In our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pieces for Armchair GMs, we heard from a very thorough Will Soprano who enticed, or infuriated, us with a trade of ultimate magnitude. Then we heard from Armchair GMs in J.T. Hornbuckle (Twitter: @jthornbuckle) and Aubrey Smith (Twitter: @braveslive16)who have different ideas on what the 2018 Braves might look like. Last, we heard from Tyler Wilson (@BravesTwills) who proposes a fairly large package of players to a team that is very familiar with the Braves system.
In our 4th installment of Armchair GM, we hear from a man with a lot of plans (sounds like Coppy, huh?) and has a few directions of which this offseason could go. Wesley, the floor is your’s.
Braves Armchair GM, Wesley Gaier (@gaier_wesley)
Well, at least with Coppy we would have had trade rumors swirling, an ask Coppy session by now and maybe even some free agent signings to talk about. With Alex Anthopolous, we haven’t heard a thing about any of the above. Of course because of Coppy we may not have enough players for one of our developmental affiliates and there wouldn’t be this giant black cloud of frustration hanging over the Braves franchise either. Coppy has single handedly destroyed the off season to date all while being unemployed from the Braves and now permanently banned from Major League Baseball. AA has his work cut out for him. Time to move on.
It is my opinion that since we are in year four of the Braves rebuild and rebuilds typically are expected to take 3-5 years the Braves should be making moves to make them better now. This is especially true since there are rumors of major sponsors backing out because of the aforementioned black cloud hanging over Suntrust. Also, I can’t imagine season ticket sales are doing great at the moment as our beloved team still seems to be quite a ways from competing with Washington for future division titles.
So what can the Braves do on the Free Agent Market?
Well, they can go sign someone like Tyler Chatwood but even he will cost something in the 3/30 million range. They can use a couple of good relievers and there are plenty of those out there to be had: Brandon Kintzler, Tommy Hunter, Brandon Morrow, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Anthony Swarzak, Mike Minor, etc., etc. Two of any of those will cost at least 2/14 million each and maybe as much as 3/21 (Hunter and Swarzak would be my picks). Well, doing the above would cost the Braves roughly 22-25 million next season if they do nothing else and that would make the Braves better while giving some of the Braves pitching prospects (relievers and starters) a chance to continue their “seasoning” in the minor leagues. Let’s get better now!!! Well, the good news is the Braves were 27th in the league in strikeouts, (Astros were 30th of course), 6th in batting average, and 14th in on base percentage. But, the Braves were 21st in slugging percentage last year and 28th in homers. And as far as slugging percentage goes the top 8 teams in slugging all made the playoffs (Hou, Wash, Cleve, NYY, Ari, Col, Chic, LA). They were also 20th in runs scored. So the obvious need is power but where can they add it in the lineup? The Braves are pretty much set at SS, CF,1B, 2B and Catcher. But in LF, 3B and RF the Braves could use some serious upgrading.
Where do the Braves go from here?
The Braves have right-handed power hitter prospects that they believe in for both RF and 3rd. One of which arrives next year in the form of Ronald Acuna and the other, Austin Riley, should be ready by the start of the season in 2019 or as early as late next year. It is very feasible that Ruiz and Camargo could do a soft platoon as Ruiz hits righties better while Camargo is better at hitting lefties (even though he is a switch hitter) until Riley is ready. Heck, as streaky as Camargo is, he could take the position for weeks at a time while providing excellent defense with that cannon of an arm he has. The point is that the Braves should not block Riley if they really believe in him. Now they could make a trade for someone like Jed Lowrie or Chase Headley to man the position for the time being but the job will be Riley’s to lose as soon as he is ready.
That still leaves the need for a left fielder who is athletic, can play decent defense, can hit some bombs and is preferably left handed! There is NO such prospect in the Braves minor league system! Ok, is there a free agent we could sign to play left field? Hmmm, not this year but Atlanta native Charlie Blackmon is set to be a free agent next year. That is a possibility but he will be 32 next season and extraordinarily expensive not to mention he is somewhat the product of Coors field (not entirely). The most logical scenario for the Braves is to acquire a left fielder via trade.
The elephants in the room, Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp, had a combined defensive war of -3.3 last year!!! And Kemp barely played ¾ of a season. Yikes!!! Their combined overall war was -.6. Yikes again. They are old and slow. Oh, and they are expensive too. Kemp especially loves to hit into double plays (25 in ¾ of a season played) and Markakis can barely clear the short RF porch at Suntrust on his best day. This is where the Braves need to do all they can to move on from these two players. Don’t get me wrong, as a fan I like Kemp and Kakes. There has not been one bit of negative anything come out about their attitude while playing for the Braves. Markakis is not a bad player but just better suited on a veteran team. Kemp can still hit bombs but his body has not cooperated with the whole playing the outfield thing for a while.
