Ranking Braves offseason trades from best to worst

The Atlanta Braves 2014-15 offseason was a dizzying one. There was historical roster turnover thanks in large part to a dozen trades. It’s time to take a look at all of them, rank them, and assess the great ones through the bad ones.

For some of these trades my opinion of them has changed as the offseason has gone on. One reason for this has been the Braves near-complete dismantling of their bullpen — they traded seven relievers from last year’s pen.

Over the next few years I’m going to try and return to this list of trades and continue to reassess them. As prospects develop these trades may start to look better or worse.

Great trades:

1. Evan Gattis and James Hoyt traded to Astros for Mike Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman (story)
This trade gets top billing for returning two top prospects, and possibly elite-level prospects, in Folty and Ruiz. Neither is without the need for refinement, but that is always the case when acquiring prospects. It was good to see the Braves go with quality over quantity in this swap.

2. Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton traded to Padres for Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck, 41st draft pick, Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin (story)
This trade just barely misses the top spot, but does so because it includes some baggage in return. Like the Gattis deal, Atlanta gets two elite-level prospects in Wisler and whoever they select with the draft pick. Maybin could turn into a burdensome contract, though not as much as Upton would have been.

3. Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden traded to Cardinals for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins (story)
The first big trade of the offseason is still a really good one when compared against all the other deals made. Miller for Heyward is a good swap, seeing as how the Braves weren’t likely to re-sign the outfielder. Jenkins has good upside and could represent nice icing on the cake to this trade down the road.

Good trades:

4. Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft traded to Padres for Jace Peterson, Max Fried, Mallex Smith and Dustin Peterson (story)
This trade falls down the rankings because of a lack of any (non-injured) elite prospect. They went with quantity over quality, and it has the possibility to be a great success or a big bust depending on how these guys develop.

5. Josh Elander and Victor Reyes traded to Diamondbacks for Trevor Cahill and 75th draft pick (story)
This was really two trades with the D-Backs, but it was supposed to one trade that took a bit longer to complete the final piece (I’ll count it as one). Atlanta swapped unneeded lower-level outfield prospects for the hope of rehabilitating Cahill and a nice draft pick. There is a lack of any immediate impact with this trade, but Cahill “could” turn it around, and the draft pick may prove a good one.

Average trades:

6. Tommy La Stella traded to Cubs for Arodys Vizcaino
La Stella was deemed unnecessary, but the return of Vizcaino was a little weak coming off of TJ surgery. For a solid hitter like La Stella, I feel like the Braves could have gotten a bit more, even if he was considered positionally challenged. Of course, they also got a large amount of international bonus pool money from the Cubs, which may have been the point of the trade to begin with.

7. Edward Salcedo traded to Pirates for Bryton Trepagnier
This one goes almost unnoticed, and it’s really quite inconsequential, so it kind of goes in the middle of the pack, being neither a good trade nor a bad trade.

Poor trades:

8. Kyle Kubitza and Nate Hyatt traded to Angels for Ricardo Sanchez (story)
The new Braves brass seemed to give up on Kubitza, dealing him for a promising, yet far away pitching prospect. Atlanta did accomplish its goal of acquiring potentially elite talent with this deal, but they may have given up a very good talent too.

9. David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve traded to Yankees for Manny Banuelos (story)
This is another trade for potentially elite talent, though it’s debatable if Man-Ban is that good anymore, since he is also somewhat damaged goods coming off of TJ surgery. This was yet another trade in which the Braves were giving away relievers left and right — a strange strategy.

Bad trades:

10. David Hale and Gus Schlosser traded to Rockies for Jose Briceno and Chris O’Dowd (story)
Here again the Braves are giving away relievers for very little in return. Briceno has some promise, but Hale had very good present value as a swing man. He pitched great in the rotation to start last year, then made a smooth and effective transition to the bullpen. Clearly their evaluation of him was different and less favorable.

11. Kyle Wren traded to Brewers for Zach Quintana
This was a minor trade, and its intent was clear — to put the former GM’s son in a new organization. As the first trade of the offseason, the Braves rushed this one and should have gotten more in return than a low-level pitcher with control problems.

