Walk-Off Talk 1.5: Finding A Partner (Part 2)

Walk-Off Talk 1.5: Finding A Partner (Part 2)

(Previously…on Walk-Off Talk…Ryan and I tried to find some interested teams for the two most valuable soon-to-be free agents on the Braves, Jaime Garcia and Brandon Phillips. Today, we look at four more pending free agent assets who don’t have markets that aren’t nearly as robust. Events occur in real time.)

Ryan,

@JMotte30

Last year, John Coppolella turned Hunter Cervenka into Michael Mader and Anfernee Seymour so we know the guy can find quality players for a reliever, but Jason Motte isn’t Cervenka. He’s not left-handed, he’s not 26, and he doesn’t carry a half-decade of team control. Is it even worth talking about Motte as a tradeable asset?

To be fair, Motte has been a nice find. He’s kept his ERA around 2.00, picked up three holds, and stranded 11 of 15 runners he’s inherited. But there are some issues here and that’s not only related to the fact he turns 35 today. One, he’s been about as lucky as a pitcher can be. The guy has an ERA nearly four runs under what his FIP is at. He’s found a way to carry a negative WAR with a 2.14 ERA, which should be impossible. He has a 100% LOB%. His BABIP is a hyper-low .179.

Motte’s going to crash and he’s going to crash quick. And none of the numbers I cited are secret. While some teams are more stats-savvy than others, it’s hard for me to accept that anyone thinks Motte has pitched as well as his ERA states. While we could certainly talk about some teams who are need of relief help, I see Motte more likely to be an added piece in deals involving Jaime Garcia or Brandon Phillips (or others we’ll talk about later). Similar to how Jim Johnson was basically attached to the Hector Olivera (CHANGE TO He Who Must Not Be Named) deal. Am I wrong? Do you think there are teams that are going to actually target Motte?

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Tommy,

No. Next?  Just kidding. I think you’re spot on when it comes to Motte as he’ll be a guy that gets attached to another player, if at all! He’s someone that the Braves fans should appreciate this year as he’s been brought in the midst of madness with runners galore and has stranded 11 of 15. Forget that some balls are hit so hard that they nearly take off the infielders’ gloves right before they double up the guy running back to 2nd, that’s a pretty remarkable feat. Velcro him to someone and let’s get another young flamethrower up here.

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Ryan,

I think we will also have similar reactions to the next two players – R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Let’s address the knuckleballer first. He is coming off possibly his best start as a Brave where he tossed seven quality innings against the Giants. I say it was possibly his best start because eleven days before that, he had a Game Score v. 2.0 of 82 against the Phillies, which slightly edges the 81 he put up against San Francisco. Unfortunately, those starts were sandwiched around an eight-run, three-homer affair against the Nats. Since the beginning of 2013, Dickey has a FIP of 4.68 and it’s only getting higher.

The righty does carry a – relatively speaking – affordable $8M club option for 2018, but will anyone bite on Dickey (ouch)? It seems hard for me to find a match. Maybe a team like the Red Sox who like the versatility of having a knuckleballer who can serve as a swingman? They lost Steven Wright after all and kept Tim Wakefield around despite some gross numbers toward the end of his career. That’s about all I can come up with at this point. A few more games like last weekend, though, and things could change in a hurry.

As for Colon, I know you are going to suggest the Mets and honestly, it’s the only option I see as well. Though, I kind of look at it like Julio Franco in reverse. The ageless one left the Braves for the Mets and really struggled in ’07. They released him in mid-July and three days later, the Braves added him for the remainder of the season. I see the Mets maybe pouncing on Colon (ouch?) should the Braves cut him, but hard for me to see them giving the Braves anything – even a non-prospect.

And by the way, I think I’m being optimistic here in including two teams that might have any interest whatsoever at this point in either Dickey or Colon.

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Tommy,

Let’s talk about R.A. Dickey and the history of his knuckleball: it gets better with the age of a season. For his career, his ERA during months of March/April is over 5. In May, 4.41. From there?

  • June- 3.50
  • July- 4.14
  • August- 3.89
  • September/Oct- 3.45

If there’s a team that knows this about Dickey, he could most definitely be looked at as an innings eater that could keep them in the game. However, that doesn’t negate the current numbers and that his ERA is 4.91. I like your idea about the Red Sox and there could be a match there, but aside from some salary relief, I don’t think there’s reason to discuss return at this point as it likely will be a player of little to no impact.

