Friday, January 2, 2015

Braves 86 the Carp

Ya know, it's damn inconvenient of the Atlanta Braves to pull off a trade as I am trying like hell to catch up to my blog schedule. Oh, you don't care? Well...ouch. I thought we were friends.

Anyway, arbitration-eligible David Carpenter was packaged with likable lefty Chasen Shreve in a trade with the Yankees Thursday as the Braves grab ex-prospect Manny Banuelos in return. I'll get back to the newest Brave in a second, but let's spend a moment to remember the dearly departed.

Shreve was once just this guy with a weird name, but last year, he developed into a kind of reliable lefty for Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves, something they didn't have much of last season. The former eleventh rounder out of Las Vegas appeared in 15 games with the Braves, posting a microscopic (and unsustainable) 0.75 ERA with 15 K's in 12.1 ING to just three walks. Lefties were actually more successful than righthanders in his limited time in the majors, though the disparity wasn't significant enough to make much of a judgement on it.

In addition to his major league success, he was very good in the minors last season with an 0.98 WHIP shared between the top two levels of the Braves' minor league pipeline. Again, he handled both righties and lefties with slightly better grades against the former. There may have even been hope that he would be more than just a LOOGY. Some had suggested the Braves were concerned about his shoulder, though considering how they love to pick up injured pitchers, I question that concern.

Carp showed up out of nowhere in 2013 to become one of the most trusted relievers at Fredi's disposal. That trust backfired in the NLDS against the Dodgers when he chose Carp over that guy who handled ninth inning duties (because it was the eighth inning and THAT'S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the ninth inning). But that trust did have some validity to it as Carp posted a 2.83 FIP with well over a K an inning for the Braves in 2013. Not too shabby for a guy who was waived by the Red Sox a month after being acquired in the deal that landed John Farrell the top job in Boston. Carp wasn't as good in the first half last season, though he turned it back on down the stretch and his numbers were overall excellent. In 121 games as a Brave, Carp had a 2.88 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, and 141 K's in 126.2 ING.

However, the Braves had already signed Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli. For six years of control over Shreve and three years of Carp, the Braves got the left-hander, Banuelos, who was a former Top 30 prospect before the 2012 season. But this is 2015 so what did the Braves actually get? Well, after missing 2013 with Tommy John, Banuelos spent last year building arm strength and trying to get back into the picture with the Yankees. On the face of it, trading two relievers for a starter is typically a win. Is this one?

When he was at his best, "Man-Ban" has been known to up his velocity to the mid-to-high 90's - heat that could play up as a reliever. However, as a starter, he scales it back a little and works in his change-up and curveball, along with his newer selection - a cutter. How good those pitches actually are will determine a lot as to whether or not Banuelos finally breaks through.

The kicker with Banuelos is that despite the amount of digital ink he has received over the last four years, he will be entering his age-24 season in 2015. You can tell why the Braves liked adding another high reward arm at a bargain price. But like Daniel Winkler and Arodys Vizcaino, there is a reason why Banuelos could be had for a pair of relievers, only one of which is established. The question marks are enough to sink Banuelos's trade value. Maybe he does reach his ability and the Braves look like they stole six years of team control from a lefty with front-of-the-rotation stuff. Or maybe he turns into a decent LOOGY. Either way, the choice was made that the risk couldn't possibly outweigh the reward.

So, we say good bye to Carp, a wonderful find for Frank Wren.

Oh...wait...that's why he had to go.

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