12. Anthony Varvaro traded to Red Sox for Aaron Kurcz (story)
I still don’t get this trade, just like I didn’t get it at the time. Parting with Varvaro was completely unnecessary, and nothing but a marginal relief prospect came back in return. Atlanta could use Varvaro right now in the pen. If they really didn’t want him, then they should have waited to deal him at the end of spring when teams are scrambling for relievers and his value would be higher.

Post-script:

In evaluating these trades I didn’t think there would be such an even distribution of good, average and poor ones, but it worked out that way. The good news is that the high profile trades are the good or great ones, while the more inconsequential trades are the ones that fall at the bottom.

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More Trades on the Horizon?

Several days ago Jeff Wren reported that the Yankees were sending a scout to Gwinnett to see the Braves top position player prospect, Jose Peraza.

The N.Y. Post is also reporting the Yankees interest in him. That article hints at a possible return for Peraza:

While the Yankees aren’t likely to surrender top pitching prospect Luis Severino, they could put together a two-player package that might include catcher Gary Sanchez, who has been passed in the organization’s pecking order by John Ryan Murphy.

The more likely target for the Braves would be Yankees outfield prospect Aaron Judge. The Braves have a lack of power-hitting corner outfield prospects in the high minors, and Judge is one that could be ready in the next year or two. Baseball America ranks Judge the No. 53 prospect in the minors, while Peraza is right behind him at No. 54. A one-for-one swap of those two prospects would make sense, though it’s unknown if the Yankees are open to trading Judge.

ajudgeWhile Peraza has been talked up a lot this offseason as the next big prospect for the Braves, Jace Peterson has endeared himself to the Atlanta staff enough that he will be given every opportunity to establish himself as the team’s full time second baseman this season.

Peraza is also made more available in a trade because of Ozhaino Albies, a young middle infielder from Curacao, currently playing at Rome. Many believe that he could be ready in a hurry. Atlanta has further depth at second base with Elmer Reyes and Daniel Castro.

Currently the Yankees are just exploring options and checking in with teams in order to find the best fit. They are the pursuer in this rumor. Braves may overvalue Peraza just a bit, making a one-for-one hard to pull off. With all the buildup this offseason, they may also feel they need to get a lot in return for him.

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Success Rate of Braves Drafts

There have been a few articles published by national and regional writers in the past week that seem to reignite the feud between the new Braves regime of Johns (Schuerholtz, Hart and Copollela) and the former regime of Frank Wren.

Ken Rosenthal published an article last Thursday that disputed the claim by the new front office that the Braves minor league system under the old front office had stopped producing talent. Rosenthal’s assertions were a direct rebuke to many of the things the new front office had been saying about the old front office.

cjohnsonThat produced a response from Jon Heyman (note the “John” connection) on Friday in the form of a fluff piece touting the moves of the new front office, while taking subtle but consistent shots at the old front office.

The salvo continued on Saturday when Bill Shanks published a long blow-by-blow response to Rosenthal’s article. That took more of a “trust me, I’m an insider” approach to this apparent tit for tat.

There’s a lot going on here, and a lot to unpack that isn’t being said, but I’m not going to get into all that (yet). I thought I’d step back and just take a look at the facts and focus on the draft results between the two regimes, which was the primary focus of Rosenthal’s article (and Shanks’ response).

Back in October, when the Braves brought back Roy Clark (who had left after the 2009 draft), I wrote an article disputing the notion that Clark was any better or worse than his successor, Tony DeMacio. Yet I didn’t include any stats in that article; I should have.

Let’s look at the draft stats now. Clark was scouting director for the 2000 through 2009 drafts, while DeMacio was responsible for 2010 through 2014.

In examining success rates I’m going to remove 2014 from the mix, since it is too recent to bear any major league talent. To arrive at a success rate, or number of draft picks signed who reached the majors, I’ll take a look at all the Braves picks from each year who were drafted among the top 100. This will generally account for just first and second round picks, with the occasional third-rounder sneaking in there. I figured the first 100 picks would be a more consistent baseline than cutting it off by round.

For DeMacio, who was Wren’s guy, 5 of the 9 top-100 picks signed from 2010 to 2013 made the majors, or 56 percent.

