Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Walk-Off Talk 1.4: Finding a Partner (Part 1)


We’re back again for the fourth iteration of this well-received series. By well-received, I mean my kids. They can’t read, but they think Daddy is doing a bang-up job.

Jeff Morris - Follow on Twitter
This week, I want to look at finding trading partners for the Braves involving individual teams. I know John Coppolella doesn’t need our help, but just in case he’s procrastinating, here is some legwork for the Braves’ GM ahead of next month’s trading deadline. Last month, you wrote a pair of articles on this subject (here and here) but I want to focus a bit more this week on where we might trade players.

Let’s start with Jaime Garcia. The lefty has been a mixed bag of late. He's K'd a sweet sixteen batters over his last two starts after just striking out 17 over five April starts. On the other hand, runs have been scoring a bit more against him of late with six runs scored by the Marlins last start. Might be time to push the effort to find a trading partner for Garcia into hyperdrive before he regresses much more. Of course, he might throw a no-hitter next time out. Baseball's weird like that.

Garcia has been the closest thing to a stable starter for the Braves this year and losing him could hurt - especially if you want the Braves to hold out hope for a Wild Card slot. But losing him for nothing at the end of the season seems short-sighted and extending his contract also appears short-sighted considering his career to this point. So, who would be a good trading partner for the Braves with Garcia?
  • Baltimore - Dylan Bundy has been their most consistent starter and his FIP is 4.63. Only the Reds have a worse starting rotation ERA or FIP than the Orioles, but unlike the Reds, the O's are still very much in the race. Further, the three teams ahead of them (Rays, Red Sox, Yankees) have a combined 22-31 record against left-handed starters.
  • New York Mets - They can't get healthy in the rotation, but I'm iffy on them getting involved here. While their record is similar to the Braves, people think the Mets are going to be buyers. They might be, but I imagine their front office is going to need to see some improvement between now and the deadline. But even if they get hot, the chances they'll pony up a prospect or two in the division is hard to believe - especially when they aren't even acquiring Kelly Johnson.
  • Seattle - The Mariners are slumping of late and are expecting both Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma back, but even with them in the picture, they could use some help. James Paxton is their one starter with a sub-4.50 FIP (that included Hernandez and Iwakuma). Atlanta pulled off two trades with Jerry Dipoto last winter. Could a third be in the works?
  • Texas - Similar to the Mariners, the Rangers' pitching staff has issues. It doesn't help that 3/5's of their planned rotation is on the mend, but with them struggling of late, I could see the Rangers trying to grab some rotation help.


I’d say I’ve been a bit anxious for the Braves to get on with trading Jaime. His health’s always been iffy and his ERA was low-3s prior to the last outing. Still, it’s mid-3s and there are teams that need that. Add that he’s a lefty and we might actually get a decent piece in exchange for him.

The question I always ask myself when discussing a trade is this: Who will the traded piece be replacing? There are some teams where the answer is quite easy, but others it gets murky and those are the type of hypotheticals I stay away from. Now, let it be known that while it seems like a smart thing to do on the surface, some GMs are desperate and will make moves that give the team surplus then deal with the surplus at a later time. With that being said, here’s what I see.

Not Matches:
  • Mets- I don’t think they’ll be calling for Jaime as I don’t think they’re going to make a run this year, but I wouldn’t doubt if they would take Bartolo should Braves pay a chunk of change, meaning nearly all of it. The need to get some positivity back in the clubhouse seems to outweigh the need to win ballgames, and Bartolo outweighs everybody.
  • Mariners- Tough call on the M’s, but like you stated, with King Felix and Iwakuma coming back soon, and  likely getting Drew Smyly back in late July, I think the M’s roll with what they have for now.
  • Orioles- As you stated, their pitching is a huge dumpster fire and it doesn’t seem helps coming.
  • Cubs- While you didn’t talk about the Cubs, they are a  team that I think might be interested in adding Jaime. The reigning World Series champions and their starting pitching, including their big 3, has been pedestrian at best. With the magic of Eddie Butler wearing off, and the Cubs sitting at .500, quality starts are needed NOW!
  • Rangers- It’s hard to look for rotation help when the top end is Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. With Andrew CashnerTyson RossMartin PerezA.J. Griffin and a few others that can fill out the 3-5 spots, I'd imagine they would be looking for a higher-end talent rather than a middle-of-the-rotation component. That said, there might be a deal here.
  • Twins- A team that is surprising everyone with a pretty good offense, good defense, decent relief, and absolutely horrid starting pitching. Tasting a bit of success, they might want to find a veteran that can step in and provide some quality innings.
The return? If I’m Coppy, I’m looking for a very specific return. The club’s window for success is vast, but 2018 needs to be a statement. With that in mind, I’m looking for a catcher, 3rd baseman, or even an outfielder to plug in for next year, or in 2019.

