluctant to part with, but might as well ask.

Seattle would probably prefer to deal Austin Jackson, who came over from Detroit at the trading deadline and put up B.J.-esque numbers, striking out 59 times in 54 games with a .537 OPS. He appeared poised for stardom in 2012, when he hit .300 with an .856 OPS. Still, Jackson — who made $6 million this year and will be a free agent in 2016 — would be an improvement and, unlike Saunders, can play CF, though advanced metrics indicate he’s not much better than B.J.

Thoughts? Please keep them realistic, remembering that no team is going to give up something of value for Upton alone.

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From the Archives: Why weren’t the #Braves in on Fister?

Originally published 12/3/13:

Doug Fister, two years removed from free agency,  is a workhorse who eats innings without eating up much payroll. The 30-year-old right-hander — career 3.53 ERA and 1.213 WHIP — has topped 200 innings in 2 of the past 3 years and is projected to make $6.9 million in 2014.

Though not an ace, he’s the next best thing: An affordable workhorse.

My question: Where was Frank Wren? He was a protege of Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski, so that should’ve given him a leg up over Nats GM Mike Rizzo. An offer of J.R. Graham, Ryan Butcher and Tyler Pastornicky would’ve been at least comparable to the trio of playersWashington sent to the Tigers for Fister.

 

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Seth Smith’s available, and FW needs to pounce

After watching Jordan Schafer and B.J. go a combined 0-for-11 tonight, with 6 strikeouts, I noticed that Seth Smith was trending on Twitter — partly for the 2 homers he’s hit tonight, partly because the Padres have put him on the market. Smith is having a sensational year, with 8 homers, a .291 BA, .396 OBP and .527 slugging percentage. He probably won’t sustain those numbers, but he’s better than you think: a career .804 OPS. Smith checks about every box the Braves need: bats left, gets on base and is owed about $3 million on a contract that expires after the season. I wouldn’t trade a Bethancourt or Peraza to get him, but it probably wouldn’t require that much.

 

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Seventeen years ago today, a trade that changed everything

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow to learn the Braves had traded Jay Hey and J-Up to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen. How would you react?

When I heard JS had swapped Marquis Grissom and David Justice to the Indians for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree, I was thrilled. My reaction had nothing to do with Marquis and DJ, who were instrumental in securing the Braves’ only world championship. But Lofton, coming off a season in which he hit .317 with 14 homers and 75 SB, was the Rickey Henderson of his time and a Gold Glover to boot. Though it was widely assumed Lofton would be in Atlanta only one year, Andruw was waiting in the wings and the money saved in the deal made it possible for the Braves to re-sign Maddux and Glavine.

Of course, Lofton was no Rickey. Yes, he hit .333, with a .409 OBP, but played a pedestrian CF and was successful on only 27 of 47 SB attempts. He also managed to run afoul of Bobby, which is virtually impossible.

The Braves would’ve been better off trading either Marquis or DJ for a second baseman, assuming one was available, or a top prospect. This was a team that should’ve been playing for its third consecutive World Series title — instead they began a run of early playoff exits, losing 4-2 to the Marlins and Eric Gregg in the NLCS. No need to remind you who won the AL pennant.

JS’ bender continued three days later when he dealt Jermaine Dye to the Royals for Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart, a trade that particularly irked Braves fan Elton John.

You could argue those three days in March 1997 derailed a dynasty. “This was the break-up of a very functional family,” wrote the AJC’s Steve Hummer, a prophetic description.

JS had better weeks, to say the least.

Braves trade former No. 1 pick for 32 yo reserve catcher w/ a concussion

Despite the headline, trading Sean Gilmartin for Ryan Doumit is a decent move. Doumit gives you power from the left side and can play LF if you’re desperate. Doumit, a defensive liability, shouldn’t be viewed as competition for Gattis behind the plate; instead, think of him as the the 2014 version of the White Bear. The career .268 hitter slumped to .247 last year, with 14 homers and a .314 OBP.

Because he was  first-round choice, Gilmartin was still considered a prospect. But that’s overstating his potential. Gilmartin regressed badly last year at Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 5.74 ERA and 1.593 WHIP.