So again, for the Braves to be competitive this season they need to trade BOTH Kemp and Markakis. As your honorary armchair GM, I’m going to make a few suggestions. Feel free to poke fun at them as they may seem a little steep for you. I realize Braves fans love and believe in every prospect we have but we really do not know how other teams view them. I have suggested what I feel are fair prices for a decent to great (Yelich) options for or 2018 left fielder. Here are some of my armchair GM suggestions.
The Trades *these are independent ideas, not meant for all to happen in 2018*
Braves get Ian Happ.
Happ is a switch hitter with power who is controllable, yet prone to striking out. This may open up the need for yet another reliever and a starter but I think Happ could be worth it. The Cubs need starting help and bullpen help. I don’t think Teheran would be enough to get Happ by himself but with Vizzy the Cubs would get a pretty reliable set up guy who is controllable for a few more seasons.
Braves get Christian Yelich and Edison Volquez.
Yelich would hit 20 plus homers playing half his games at SunTrust every year, play top notch defense, has a team friendly contract and would be a regular 3+ war guy year in and year out. He would also steal some bases. And by taking on the dead contract of Edison Volquez the Marlins would clear roughly 20 million in payroll giving them more incentive to do so. I know that giving up, Anderson and Fried especially would hurt but Yelich would be worth it. Fried may never be more than a number four or five starter and his stock is as high as its going to get after his AFL performances.
Braves get Corey Dickerson.
You could substitute Pache for Anderson if need be but Dickerson would provide power especially getting out of the Trop and is controllable for only two more seasons. Maybe the Braves could get him for less but Dickerson was worth 2.7 war last year and had his best season last year at the age of 28. He wouldn’t be a massive upgrade defensively but would be fine in left field defensively.
Rockies get Arodys Vizcaino and Akeel Morris
Braves get David Dahl
Do the Braves take a chance on someone like David Dahl? He basically had a lost season last year due to injuries but before last year he was seen as future corner outfielder for Colorado. He has loads of power potential and in 2016 hit over .300 while slugging .500 albeit in a very short sample size (222 at bats) in Colorado. And the Rockies are always looking for relievers. Dahl is a former top prospect and a complete wild card who could turn out to be an injury prone bust or he could turn out to be a really good player that can hit for average and have some pop.
Twins get Julio Teheran
Braves get Eddie Rosario.
The Twins who are actually pretty good need starting pitching as always. And the Twins are a pretty thrifty group. Annnd Teheran is pretty affordable. This all depends on how the Twins see Teheran. It probably would not be enough to get Rosario but it would be good place to start. Rosario doesn’t walk much but he is athletic, controllable and should hit 20 homers a season if he continues to trend in the right direction. Rosario really just broke out last season so it could be a bit of a fluke or he could be for real. Of the bunch Rosario is the most defensively challenged but he is young and fairly athletic and should get better as time goes on.
Here are the caveats: I believe the Braves have three real waves of pitching prospects. The first just arrived in Gohara, Fried and Newcomb. The second is about a year away in Allard, Soroka and Wright. And the third is 2 maybe 3 years away in Wentz, Anderson, and Wilson. I believe the Braves have an expendable arm they can trade in all three of those waves. I am not sure there is an actual ace in any of those three “waves” but that is 9 pitchers within roughly 2—3 years of being ready not to mention other less heralded guys like Toussaint, Wiegel etc, etc. So losing one of three in any of those waves shouldn’t devastate the Braves chances of success. For instance, if the Marlins wanted Wright and Wentz instead of Anderson and Fried for Yelich then I’m ok with that but no Allard and Wright (two from the same wave). I also think Yelich would be the only one to warrant such an exorbitant cost in prospects.
I realize that by making these deals it opens up other holes such as trading Fried would mean we have to sign another major league starting pitcher. The same would be true if we traded Teheran. Losing Vizzy would mean we need another premium reliever to take his place. I get that but the Braves do not have an in house replacement close to being ready to take over left field. They have plenty of in house replacements at least close to being ready to take Vizcaino or Teheran’s place.
There are also free agent alternatives to choose from as well (pitching wise). I also realize that if we take on say 20 million in payroll from the Marlins then the Braves would be very close to maxing out their payroll but I am at least hopeful Liberty Media would be willing to open the coffers up enough to re-energize the fan base and make some effectual changes that would make watching the Braves much more enjoyable next year and years to come. It would go along ways to restore faith in the organization and lift that dark cloud above Suntrust that is currently there. And lastly, I know that trading Kemp and Kakes will be extremely difficult but if AA can trade Vernon Wells then he should be able to trade anyone. I still think Kemp holds value as a DH who can hit bombs especially if he comes in at 4 million a year while the Braves pick up the rest. Markakis is worth 8 million a season to someone? Surely? Ok at 5 million? The point is that the Braves need to get the two old slow guys away from the corner outfield spots asap so the Braves can actually think about the playoffs next year.
So, what are your thoughts on Wesley’s trade ideas? Like them? Loathe them? Let’s hear from the peanut gallery!