For Clark, who was Schuerholtz’s guy, 24 of the 43 top-100 picks signed from 2000 to 2009 made the majors, or 56 percent.

bdevallPretty similar, I’d say. There is a high likelihood that the drafts of DeMacio/Wren will improve upon that 56 percent number as many of their top-100 picks are still major league prospects.

One of the items noted by Shanks, and by me in my article from October, is that Clark operated under the old draft and free agent compensation system that awarded more top picks when free agents left. Clark enjoyed an average of 4.5 picks from among the top-100 each draft, while DeMacio has only had 2.2 picks among the top-100 each year. Clark enjoyed a 2-to-1 advantage over DeMacio in the number of picks he had in each draft, and that advantage will return again this year when the Braves pick six times in the top-100.

Wren could have tried to add more draft picks through trades in recent years, but the picks added this year have not come without the cost of losing something valuable from the team’s major league roster or minor league depth.

None of this is in support of either camp, the old front office or the new. This is simply a reality check on all the salvos that have been launched in each direction since the regime change last year (and especially the most recent salvos).

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Putting the Braves’ hot start in perspective

No one, not even John Hart, could have predicted that the Braves would win their first two series of the year, let alone sweep one of them. But here they are at 5-and-1, at the top of the NL East. Is this a sign of things to come this season, or just one good week of baseball in an otherwise predictably poor rebuilding year?

Two things have fueled the Braves hot start — timely hitting and great relief pitching.

So far the team doesn’t have someone like Justin Upton hitting home runs in nearly every game like they did in 2013, when the team got off to a 13-and-2 start, in large part thanks to his nine home runs over that span. This season the formula at the plate has been one of good hitting with runners in scoring position — which is one thing the front office actually said they were focusing on this offseason.

The Braves have been one of the three best teams hitting with runners in scoring position in the season’s first week. They own a slash line of .383/.431/.574 with RISP, and (surprisingly) no home runs. Compare that to the Nationals’ .179/.233/.205 mark with RISP.

On the mound the Atlanta pitchers have posted the majors’ lowest ERA at 1.83, thanks to a bullpen that has allowed only one run, and just 2 of 12 inherited runners to score in 20.1 innings — the second-best bullpen ERA in the majors at 0.44.

In the world of small sample sizes neither of these two things — timely hitting nor great relief pitching — will likely continue throughout the season.

As baseball always does, the season will come down to a collection of individual performances. Get enough good ones and unexpected ones, and the team will do better than the experts think. Get too many bad ones, and the team will underachieve.

free-cjohnOne of the big reasons the 2013 Braves ran away with the NL East was because guys like Chris Johnson, Evan Gattis and Andrelton Simmons hit better than anyone expected them to.  When all of those guys struggled in 2014, along with most of the rest of the lineup, the team struggled to win games.

Certainly a renewed emphasis on situational hitting will help the team put a few more runs on the board, but that alone will not be enough to right the offensive woes of 2014, and the predicted deficiencies of power in this year’s lineup.

The Braves have had good bullpens and good pitching rotations for the last couple of years, but this year’s exceptional start will not be sustained. Getting the Luis Avilan of 2013 versus the Avilan of 2014 will make a huge difference. Getting dominant performances from Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli, who each had ERAs over 4.00 last year, will help a Kimbrel-less bullpen exceed expectations. Still, the rest of the pen is an unknown assemblage of rookies, Rule 5’ers and minor league free agents. How much can really be expected from this group?

This hot 5-and-1 start certainly makes it seem like great things are in store this year, but can timely hitting and dominant relief really continue for an entire season? If there are enough of these great individual performances, then the 2015 Braves could do more winning than most people think. The problem is that the team needs these aberrations in historical performance from a lot of places in the lineup, in the rotation, and in the bullpen. Perhaps too many places for sustained winning to be plausible.

Enjoy the first week. Enjoy the winning while it lasts… because it probably won’t. This was a good week in a season that may not have many good ones.

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Where Braves prospects are playing to start the season

With the minor league rosters getting announced today it’s time to look at where the Braves top-30 prospects will be playing. The players’ prospect rank is listed beside their name.

Atlanta Braves (MLB)
Christian Bethancourt, C (8)
Jace Peterson, 2B (16)
Cody Martin, RHP (22)
Juan Jaime, RHP (28)

Relievers Brandon Cunniff and rule-5 guy Andrew McKirahan are also rookies on the major league roster.