Braves Targets from Orioles for Jaime Garcia:
  • Austin Hays- 21 year old RHH outfielder putting up great numbers at High-A and should be getting promoted to AA any day now. Has played all 3 OF positions but mostly CF in 2017.
  • Cedric Mullins- 22 year old outfielder putting up great numbers at AA. Has also played all OF positions but focusing on CF in 2017. Will likely see AAA soon.
  • D.J. Stewart- A former 1st round pick OFer playing at AA. Numbers aren’t as good as Mullins and Hays but has pedigree and could be a buy-low opportunity ala Alex Jackson
  • Chance Sisco- A bat first catcher that’s not hitting entirely great at AAA, but has pedigree and dons BA’s, BP’s, and MLB’s top-100 list. 
Braves Targets from Cubs for Jaime Garcia:
  • Mark Zagunis- RHH corner outfielder putting up good numbers at AAA, albeit in the PCL. Has power, takes a ton of walks, and plays average defense.
  • Jeimer Candelario- Switch hitting third baseman at AAA putting up good numbers with elite defense (also in the PCL). He’s been donned by many MLB scouts and analysts as the guy most in need of a trade.
  • Victor Caratini- Switch-hitting catcher putting up gaudy numbers at AAA, but like Zagunis and Candelario, it comes with the PCL warning. Good defensive catcher that can also moonlight as a 1B.
Braves Targets from Twins for Jaime Garcia:
  • Nick Gordon or bust. They’re not going to trade him and personally, there’s nothing else out of that system that I’d really care to grab as most of their top guys are pitchers and Braves are bursting with them. Sorry, no way Jaime.
Braves Targets from Rangers for Jaime Garcia:
  • Joey Gallo or bust. The Rangers system has thinned out considerably, partly due to dealing with the Braves. Jaime wouldn’t nab Gallo on his own, but Braves could add a piece. With Napoli coming on the last month he’s seemingly blocked at 1B, 3B, and DH through 2018 at least. And since he’s only played 4 innings in outfield, it might be hard to find regular playing time for him. It’s doubtful…but it could happen.
Not counting the Twins or the Rangers because I think those deals are longshots at best, if I had my choice, I’d take Jeimer Candelario first (but it might take an extra piece to acquire him...Sims?).  From there, I’d go Austin Hays then Cedric Mullins.



Way to rain on my parade. I want another Dipoto/Coppy trade where we send them depth and they give us a top prospect. It’s the new “call Dave Stewart.”

Gallo could be a study in how much the Rangers value the third baseman moving forward and what they might need to deal him. Garcia won't be enough like you said, but it could be the beginning framework of what could turn into a deal.

Jeff Morris - Follow on Twitter
Moving on, let’s talk about Brandon Phillips. Dat Dude has been dat good with the Braves since finally agreeing on a trade last winter. This week included back-to-back walkoffs and he's been pretty darn hot to boot. His defense has also looked better after declining from 10.4 UZR/150 in 2014 to -2.3 last year. It's sitting at about 3.0 this season. The rest of his stats either show him posting similar stats as 2016 or showing improvement.

The problem is...it's unlikely to continue all season. That's not to say he's trash and I have to condition that because too many Braves fans think reasonable criticism means you're slamming the guy. He's got a good shot at a 2 fWAR season especially if the defense maintains. That's a very good season for Phillips, especially at his age. But in short - he's definitely had his fair share of luck. His BABIP is .338, about forty points over his career average and roughly points higher than his recent two seasons. His batted ball metrics are pretty close to normal so a reasonable expectation is that his numbers fall. Not off the cliff - this isn't a Chris Johnson situation - but similar to Jaime Garcia above, his numbers are a bit unsustainable at his current production.

Phillips lost his 10-5 rights when he was traded to the Braves, but still retains a limited no-trade clause in which he can block a trade to twelve teams. We don't know who those teams might be, but let's hope they aren't contenders this season.

