|Grant McAuley – Follow on Twitter – used with permission|
As hopefully all of you know, the Braves are rebuilding. In the details, all rebuilds look different. Some focus on bats, some focus on arms, the players moved are different, the players acquired are different, timelines change, etc.
But zoomed out, all rebuilds follow the same path. Trade present assets for future assets, become very bad, build your system back up, get decent, trade future assets for present assets, get good. All of these parts hold varying amounts of importance but since it really isn’t that hard to get bad, and once you get bad, the system is designed to help you build up your system, I’ve always believed the most critical part of any rebuild is that second to last one.
Trading away your own prospects, the ones you’ve gone through years of turmoil to acquire, for major league talent is when the fate of rebuilds gets decided. Who to trade? Who to trade for? Is it time? Is our window opening or are we still another year away? Bottom line, you get these questions wrong, you can wreck a lot of the good you’ve done. Get them right, you can propel your team to another level.
All of this is relevant because this is where Atlanta now sits. Jose Quintana was traded on Thursday and there were several reports by very reputable people saying the Braves were very much in the mix, even going as far as to say the Braves and their offer finished second to the Cubs, who eventually landed the valuable left-hander.
That was all very interesting in its own right but then Jeff Passan of Yahoo tweeted this:
Sources: The Braves made a strong and serious run at Jose Quintana, with an offer that included 20-year-old SS Ozzie Albies.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 15, 2017
For full context he did follow it up with this tweet:
Let me re-characterize this: Albies was definitely part of potential offer for Quintana, but source cautioned it never got to serious stage. https://t.co/K4ohRYjKBL
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 15, 2017
So, this is interesting. There are a few ways we can take this but we’re just going to focus on Albies for now. Should Atlanta be willing to trade Ozzie Albies?
The answer is, as it almost always is with these types of questions, it depends.
It sounds like a cop out answer but it really isn’t. Trades are all about value. You’re giving up value to get value. Forget the names of players or your personal feelings for a second and just ask yourself a simple question; is there a player or are there players out there that match or exceed the value of Ozzie Albies?
The answer is of course. If Yoan Moncada or Eloy Jimenez or Gleyber Torres can be traded then obviously Albies can. Whatever you think of his talents or his ceiling, there absolutely is a player or players out there that equal his value. It depends on the return.
But when you say it depends on the return, people usually just think of the talent. But it’s not just talent. There’s another, equally important, variable in the return – timing.
The way the economics of baseball work is players are under team control for around 6 years after they’re called up. It’s not exactly that simple but that’s a decent summary. The Braves are a relatively small market team when it comes to payroll. They don’t swim in the deepest waters of free agency and therefore have to manage service time and contracts of their young players wisely.
What this means for their rebuild is they have to match up the assets they control and when they control them with their contention window. Take a guy like Quintana – he’s under team control for 3 more years after this year. If you’re going to trade multiple future assets for him, you have to believe you have a legitimate chance of contending for division titles and World Series titles somewhere in those 3 years and, preferably, all of them.
Even if you get equal talent back, trading away a significant part of your future for a piece that helps you win 82 games is a fool’s errand and watching them walk out the door just as you’re starting to contend makes it even worse.
And therein, as they say, lies the rub. This is why those questions I asked at the beginning are so crucial. They have to be answered objectively, honestly, and with supreme accuracy. Are you ready to contend now? Is it time to pull that trigger?
In my personal opinion, it’s not that time for Atlanta. Unless they are acquiring assets who are under team control for 4 or 5 years or more, I would not pull that trigger. I think the team is playing well right now but a bit above its head and the favorable schedule has clouded some judgment. Even if they did make a run at a wild card spot, you’re still only guaranteed one game and that simply isn’t enough to start mortgaging the future.
That’s just my opinion, though, and as of today, Coppy has yet to ask for it before making a decision so the real question is where does he, and the front office, think this team is on their timeline? The answer to that question will dictate the steps we see from here.
Would I trade Ozzie Albies? Absolutely, I would. Everyone on the team, except maybe Freddie, has a price. But for me, the value you get back has to match or exceed in talent AND timing. It has to be both.
Would I trade him for a 28-year-old starting pitcher with 3 1/2 years of control?