Color on WhiteGwinnett Braves (AAA)
Matt Wisler, RHP (1)
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP (3)
Jose Peraza, 2B (5)
Manny Banuelos, LHP (10)
Williams Perez, RHP (32)

The best of the Braves prospects are at the minors’ highest level. The starting rotation alone contains four top prospects. Also worth keeping an eye on are John Cornely and Brady Feigl in the bullpen, and Elmer Reyes, Todd Cunningham and Joe Benson in the field.

logo-mbravesMississippi Braves (AA)
Rio Ruiz, 3B (6)
Tyrell Jenkins, RHP (7)
Jason Hursh, RHP (11)
Mallex Smith, OF (20)

Ruiz and Smith should be worth the price of admission alone. Also keep an eye on Daniel Castro and Matt Lipka in the field. A lot of guys on this team are minor league veterans who have been around for awhile. Of course, the Braves have found some gems from those kinds of guys in recent years.

logo-mudcatsCarolina Mudcats (high-A)
Lucas Sims, RHP (2)
Jose Briceno, C (13)
Dustin Peterson, OF (14)
Mauricio Cabrera, RHP (15)
Andrew Thurman, RHP (23)
Yean Carlos Gil, LHP (33)
Johan Camargo, SS (34)

The newest Braves affiliate has the most top prospects to start the year. Sims, Cabrera and Thurman are all repeating this level. Keep an eye on the other outfielders, Connor Lien, Connor Oliver and Sean Godfrey.

logo-rbravesRome Braves (low-A)
Braxton Davidson, OF (9)
Ozhaino Albies, SS (17)
Ricardo Sanchez. LHP (18)
Alec Grosser, RHP (24)
Tanner Murphy, C (25)
Carlos Salazar, RHP (31)

A lot of exciting and young prospects to watch here. Also keep an eye on pitchers Max Povse, Chad Sobotka, Jorge Zavala, Zach Quintana and Brad Roney. Outfield speedster Joseph Daris will be fun to watch.

Others:
Max Fried, LHP (4) — on disabled list for most of the year
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (11) — 80 game drug suspension
Dilmer Mejia, LHP (19) — extended spring training
Wes Parsons, RHP (21) — not sure why he’s absent from a roster
Garrett Fulenchek, LHP (26) — extended spring training
Juan Yepez, OF (27) — extended spring training or Dominican League
Dian Toscano, OF (29) — delayed with visa issues

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Braves keep adding prospects and draft picks

Yesterday I wrote about the reasons for the shocking trade of Craig Kimbrel from the Atlanta Braves to the San Diego Padres. Today I’ll take a more detailed look at the players the Braves received in return. I’ll also examine another small trade the Braves made today.

mwislerThe most prized player the Braves got in exchange for Kimbrel was the Padres top prospect, right-handed starting pitcher Matt Wisler. He was a seventh-round pick in 2011, whom the Fathers lured away from a college commitment with a large bonus. Baseball America, in their 2015 Prospect Handbook, projects that had Wisler gone to college, he would have been a first round pick last year.

Wisler dominated competition in the lower minors in his first couple of years as a pro, but struggled last year upon his initial promotion to triple-A. While his 5.01 ERA in 22 starts at triple-A looks bad, he figured out the league as the year went on, posting a 3.60 ERA in his final six starts.

Wisler is a four-pitch pitcher with a steady low-90s fastball and wipe-out slider. His change and curve are behind his other pitches, but at only 22-years of age this season, he’s still learning the finer points of pitching.

With a sinking fastball Wisler pitches to contact and offers good durability in his 6-foot-3 frame. The Braves will work with him on his changeup and help him refine his command at triple-A. He enters a healthy competition with fellow Gwinnett rotation mates Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos and Williams Perez to be the first starting pitcher promoted should the Braves need help in Atlanta.

Wisler now becomes the top prospect on my 2015 Braves prospect list.

jparoubeckAlso coming over from San Diego is outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck. He was a second-round pick (69th overall) out of high school from the 2013 draft. He profiles as a five-tool outfielder who is still very raw in the field and in the batters box. He’s more of a long-term project, but with considerable upside, he’s a risk worth taking.

