The Atlanta Braves can’t seem to go a month without making a trade. Three weeks after a trade with another N.L. West team (the Dodgers) the Braves went back to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a familiar-looking trade. Atlanta acquired right-handed pitchers Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo in exchange for infielder Phil Gosselin.
Arroyo is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will not be ready to pitch in a major league game until August at the earliest, and may not be able to return to the mound at all this year. Atlanta takes on the $9.5 million left on his contract, which includes a $4.5 million buyout on his 2016 $13 million option year.
But Arroyo is not the main attraction here, merely an expensive sideshow which was the cost for acquiring one of the top-100 prospects in baseball. Drafted No. 16 overall in the 2014 draft, Touki Toussaint was considered by many to be the top right-handed prep arm in the entire draft. He cost the D-Backs $2.7 million in bonus money last year, almost $400,000 over slot.
Toussaint is said to have the ceiling of a true ace. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, and he spins what scouts describe as a knockout plus-plus curveball that he throws in the mid-70s. This gives him the kind of velocity separation that makes both of those pitches more effective. His changeup is still a work in progress, but flashes plus and could be another future out-pitch.
A future pitching ace with three potential plus or plus-plus pitches… all for only $9.5 million!?!
Considering how much international talent from Cuba or Japan costs to sign, or how much a pitcher costs in the free agent market, paying only $9.5 mil for one of the top talents in the minor leagues is an amazing coup for Atlanta. If money is the only issue here, then this move by the Diamondbacks is a real head-scratcher. If you subtract Toussaint’s bonus last year, then Arizona is only really saving around $6.8 million. For that little bit of salary relief they’re giving up a very valuable arm.
It’s even more of a head-scratcher since they signed Cuban RHP Yoan Lopez this past offseason for about the same amount of money owed to Arroyo, and in the process exceeded their international bonus pool, for which they will be limited in the bonuses they can give international talent for the next two years. That means they will have a hard time restocking their system with high-ceiling prospects from the international ranks, which would make one think they would want to hold onto all of their top young talent. From an Arizona perspective, this trade is utterly confusing and possibly downright stupid.
With that kind of assessment from the Arizona end, it should be no surprise that this trade is a huge win for Atlanta. Phil Gosselin’s versatility and competitiveness will be missed, but he is at best a utility infielder, and not likely to be a productive starter for a first-division team. He was completely expendable after the emergence of Jace Peterson, and with Jose Peraza lurking at triple-A.
Atlanta engineered a similar trade with Arizona during spring training, in which they acquired Trevor Cahill and the $7 million or so left on his contract along with a coveted early-round draft pick in exchange for a couple of low-level minor league outfield prospects. While Cahill didn’t work out for the Braves and has been released, the team used that draft pick, No. 75 overall, on a high-ceiling pitcher who could be a future closer (A.J. Minter). Atlanta was essentially buying that draft pick in exchange for taking most of what was owed to Cahill off Arizona’s books.
At some point it might be fun to watch Arroyo’s absurd leg kick toe the mound for the team. And remember, they still hold an option on Arroyo for next season should they choose to keep him and try and flip him this offseason, or sometime next year.