Notes on 755 Hank Aaron Dr

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Looking forward to the end of July

So, I think it should be safe to say that the Braves will be sellers at the trade deadline.  The National League is really weird this year; either the divisions are already decided (NL East), or they're a pile of mediocre teams jockeying for position (NL Central), or they're actually competitive (NL West, where both wild cards are likely to come from).  Basically, since the Braves are in the East, they have no chance to win the division, and because they're just south of mediocre, they really don't have any chance to get one of the wild cards either.  The Braves are about 10 games out of the division lead, and actually even further out of the second wild card right now.  And with a run differential of -30, they're certainly not under-performing expectations at 32-37.

So, the question becomes who is most likely to be traded during the season?  Honestly, most of the major league roster should be considered as available for the right offer.  There are a lot of stopgaps on the team, and even many of the younger players aren't necessarily part of the future core.  That is to say, the Braves shouldn't necessarily be shopping Rio Ruiz, but they should be willing to listen to offers for him, Camargo, Santana, etc.  That being said, I don't think it's all that interesting to speculate on what kind of return the Braves would get for Ruiz, because I prefer to believe that he's the 3B of the future.  So instead, I'm going to focus on the older players for the most part, starting with the outfielders.

Matt Kemp seems very likely to be moved.  He's had a tremendous resurgence since the Braves got him, and does the sorts of things that contending teams like to add.  He's hitting for average and power, and looks adequate in the field.  That makes him potentially useful to teams in both leagues, and he'd be an upgrade for a lot of teams.  The negatives on him are that he's signed for a lot of money through 2019, and he's had health and conditioning issues in recent years.  So the Braves would have to send money along with him in order to get anything useful in return.  But as low as the overall payroll is, that shouldn't be a major issue.  Kemp + $$$$ should net something interesting.

Nick Markakis is another player that you'd have to expect will move on.  He's only signed for one more year, and makes about half of what Kemp does.  But he's also not a power hitter, so he might be less attractive.  He's less obviously an upgrade than Kemp is right now, so it's questionable what the return would be for him.  And since the Braves don't have a bunch of outfielders in the high minors forcing their way into the majors, it may be that the Braves only trade one of the two corner outfielders.  If they're willing to send money, Kemp should return more value.  If they're not willing to send money, then Markakis probably gets traded.  I hope that Kemp goes, but then again, it's easy for me to spend Liberty Media's money.

As to the rest of the outfielders, Inciarte isn't going anywhere.  The backups are all potential trade bait, most likely as a throw in to a larger deal, or just in a minor deal for a B/C prospect.

As for the infielders, Brandon Phillips is an obvious trade candidate.  He's a 35 year old second baseman.  He's had a pretty good year, and he's a local guy, but if anyone's willing to make a good offer, you need to take it.  Ozzie Albies isn't doing anything great in Gwinnett right now, but he's not doing that badly either, so he could take over, "ready" or not.  Or you could let Camargo take over second for the rest of the year.  Or heck, maybe Kelly Johnson is sitting by the phone.

Matt Adams is certain to be available once Freeman returns from the DL.  He's not under contract past 2017, although he would still be under Braves control for 2018 at least.  But neither Adams nor Freeman has any defensive flexibility, and there's little room for a backup 1B/PH on a five man bench.  I've stated my doubts about how Freeman will perform when he returns, but the fact is that if he's on the active roster, there's no good reason for him not to be playing.  Of course, Adams's defensive limitations will also limit the interest in him, so it's not out of the question that the Braves hold on to him, and run him out in LF on occasion in September.  That will be, by all accounts, interesting.

Swanson's not going anywhere, and I really don't expect anyone else in the infield to be a trade target.  Adonis Garcia could be a cheap buy if someone needs a third baseman, but really, it's pretty obvious what Garcia is at this point, and it's not something anyone's going to overpay for.  Camargo has future utilityman written all over him.  And Ruiz is still more prospect than proven, which makes him more likely to be moved in the offseason than at the deadline.

You may notice that I didn't really address what the Braves would get back for these guys.  That's largely because, in my opinion, it's just too hard to guess that these days.  There's much more attention paid to the salaries than there used to be, and teams are much more protective of their prospects.  You don't have owners like Ted Turner or George Steinbrenner who are focused entirely on winning any more.  (That's both good and bad.)  And I really think that the addition of the wild card has changed how teams approach the trade deadline.  If you're the GM of the Dodgers, does it really make sense to pay in both prospects and money to win the NL West, when you're assured of making the postseason as at least a wild card?  There's an advantage to winning the division, yes, but it's not like you're choosing between winning the division and going home.  I also honestly don't believe that the Braves are yet at a point where they should do anything beyond "acquire the best players available" when drafting or trading.  I'd like to see them get more position players in the system, because they've got so darn many pitching prospects...

Next time around, I'll go through the pitchers.  There aren't as many good trade candidates there as we all hoped for in March, but there's still options.

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