The Braves also received a major league outfielder in Cameron Maybin. He was a top-10 prospect from 2007 to 2009, a top-10 overall pick in the 2005 draft, and he was one of the key prospects the Marlins acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Miguel Cabrera. He arrived in the majors with quite a prospect pedigree, and his manager from 2008 to 2010 with the Marlins was Fredi Gonzalez.

Maybin didn’t really get going in the majors until he was traded to the Padres after the 2010 season. After two decent years in San Diego the team gave him a five year, $25 million extension that was heavily back-loaded. The Braves now assume that deal, which includes $7 million this season and $8 million next season with a $1 million buyout of his 2017 $9 million mutual option.

Maybin isn’t the difference maker or game changer that many thought he would be when he was a prospect, but he’s a good defensive center fielder and still has speed that can be an asset to a team if he hits in the lower third of the order. He’s been injured the last two years, so it’s hard to gauge what kind of player he can be if healthy. More than likely he’ll be sort of a B.J. Upton-like player, but one who is a bit younger than B.J. and still with some hope that he can post league average stats. He’s likely a placeholder in center field until the Braves can find or develop someone better.

The Braves also acquired a draft pick from the Padres. The No. 41 pick is a competitive balance pick assigned to lower-payrolled teams, and those picks can be traded. The importance of this pick should not be overlooked, and can be used by the Braves to select a high-end prospect. This pick has huge value and carries a projected $1.5 million bonus value — which would rank among the top-10 largest bonuses ever given to draft picks by Atlanta.

More picks and more trades…

vreyesIn a minor league trade on opening day, Atlanta sent outfield prospect Victor Reyes to the Diamondbacks in exchange for the 75th overall pick in this year’s draft, another competitive balance pick. Reyes was the team’s top international signing in 2011 out of Venezuela. He appeared on most Braves prospect lists from 2013 to present, ranking as high as just outside the top-10. I ranked him at the back-end of my top-30 list this year.

He fell down prospect lists this past year because of his struggles at low-A Rome, and especially his alarming lack of power. In 190 minor league games in three seasons he has not hit a home run.

While he is still just 20-years-old, it was looking more and more like Reyes was a bit of a bust. At this point in his career his prospect stock is only about projection and scouting, and not results. For Atlanta to have gotten the 75th pick for him seems like a very good return, and a big win for the Braves.

A busy first draft day to come…

By acquiring two draft picks in the past 24 hours, the Braves will now have five selections on the first day of the draft, and five selections among the first 75 picks. Here’s how they got them:

No. 14 — Their pick for finishing where they finished, though it’s a spot higher thanks to the Mets losing their pick when they signed Michael Cuddyer.
No. 28 — As compensation for losing free agent Ervin Santana.
No. 41 — Acquired from Padres as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade.
No. 54 — Normal second-round pick.
No. 75 — Acquired from Diamondbacks in the Victor Reyes trade.

Atlanta also has the No. 89 pick in the third round as part of their normal picks. That’s six picks among the top-100. (Atlanta hasn’t had six pick among the top-100 in any single draft since 2006.) That’s also a lot of money added to their draft spending cap, which they can play around with if they choose — meaning they could sandbag one of those million dollar bonus slots and use that money further down in the draft to sign players away from college commitments who may not have been selected where they thought they would be.

If the Braves use any of these picks on college players, there’s a very good chance they could be big contributors in Atlanta by the time the new stadium opens in 2017.

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Braves trade Craig Kimbrel to Padres

ckimbrelWhile many people, including me and my family, were sitting down to Easter dinner, the Atlanta Braves were busy trading away one of their most popular players, closer Craig Kimbrel. The shock from this trade was immediate. It was a stunner, and the ongoing reactions (from Twitter) to folks finding out about this deal reflected that shock and awe.

But let the shock wear off, and this trade starts to make sense and look really good for Atlanta. This offseason, once it was obvious the Braves were undergoing a rebuilding year, many baseball analysts wrote that trading away Kimbrel should be a big part of that rebuild. If the Braves were going to put a weakened team on the field in 2015 and 2016 with an eye towards bringing it all together in 2017 for the new stadium, then there might not be a lot of opportunities to get the ball to Kimbrel in the ninth inning. If they weren’t really planning to compete for two years, why should they pay a high premium for the best closer in baseball to save games for a sub-.500 team?

