Monday, November 17, 2014

Braves Get Rid of a Nasty Case of TLS

This little trade from Sunday was a weird one. The Braves send 2B Tommy La Stella to the Chicago Cubs for former Braves prospect, right-hander Arodys Vizcaino. Also involved is a needlessly complicated international bonus slot money exchange. Suffice it to say, out of this trade, the Braves get an additional $830,000 to spend on international free agents during the 2014-15 signing period, which we are roughly half-way through.

This represented a monster change in fortune for La Stella, a twitter favorite during his climb up the ladder. An 8th rounder in 2011, La Stella had his limitations. He didn't have much pop (.150ish ISO in the minors), no discernible speed to speak of, and struggles defensively. But he could hit, or at least he could in the minors. La Stella hit .322 on his way to the majors, including an uber sexy .407 OBP. However, in our haste to prop him up as our savior, we often forgot he wasn't much of a prospect. In addition to the limitations I just discussed, La Stella was often older or at least the same age as his competition. He also struggled to stay in the lineup. This is not to say there wasn't hope that La Stella would have been a productive major leaguer. In fact, he still could be one. He just wasn't the prospect the hype machine made it seem like he was.

But he was something that Dan Uggla wasn't. Namely, La Stella wasn't Uggla. Therefore, he was the guy we all screamed for and we all cheered when he finally got to the bigs last May 28th for a woeful series Atlanta had in Boston. La Stella started off pretty good, but it wasn't long that he was losing playing time to Philip Gosselin and Ramiro Pena as he struggled over the season's final two months. He did have a brief positive moment when he hit his first, and so far only, homerun of his career against Stephen Strasburg last August 8th, but that hit was just one of 20 hits TLS had after July 31st. While he continued to get his walks, he was doing little with his other at-bats. He finished his first major league season with a SLG that was worse than his OBP. If you're going to do that, you better steal bases like Jose Peraza.

Speaking of Peraza, this opens a door for him, but that door was already pushed open anyway. TLS wasn't going to block Peraza unless he mirrored his minor league slash and that seemed unlikely. This move would likely prompt John Hart to go hunting for a stopgap option, though the free agent market isn't very appetizing unless the Braves want to try their hand at reunions with Emilio Bonifacio or Kelly Johnson. The trade market could be an option and the Angels are willing to trade Howie Kendrick so maybe there could be a move there.

And what do we make of Vizcaino's return? Are the Braves simply trying to undo Frank Wren's trades like they did with the scouting team rehires? Vizcaino's return from a second Tommy John surgery was slow. The surgery originally took place before Vizcaino's trade to the Cubs in a move that brought Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to the Braves. He missed not only 2012, but 2013 trying to get back on the mound for live action. Vizcaino did appear in 40 games in the minors last season, plus five more in the majors, and the velocity looks to have returned. He just turned 24 this week and was once considered either a #2 or #3 starter who could just as easily become a top flight reliever. Now? His ceiling remains as a top flight reliever, but the hype has definitely been tempered by the injuries.

If the Braves believe in Vizcaino, this deal is about depth in the likely event of a trade that sends either Jordan Walden or David Carpenter packing. If the Braves see the international market has having a good deal of remaining value, this deal is about international money. If the Braves believe Wren's moves should be CTRL-Z'd, this deal will soon to be followed by an all-out effort to get Randall Delgado.

I'm betting there is a little reason to go with the Braves putting Walden or Carpenter on the market for a trade. I also believe the Braves see their minor league system is such disrepair and want to give their All-Star team of scouts a chance to add to it without experiencing a bunch of penalties for it. And clearly, Hart and his team saw La Stella's value below what many of us on the internet thought his value was and looked to maximize it. Ultimately, this deal is most likely summed up as the Braves didn't think so highly of La Stella and the Cubs didn't think that highly of Vizcaino. Conversely, each front office thought better of the guy they were getting in the trade and the Cubs were already limited on the money they could spend on the market so they were basically getting rid of something they couldn't use anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment