Monday, September 21, 2015

Reviewing Hart's Trades: Varvaro/Kurcz

The Braves have been active in John Hart's first season at the helm to the tune of SIXTEEN TRADES! And I had to ignore a lot of the minor deals to come to that number. Sixteen deals involving major league talent going one direction or in both. Sixteen deals that include over 50 different players, a few draft picks, lots of cash, and two Uptons. It's been friggin unreal to see what the Braves have done.

With most of the season in our rear view, it's time to start reviewing each one of these trades. This series is going take a little while to get through, but hey, it gives me something to write about.

Trades Already Reviewed
La Stella for Vizcaino
Heyward/Walden for Miller/Jenkins

The Trade
Anthony Varvaro to the Red Sox for Aaron Kurcz and cash. Last December, I looked at Varvaro into depth here and talked about Kurcz briefly here.

The Rationale
It surprised a lot of people when the Braves designated Varvaro for assignment. Varvaro needed a pair of seasons to get going, but in 2013, he went 73.1 ING out of the pen with a 1.27 WHIP in long relief duty. The following year, he upped his strikeouts, lowered his walks, and became a damn good set-up guy.

That's what the Red Sox thought they were acquiring. While the deal was strange, the Red Sox looked at Varvaro as a depth guy. Maybe - just maybe - the Braves worried about his chances of staying healthy.

Short-Term Results
As the Red Sox's season went in the crapper, Varvaro struggled in four of six games as the season's first month came to a close. He was designated for assignment on April 29th and the Cubs claimed him a few days later. Varvaro never appeared for Chicago before they  outrighted him off the 40-man roster. The story got weird from there because the Cubs found out that Varvaro had a torn right flexor tendon. The Cubs returned him to the Red Sox as the Sox claimed they didn't know about Varvaro's injury. He expects to start throwing this winter.

Kurcz got a decent look this spring for the Braves, but went to Gwinnett to open the season. On the plus side, he showed the strike-out ability that made him an interesting prospect with 10.4 K/9 in 33 innings. On the negative side, he walked a small village and though his ERA was a decent enough 3.27, his WHIP was an alarming 1.52. The Braves would trade Kurcz to the A's for $167K in international bonus slot money so that they could add Dominicans Derian Cruz and Christian Pache during the signing period without suffering big penalties. Baseball-Reference and MILB.com disagree on how Kurcz pitched after the trade. Actually, B-R doesn't even have his Nashville Sounds stats, but give him eight starts after the trade. MILB says he finished the year with a 4.15 ERA with Nashville and an even worse 1.69 WHIP. I'm inclined to believe it's a bug on B-R's end.

Long-Term Outlook
For the Braves, this trade got them a useful arm and that useful arm turned into useful theoretical cash that could allow the Braves the opportunity to not only add two strong prospects this year, but have the freedom to spend big on guys like Kevin Maitan in 2016. Of course, it's not fair to suggest that the Braves knew when they made the deal to send Varvaro to the Red Sox. Regardless, the Braves got something for a player who they may have had injury concerns about.

The Red Sox could bring back Varvaro for 2016. He's arbitration-eligible for the first time, though I imagine they'll non-tender him and Varvaro will look for a good situation to get another shot at the bigs.

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