I also hesitate to say this, but it’s got to be in the back of a lot of people’s minds — Kimbrel, with his small stature and max-effort delivery, has got to be at a high risk for future elbow or shoulder problems.

Most baseball analysts thought that the Braves would look to move Kimbrel at this year’s trade deadline, when he might be in the most demand. This trade and the lack of any rumors about it spares Kimbrel the annoyance of having to read about it and comment to the media about it for a month leading up to the deadline. That might have been a more painful process to go through, not only for Kimbrel, but also for the Braves fan base. This was a rip-the-band-aid-off trade in that sense.

cmaybinThe Braves are rebuilding, and they needed to get rid of B.J. Upton and his salary, and they essentially had no use for Craig Kimbrel for two years. From the Padres they get outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck and the 41st overall pick in the June draft. The Braves will apparently designate Quentin for assignment, meaning he will never be on the Atlanta roster and the team can try to trade him for ten days, or else he just gets released. His inclusion was simply about salary relief for the Padres, who are taking on a lot more salary for a lot longer. Quentin’s salary is $8 million this year, which is far less than the $45 million owed Upton over the next three years.

Trading Kimbrel for just Wisler, the draft pick, and an outfield prospect would have been a pretty decent trade deadline deal. Add in a good defensive center fielder with speed in Maybin and it’s even better, though Maybin’s star has lost some of its luster the last couple of years because of injuries. Now consider the money being saved, not to mention the outs being saved, by getting rid of Upton. There were not a lot of baseball analysts who thought the Braves would be able to get another team to take B.J. and his salary, but they finally found a sucker, and that alone is a huge win for Atlanta — they tried to attach him to the Justin Upton and Evan Gattis trades without success. Also, in attaching B.J. and his salary to this trade, they don’t seem to have sacrificed a strong return for the real guy they were trading.

So the Braves traded a high-risk pitcher and an outfielder they really didn’t want who was making a lot of money, and in return get a pitcher who likely becomes their top prospect, a center fielder and two more building blocks (Paroubeck and the draft pick) for the future. It sucks to lose the popular Kimbrel, and they will take a PR hit in the short-term, but from a business of baseball perspective this trade is a huge win for the Braves.

I’ll take a look at the new guys in another post (likely tomorrow), and I’ll update the top prospect list to reflect Wisler as (more than likely) the number-1 guy.

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2015 MLB Predictions

It’s that predicting time of year when everyone gets a bunch of darts and throws them at a board full of guesses. The below are my predictions for the coming season. They are correct, of course.

Who will win the…

AL East: Orioles
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Mariners

AL Wild Cards: Yankees, Angels

Yeah, it’s time for the Indians to make some noise, and especially long past time for the Mariners to win. 

NL East: Marlins
NL Central: Pirates
NL West: Dodgers

NL Wild Cards: Nationals, Cardinals

I didn’t pick the Braves for anything, but that doesn’t mean I’ll root for them. In the back of my mind I have hopes for the Braves, but the logical part of my brain knows the reality of it all. 

AL Pennant: Mariners
NL Pennant: Marlins

World Series: Mariners

Longest commute World Series ever. 

AL ROY: Dalton Pompey
NL ROY: Kris Bryant

AL CY: Felix Hernandez
NL CY: Clayton Kershaw

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen

I didn’t go out on any limbs for the award winners. I do hope the Braves rookies make some noise, but it sounds like no one is coming close to Bryant. 

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Braves acquire pitcher Trevor Cahill

The Atlanta Braves have completed a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, acquiring right-handed pitcher Trevor Cahill in exchange for minor league outfielder Josh Elander.

tcahillCahill will likely enter into the rotation mix as the fourth starter, pushing either Wandy Rodriguez or Eric Stults out of the competition. The 27-year-old Cahill is a former top prospect for the Athletics who had one really great year in 2010, when he was 18-and-8 with a 2.97 ERA.

He was a slightly above average pitcher for two years after the Diamondbacks acquired him during the winter of 2011, but last season he was pretty awful. He was bumped from the rotation and relegated to the bullpen.

