Friday, May 26, 2017

Prepping for the Trade Deadline: Part 1

(Written by Ryan Cothran, a contributor at Walk-Off Walk for the last few weeks. Previous columns by Cothran include one on BABIP, the bullpen, and reviewing the Braves' buy-low philosophy on Tommy John survivors. Remember to follow Ryan on Twitter.)

By Arturo Pardavila III [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Yes, the trade deadline is a little way off, but let it be known that Braves General Manager John Coppolella is always anxious to make a deal and a single date doesn’t hold weight on this trading stallion. Therefore, we need to be prepared, and this article will help us get there.

If 2017 is a mirror of the past 2 years of Braves baseball, it’s going to be an active trade deadline for Coppy and the crew. Whether it be buying, selling, or a little bit of both, you can bet your sweet pippy the Braves will be dealing.

Here’s a recap of trades orchestrated in the months of May-August of 2015. Note that at this time, Coppy was not yet named the GM, but most agree that these were Coppy's deals and John Hart was merely there to provide guidance and a helping hand:


And here’s a recap of trades orchestrated in the months of May-August of 2016:


What will 2017’s trade deadline look like for our beloved Braves?

2015 was all about selling off the veterans, dead money, or debt consolidation for wild card prospects. The team was dead in the water and had no chance to compete. We knew it. Braves knew it.

2016 was much the same, rather the prospects were better, the deals were riskier (acquiring Matt Kemp), but most worked out in the Braves favor.

2017...if only we had a crystal ball. What will the Braves record be like approaching the deadline? If the last few weeks are any indication, I’d say that this team will be hovering around .500 come late June and that is lightyears better than what we’ve had these last 2 abysmal years. In dissecting Coppy’s track record, we can see who’s most likely to be on another team come July: 1-year veterans.  Here’s a list of players that have 1 year of control on their contract:

Brandon Phillips
Bartolo Colon
Jaime Garcia
Jason Motte
Kurt Suzuki
Emilio Bonifacio
Eric O’Flaherty
*I’m not including R.A. Dickey or Tyler Flowers on this list even though they are both on 1-year deals, but have reasonable options.


Of the players above, Phillips, Garcia, Motte, and Suzuki are the 4 that have established some value this year.  Colon could be bought based on reputation alone, but I don’t think there’s any team that would even take O’Flaherty or Bonifacio for free at this point.

However, if the Braves are looking competitive AND their best hitter in Freddie Freeman is set to return, one has to weigh the +/- of trading any of the vets that have value. The biggest question to answer would be “Are there suitable replacements?”  That, my friends, is a hard question to answer.

Replacing Traded Pieces

Replacement for Brandon Phillips? Ozzie Albies has taken to adjusting at AAA Gwinnett. In his last 20 games, he has a .296/.367/.432/.799 slash-line with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR, 6 SB and 0 CS. He’s younger and at this stage of Brandon’s career, will provide better defense. But Brandon’s on pace for a 2.5 fWAR year, is putting up solid numbers across the board, and has been a really nice addition to a Braves lineup that’s lacked good production from 2nd base. If Braves are competing, I think it’s hard to pull the trigger.

Weigel | Jeff Morris. Follow him on Twitter @AtlBravesJeff
Replacement for Bartolo Colon? Lucas Sims and Sean Newcomb have both taken their lumps of late, but Bartolo has taken his the entire year up until last start. There’s no doubt that having Bartolo on the team has a positive effect on our players, especially Latin Americans, but from a player’s perspective, his production seems replaceable on the surface given either of the two above could get the call - along with guys like Kris Medlen, Luke Jackson, or even Patrick Weigel.

Replacement for Jaime Garcia? It sounds weird to “sell-high” on a starting pitcher that’s sporting a 4.07 ERA, but that’s what the Braves could do with Jaime Garcia.  Left-handed pitchers are coveted in the MLB and Jaime’s peripherals tell a different story than his actual production. I’m afraid that if the Braves don’t move him soon, his numbers could balloon or his injuries pop up again. Insert same guys for Jaime’s replacement with more emphasis on Newcomb for handedness.

Replacement for Jason Motte? There are plenty of candidates for a Motte replacement, but all seem to come with the dreaded taint of being walk-heavy.  Motte’s great start has been a bit smoky and mirrory as his LOB is a crazy 94.8%, but make no mistake he has been effective. Luke Jackson, Mauricio Cabrera, and Akeel Morris seem like logical fits should any of the three find their control.

Replacement for Kurt Suzuki? At this point, I think the Braves would rather extend Suzuki for another year rather than trade him. There aren’t real replacements at Gwinnett (David Freitas, maybe?) and Kade Scivicque is at Mississippi, but that’d be rushing his development, especially as a hitter. Trading Suzuki doesn’t seem wise unless the Braves can acquire their future catcher at the deadline.

Replacement for Emilio Bonifacio, Eric O’Flaherty? While this likely isn’t trade deadline stuff as I don’t think these three will be around by then, replacing these guys seem rather easy:
Lane Adams for Emilio
Rex Brothers for O’Flaherty

What to expect in return for these trades?

If the Braves are trading any of their 1-year veterans, the less the acquiring team has to pay, the better the return. With that in mind, a team in desperate need of 2B production could send a B/B+ prospect to the Braves. Prospects the Braves have acquired in the past 2 years that fit that description are John Gant, Robert Whalen, Touki Toussaint, Akeel Morris, and Travis Demeritte

For the rest, it depends on what Coppy has up his sleeve. There’s a lot he could do with excess cash at the trade deadline and filling holes with high-end cost-heavy talent wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

Thanks for reading! Look for part 2 of this piece which will address Organizational Surplus.

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