Transaction Tuesday: Lots of Early Season Movement

Transaction Tuesday: Lots of Early Season Movement

Welcome to this week’s Transaction Tuesday. If you’re new to the site, every week I try to gobble up every move the Braves make – big or small – and spit out some analysis to bring these moves into context. Sometimes, it’s complete crap, but I try to bring some facts to the table, darn it. This week, a few more players were cut from the system while a host of players went to the DL. There’s a curious DFA as well.

Period Covered: 3/27-4/2. If a number is included after a player’s name, it coincides with his placement in our Preseason Top 50. For more information on options, click here.

Atlanta Braves

Promoted: Carlos Perez…I went over this trade the other day, but I wanted to mention that Perez has been promoted and was in uniform Monday night. His stay in Atlanta may not last long. When Kurt Suzuki is ready to swing a bat, the Braves will likely make another move. Perez will have to be designated for assignment to be removed from the roster.

Promoted: Anibal Sanchez…Though he hasn’t been decent since 2014, the Braves signed Sanchez and effectively handed him the open fifth starter job. The continued struggles of Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler helped. Most expected Sanchez to make a start, maybe two, in the minors before being brought to Atlanta. However, due to an array of moves, that didn’t happen. In fact, Sanchez was promoted Monday night and made his Braves debut with three scoreless innings. He struck out two but did walk three. He likely will make his first start either this weekend or early next week.

DL’d: Johan Camargo (Oblique)…This wasn’t surprising as camp came neared its end. Losing Camargo was expected to be a bigger deal than it has been so far. That’ll happen when Ryan Flaherty magically learns how to hit overnight. The expectation is Camargo is nearing a return, possibly as soon as this week or toward the beginning of next week. While Flaherty has done well, the Braves would be foolish to allow that to affect Camargo’s time.

Tyler Flowers | By Editosaurus (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
DL’d: Tyler Flowers (Oblique)…One swing and a wince. With that, Flowers landed on the DL. He had missed a lot of time during spring with a groin injury, which likely had him behind schedule. There’s no timetable for his return as, again, oblique strains are fickle. It’s not like a sprained ankle where we have pretty simple timetables for a return. Losing Flowers is a big blow for the team. While Suzuki will return soon, Flowers’ handling of pitchers and framing will be missed.

DL’d: Luiz Gohara (Ankle, #2 prospect)…Here’s the good news: Gohara looked good while throwing a simulated three-inning outing yesterday. With Gohara trying to go through his own private spring training, the lefty hopes to be ready by late April at the earliest. Of course, Gohara was coming back from a prior groin injury when he suffered the ankle issue in camp. With Gohara having a bit of a “robust” body type, it leads to (premature) concerns that he might be a long-term concern health-wise.

–It might have been those concerns that prompted Mark Bowman to question if Gohara would be dealt over the next year. Some people bag on Bowman – I don’t (anymore). He’s merely providing his opinion. Of course, his close connection to the Braves does make you wonder if something might be up.

DL’d: Jacob Lindgren (Tommy John Surgery, #18 prospect)…We knew it was a slow rehab. We now know why as Lindgren went under the knife again. Lindgren had already had one Tommy John surgery in August of 2016. Atlanta got him after the Yankees tried to sneak him off their 40-man by non-tendering him and resign him to a minor league deal. John Coppolella jumped at the opportunity to grab the guy nicknamed The Strikeout Factory. He was long considered an X-factor for this year, but that won’t happen obviously. But 2019 is definitely the year.

DL’d after Contract Purchased: Josh Ravin (Viral)…Two days after being surprisingly promoted and throwing an inning in relief, Ravin landed on the DL with a viral infection. Ravin’s always had tantalizing strikeout numbers and just as scary homeruns allowed totals. He’s out of options so the Braves will have to DFA him a second time since acquiring him last winter to retain his services.

DL’d: Chase Whitley (Staph Infection)…Expected to compete for a spot on the roster this spring, Whitley went down early with a heel injury. That later led to a staph infection, which is no fun to deal with at all. He’s expected to return around mid-April, though that certainly can be adjusted. A righty from Alabama, Whitley has thrown 166.2 innings in the majors with the Yankees and Rays and has a 3.93 FIP to show for it based on a solid K/BB rate and excellent control.

