The Atlanta Braves continue to retool for 2015 and beyond. On the very first day of the year the team has acquired left-handed starting pitching prospect Manny Banuelos from the New York Yankees, in exchange for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.
Banuelos had Tommy John surgery in October of 2012, and missed all of the 2013 season. Prior to the injury he was considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, ranking between No. 13 and No. 41 from 2011 to 2012.
One of his early-career calling cards was his good control with a low-90s fastball. As he moved up the minor league ladder he added velocity to the mid-90s, but his control suffered and his walk rates spiked.
As with the insider knowledge of the prospects they acquired in the Justin Upton trade with the Padres thanks to the recent hire of a former San Diego assistant GM, the Braves are dealing from a similar area of increased knowledge with the Yankees. Atlanta brought in former Yankees scout Gordon Blakeley to serve as an assistant GM as part of their front office overhaul several months ago. Clearly the Braves have a high degree of confidence that Banuelos can return to his pre-surgery promise.
Losing Carpenter and Shreve will likely not hurt the bullpen too much, if at all. With the recent acquisitions of Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli, and others, Atlanta must believe they have enough relief pitching. The team deals Carpenter while his value is high, and perhaps Shreve too, especially if his emergence from obscurity last year was a fluke. I’m more inclined to believe that Shreve’s velocity and command are real, and he’ll be a good O’Flaherty-esque reliever for years. (Click here for my story on Shreve from last year.)
The Braves are going for most upside with this trade, acquiring a young starting pitcher who will turn 24 in spring training. If he can return to the pitcher who had the promise of a top-50 prospect, then Atlanta just got a steal.
This is another trade with an eye towards the new ballpark for the 2017 season. ManBan could be an established part of the rotation by then. But first the Braves will give him every opportunity to win the fifth starter spot in spring training. If he’s not ready, then he can start the year at Triple-A.
The Braves 2015 rotation now projects to be one of the youngest in baseball. Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Banuelos will all be 24 years old by opening day, and Mike Minor will be the elder statesman at 27.
Even though the Braves have traded four members of their 2014 bullpen (Carpenter, Shreve, Anthony Varvaro, and Jordan Walden), their relief corps look deep for 2015: Craig Kimbrel, Johnson, Grilli, Shae Simmons, Arodys Vizcaino, David Hale, James Russell, and Luis Avilan, as well as several others not on the 40-man roster who could compete for spots, like Michael Kohn and Donnie Veal.
With that kind of depth in the pen, this trade looks like an even bigger win for Atlanta, as long as Banuelos can regain his command. They dealt from an area of great depth, and acquired a player who could be a big part of the team for years to come. ManBan is still a gamble, but this is a worthwhile risk to take.