Cahill made an adjustment in his delivery this spring, raising his arm angle to be more over the top rather than three-quarters. The Diamondbacks’ SweetSpot blog In the ‘Zona has a great description (and video) here.

Arizona will apparently be paying a little more than half of Cahill’s $12 million 2015 salary. He has team options for 2016 and 17 at $13 million and $13.5 million, with low buyout thresholds.

As for the player the Braves gave up, Josh Elander was a 6th-round pick from the 2012 draft. He was selected as a catcher, but moved to the outfield with good success. He lit up low-A Rome in his first full season in 2013, but struggled after being promoted to high-A Lynchburg. He repeated Lynchburg last year, and struggled again, but spent much of the year on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury.

Josh Elander (photo by CB Wilkins)

Josh Elander (photo by CB Wilkins)

He was ranked among the top-15 Braves prospects from 2013 to 14 by many prospect outlets, but went unranked by everyone this year. His struggles in Lynchburg and time missed with injury contributed to that. When he was ranked he was likely over-ranked, even by me, because he was just about the only power-hitting prospect in a Braves system that was devoid of power-hitting prospects. He was completely expendable from a prospect standpoint.

I suppose this was a good trade, though it’s kind of a weird acquisition. Atlanta gets Cahill for virtually nothing except the $6 million they’ll owe him. He was highly thought of once, and had some good years, so there’s always that hope that he can return to that mid-rotation form.

It’s a weird move from a team direction point of view. Atlanta spent a lot of time and effort this offseason trading away the present to acquire the future. Why not give one of the young pitchers a chance in the rotation? Cody Martin pitched well this spring and seemed to deserve a chance. Mike Foltynewicz had some bumps in the road, but he’s going to have to work threw those at some point.

Surely the Braves front office isn’t drinking their own Kool-Aid about trying to put a competitive team on the field this year. Of course, acquiring Trevor Cahill likely doesn’t make the Braves any more competitive than they were before the trade. He was able to be had for a minor league outfielder who has struggled to hit at A-ball, and Arizona is paying Cahill $6 million not to pitch for them. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for future success.

Yeah, weird acquisition. Maybe Cahill was the only thing available out there, and the Braves felt he checked more boxes than either Wandy or Shults (we’ll see which one gets moved tomorrow).

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Braves add LHP Andrew McKirahan

amckirahanThe Atlanta Braves have claimed left-handed reliever Andrew McKirahan from the Miami Marlins, as first reported by a Marlins beat writer.

McKirahan was a Rule 5 pick this offseason by Miami from the Chicago Cubs. According to Baseball America, he has a power arm, and can run his fastball in the mid-90s, though his breaking ball apparently still needs work. He had Tommy John surgery in 2012.

Much like James Russell, the reliever the Braves released this past week, McKirahan is a left-hander who is much better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. Across two levels last year, including the double-A Southern League, righties had a .203 batting average against him, while lefties hit .301.

That same pattern of better success against right-handed batters was obvious in his splits in every other season since he was drafted in the 21st round in 2011 out of the University of Texas at Austin.

The Braves seem desperate for relievers at this point in spring, and adding McKirahan smacks a bit of desperation, though it follows the youth movement they have been on this offseason. If he doesn’t work out, then he can be returned to the Cubs. But for him to remain a Brave beyond this season, he would need to stay on the 25-man roster all season, according to the roster rules for Rule 5 picks.

The Braves have a previous Rule 5 pick in Daniel Winkler who will need to meet the requirement of spending at least 90 days on the active roster at some point. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery (theme!) this season, and may not pitch until late in the year, but it will be interesting if Atlanta has to squeeze two Rule 5 picks on their roster. I don’t believe the Braves have ever carried two Rule 5 selections who need to meet roster requirements at the same time.

It will be interesting to see how his acquisition affects the chances of the other lefties still in the running for bullpen spots like Josh Outman, Luis Avilan and Brady Feigl. Avilan didn’t pitch that great in the game yesterday, but Feigl certainly got an important out in the ninth inning, which would seem to help his chances. Outman has struggled most of the spring and could be on the way out, man.

All is still in flux for the last few roster spots, but we know one of the bullpen spots will now be filled by Andrew McKirahan.

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