Braves trade for pick #76 in 2016 draft

I’m really glad that baseball began allowing the trading of some draft picks. And so are the Braves.

Atlanta used the acquisition of additional draft picks to their advantage last year by trading for two additional selections, one as a part of the major Craig Kimbrel trade with the Padres and the other in a pure salary dump trade with the Diamondbacks*. For this year’s draft the Braves already have an additional pick as part of the Alex Wood trade with the Dodgers, and now they essentially purchase another in a salary dump trade with the Orioles.

The Braves acquired the No. 76 pick in the 2016 MLB draft and LHP Brian Matusz from the Orioles in exchange for RHP Brandon Barker and LHP Trevor Belicek. Per the Braves beat writers, the team plans to release Matusz, so the deal is really the draft pick and $3 million (the money left on Matusz’s contract) for Barker and Belicek.

To look at it yet another way, since a currently-nameless player is involved by virtue of the pick, the Braves are trading for the Orioles 2nd-round pick in the 2016 draft in exchange for the Braves 16th-round pick in the 2014 draft, the 16th-round pick in the 2015 draft and $3 million.

Yes, both Barker and Belicek have done well in their short pro careers. Barker has been a huge surprise this year with a 2.00 ERA in 8 starts at double-A. Belicek was putting up good numbers while being used as a swing-man at low-A. Neither were really considered prospects for Atlanta. While Barker might have gotten listed at the back third of some top-30 Braves prospect lists if his good work continued, neither were more than a B- prospect at this point (see the preseason list for where Barker might rank as a B- prospect).

Yet another way to look at this trade, is that when the Braves acquired their second round pick (No. 75 overall) last year, they used it on a college closer, A.J. Minter, who has a much greater chance to be an impact player in the majors than either Barker or Belicek. In this year’s trade the Braves acquire virtually that same selection with the No. 76 pick. I’ll say that’s worth three million in today’s baseball landscape.

Whichever way I look at this trade, it continues to look like a big win for Atlanta. Clearly the Orioles think highly of both Barker and Belicek, as they didn’t clear as much payroll space as the Diamondbacks did last year when they dumped twice as much payroll while getting two outfielders, one of whom is no longer playing baseball.

The real value of this trade could be in the way that it plays into Atlanta’s overall 2016 draft strategy.

While the slot money assigned to the No. 76 pick is just over $800,000, the Braves could place even more value on that selection by picking a higher-ranked prospect who has fallen down in the draft and giving him an over-slot bonus. This is possible because of the Braves large draft pool created by their No. 3 overall pick and the expectation (around the baseball industry) that the players drafted in the top-5 spots might sign for less than slot value ($6.5 million for the Braves No. 3 slot). If Atlanta is able to sign its first round selection for a $1 million or $2 million less than that $6.5 million slot value, then that frees up money to be used around pick No. 76 to sign a player to late-first round money. The last pick, No. 34, in the first round is almost $1 million more than the slot value of the Braves No. 76 pick.

The Braves could have bought themselves another first-round pick.

We’ll have to wait and see if this is what the Braves are thinking, or whether they will simply be content to take a player that fits the value of the bonus slot assigned to that pick. Either way equals a win for the Braves, and potentially a huge bonanza for the team — highlighting how important these extra draft picks are this season.

*Technically, the 2015 trade with the Diamondbacks was two trades.

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