Because Phillips is position-limited, I looked at what teams are getting weak production at second and are in the mix for a playoff spot. The market is really small for Phillips unless a team that may not have a heavy need for him is enamored by the idea of a veteran-savvy bat. Still, I'm going to focus on the teams with a genuine need at second base.
  • Angels - No team is getting worse production out of their second basemen. Heading into Monday night's games, Angels' 2B were hitting .180/.255/.286. Mike Scioscia is even more appalled by the fact that they haven't successfully put a bunt down either. Danny Espinosa, who is an enigma has been Bad Danny this season while Cliff Pennington, his primary backup, isn't exactly known for his bat either. There is a desperate need here and the Angels almost make too much sense as a trading partner.
  • Rays - Tampa Bay is doing their best to compete with the Angels for worst second-base situation. Brad Miller and Daniel Robertson have shared most of the at-bats with next to no production between them. Tampa Bay is quietly good once again with a cast of nobodies. I'm not sure if Phillips would want to play down there in that empty abyss they call a ballpark, but like the Angels, the Rays are exactly what the Braves will be looking for in a possible new home for Dat Dude. And not for nothing, but with the Reds picking up much of the tab for Phillips, the always budget-conscious Rays can easily fit him into their picture.
  • Rangers - I mentioned them for Garcia and you poopoo'd all over the idea until you got interested in Gallo. You mentioned a possible bigger trade with more pieces. How about Phillips? The Angels are the only team in baseball with a worse OBP from their second basemen than the Rangers. Texas might be hesitant to pull the trigger here with Rougned Odor very much entrenched as the everyday second basemen, but with the team-wide issues the Rangers have at the plate, Phillips could make an appealing target.
What do you think? Is there a good trade here or will the Braves be better off keeping Phillips in the mix?


Like you stated, this trade could be very difficult factoring in his limited no-trade clause, being limited to 1 position, and that there aren’t many contending teams that have a need for 2b. Also, factor in the part where Brandon would be a full-time problem if he was asked to be a part-time player, and it gets really limited. But he’s practically owed nothing and he’s been great for this club so I’m sure there’s someone out there that could benefit from him, but that creates difficulty as well: the Braves are not going to give him away.  An acquiring team will have to overpay for him.

I agree that the Rangers, Angels, and Rays are getting poor production from their 2nd basemen, but I don’t think the Rangers are in this conversation. Just like when Elvis Andrus struggled a few years back, they just made a big investment in Odor and they’re going to have to give him ABs, and they’re already having a hard time finding ABs for their DH types. Scratch them off the list.

So you’ve covered Angels and Rays, but here are a few others I think could be looking for a 2B upgrade:
  • Blue Jays- Horrible production from their 2-baggers and need desperately to start winning ballgames as their window is closing quickly with a cast of aging veterans.
  • Cubs?- I put a ? behind them because Maddon is so creative finding playing time for guys. Yes, Brandon is limited to 2B, but Ian Happ, Javier Baez, and Ben Zobrist have flexibility all over the field. It’s a long shot, but if Cubs were to go after Jaime Garcia, Brandon Phillips could be the extra piece to net a very nice prospect in return.
Pre-cursor: Because BP is only under control for this year and the fact that his market isn’t all that large, he’s not going to bring back an elite prospect so I think a B/B- prospect will be the ceiling return.

Braves Targets from Rays for Brandon Phillips:
  • Ryne Stanek- A flamethrower relief pitcher that tops out at triple digits but has had control issues. 
  • Garrett Whitley- OF, 1st round pick in 2015 that hasn’t lived up to expectations. Has serious speed and hidden pop. 
Braves Targets from Angels for Brandon Phillips
  • Taylor Ward- C that’s not very exciting but comes with some pedigree. Trying to find a real prospect in the Angels farm system is like trying to find a good Cardinals fan.
  • Andrew Heaney- Not a prospect but could be a buy-low guy since he’s recovering from Tommy John. I’ve really liked him in the past and he still has 4 years of control.
Braves Targets from Blue Jays for Brandon Phillips
  • Max Pentecost- C/1B/DH that I’ve been a fan of for quite a while, but man oh man this kid’s been hit with bad luck. Shoulder problems have really limited his time behind the plate and it’s not clear if he’ll ever be a full-time catcher again. Still, he’s a buy-low guy that could pay huge dividends or nothing at all.
  • Anthony Alford- OFer that had an awful MLB debut after being called straight up from AA.  Very toolsy and was in the middle of a breakout season in the minors.
Braves Targets from Cubs for Brandon Phillips
  • *Jeimer Candelario- He was discussed above, and I’d be willing to bet if BP were to go to the Cubs, it’d be in a package deal with Jaime Garcia and maybe even a reliever. In a trade to the Cubs, look for BP to be the cherry on top that lands a good prospect.
What do you think? Who might be a good trading partner for the Braves if they deal Garcia or Phillips? Or are you just tired of trades? Let us know in the comment section.

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