As for Bartolo, I think it’s Mets or bust, and if the Mets have an underperforming player they’d like to give the Braves in return for Bartolo, that’d be fine with me. On Twitter a few weeks back, I suggested a Bartolo for Josh Smoker deal. Smoker would have to be inserted on the 40-man, but he’s a LH flamethrower that’s finding success in the minors, but hasn’t translated to the bigs yet. Send Mets Bartolo, pay all but 1MM of his salary, and get a lottery ticket in return.

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Ryan,

Smoker? I hardly knew her.

Sorry. I mean, I’ll take any assets as I can for Colon as long as it doesn’t add to the financial bottom line, though I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of faith there is much chance of a deal.

Keith Allison (CC by 2.0) via Wikipedia Commons

Moving on to the Braves’ final one-year contract, let’s look at Kurt Suzuki. Back when the Braves signed Suzuki, I was a little disappointed. I didn’t see the point in handing over the backup catcher gig to Suzuki over going with an open competition between Anthony Recker and a cast of thousands. So far, though, Suzuki has been pretty darn impressive. I’ll take a wRC+ of 91 out of a backup catcher especially when he’s ninth in the league in outside-of-the-zone strike percentage according to Statcorner.com.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing to bring him back for 2018 depending on how he finishes this season, but if another team is looking for stability behind the plate and is willing to serve up a prospect or two, I’m definitely going to consider things.

  • Arizona – The Diamondbacks have the worst fWAR among their catchers in the majors. Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis are both underperforming veterans, though Iannetta has mashed eight homers. Finally, there is Chris Hermann, who hit well last year, but has returned to the third catcher status that followed his career in Minnesota. Both Iannetta and Mathis score well in pitch framing, though Hermann does not. I imagine the Diamondbacks would be more interested in a better solution than Suzuki, but the market is thin and Suzuki might be one of their best options should they seek an improvement.
      
  • Toronto – Russell Martin has underperformed, but Suzuki would not steal his playing time. Rather, this is about depth. Toronto started the season with our old friend Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate as the backup, but after he managed just a single in 26 PA (with 16 strikeouts!), the Jays moved on to Luke Maile, a 26 year-old in his third year who has hit .185/.211/.292 over 245 PA. The Jays could definitely use some help here.
      
  • Cleveland – Roberto Perez was a bit of a postseason name, but he’s hit just .159/.235/.216 this season. Yan Gomez isn’t exactly lighting it up, either. Both do provide good defense and Perez is a particularly gifted framer. They don’t seem like a good match on paper, but they might be interested in adding some depth.
     
  • Washington – Matt Wieters’ great start is a distant memory. He’s reached 0.0 fWAR and nobody is talking anymore about how the Braves should have got him. Jose Lobaton, his backup, is a great receiver, but with Wieters cooling, might the Nats be interested in a better bat behind him? 

On one hand, the market isn’t huge for Suzuki, though you could make an argument that half (if not more) of the league could use a better backup catcher and Suzuki is one of the better ones in baseball this season at providing just that. Do you think there might be abother player here I haven’t listed?

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Thanks for asking, Tommy.

While I’ve had a few others that on the surface look like matches for Suzuki (Angels, Red Sox, Rockies), I think you’ve covered the main players. However….

I think the team that really could use Suzuki is a team you’ve discussed, and that is the Diamondbacks. They’re having a pretty good year and could use a fresh veteran presence behind the plate. There’s a LHP out of Vandy in their system that isn’t putting up great numbers at AA despite having great strikeout numbers: Jared Miller. He’s the perfect kind of upside for the Braves to take a risk on and he’s performing poorly enough to where the Diamondbacks would trade him.

But let it be known, I want to see the Braves extend Suzuki. I was of the same opinion as you when he was first signed, but his value as a backup to Tyler has been…well…valuable. I like 2 veteran guys catching our young guys going forward and I’d like to see these 2 back behind the dish in 2018. Obviously, the Braves could do both, trade him then re-sign him in the offseason, and that would be the best of both worlds as long as Suzuki is cool with it.

2 Comments

I have to think that even if Dickey shows improvement as the season goes on, as he's historically done (good eye for finding that, BTW), that most teams would be reluctant to bring him in. Chances are slim that any deadline buyers have catchers experienced with knuckleballers, and I don't think you want them having to get accustomed to this while making a stretch run.

Great point that I should have considered. Adding a knuckler mid-season would be a difficult thing for a team's catchers. Ah, but if they want acquire Suzuki at the same time…(though the Braves no longer pair up the two)…

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