Loaned to Tijuana: Manny Barreda…The Braves signed Barreda as a minor league free agent in the winter of 2016, but he spent most of 2017 with Tijuana. That’s a second home for him as he’s pitched for them in each of the last three seasons. Barreda did look good in seven starts with Gwinnett last summer after they brought him back from the Mexican League, but with so few innings available, Barreda is back on the move. He has a former Braves farmhand as a teammate in Tijuana – Aaron Kurcz.

DFA’d: Akeel Morris (#23)…What did Morris do? That’s a common question Braves fans have had since the summer of 2017. That question became even louder this week as he was DFA’d. Morris has been nothing but be impressive since he was acquired from the Mets in one of the 23 Kelly Johnson-to-Flushing deals. A 2.28 FIP in 35.2 innings with Mississippi in 2016? I’m good with that. Strikeout 27% of batters in 2017? Sounds good to me. Allow just one run in 7.1 major league innings? That works, too.

–But despite all the good things Morris has done, he can’t seem to break through in Atlanta and that goes back to the John Coppolella regime. That implies potential attitude issues we aren’t privy to, but that’s wild speculation on my part. To be fair, Morris does have control issues that have dogged him his whole career. That said, the Braves have Jason Hursh on the roster and he hasn’t been nearly as impressive as Morris.

DFA’d after Contract Purchased: Miguel Socolovich…A surprising addition to the roster last week after Flowers was DL’d, Socolovich made his Braves debut with two perfect innings and two K’s. In a slightly ironic twist, it was a catcher’s injury that got him to Atlanta. In some ways, it was another catcher’s injury that got him DFA’d. When Suzuki was hit, the Braves needed another catcher and ran out of room. Socolovich was outrighted in 2017 so if he passes waivers, he can elect free agency.

Gwinnett Stripers

Rio Ruiz | By Tate Nations [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Optioned from Atlanta: Rio Ruiz…The additions of Peter Bourjos and Ryan Flaherty, combined with the fortunate decision to keep Chris Stewart, squeezed Ruiz out of Atlanta. He got off to a rotten start in camp but showed signs of improvement. Everybody with the organization seems to love Rio’s work ethic and determination. This is the second consecutive spring he’s made an impression – more for his attitude and effort than his numbers. But this is a results-based business.

Mississippi Braves

Demoted from Gwinnett: Max Fried (#5)…I don’t know what to make of this move except that the Braves are struggling to find enough innings. Fried struggled for most of his 19-game run in Mississippi last year, but still landed a 26-inning run in Atlanta. I guess we’ll learn more when rosters are announced.

Released: Dylan Moore (#46)…I’m shocked about Moore’s release mainly because there is so little depth up the middle for the Braves. The Braves grabbed Moore from the Rangers’ organization in 2016 in a nutty three-team deal that sent Jeff Francoeur to Miami. Moore had a nice ten-game run before the season ended and looked great in the Arizona Fall League. The Braves pushed him to Double-A despite 27 games at High-A and he fell on his face. While he picked it up a little at the end of the season, he finished with a .584 OPS. A bit range-limited at shortstop, he is sure-handed and can play all over the infield. That made me think he was safe. Nope!

Rome Braves

Released: Bradley Keller…In our first post for the 2018 Preseason Top 50 Braves Prospect list, I asked Ryan and Stephen to pick a guy who didn’t make our Top 50, but who they liked a lot. Ryan went with Phil Pfeifer, who has a great story of redemption to go with his amazing stuff. Stephen thought of Dilmer Mejia, a southpaw who has been in the system for a few years. I went with a guy I saw in 2017 – Bradley Keller. Sorry, Brad. Yep, Keller was cut this week and while I liked him, this one didn’t hit me nearly as hard as last week’s release of Leudys Baez. After all, Keller had been horrid professionally outside of a 33-game run in Danville last summer (with a .395 BABIP). I still liked his tools and thought he could surprise some people in 2018. That won’t happen with this organization.

The minor league seasons are about to begin. Want a cheat sheet to help you know who Rome has on the mound or who is pinch hitting for Mississippi? Consider the 2018 Atlanta Baseball Preview. I worked with three of the guys from Outfield Fly Rule to help profile nearly every player in the organization. You can find it on Amazon!


Tommy….where/when will the roster assignments for the various Minor League teams for The Brave be announced/listed?

While I’m pleased with how The offense/bullpen have performed the 1st 5 games of the season….The Starting Pitching HAS to do a lot better job than it has so far…OR The Bullpen is going to get WORN OUT!

Shane Carle SAVED The Braves tonight (not only from Teheran’s BALLOONING even higher..he bailed Teheran out when he came in with the bases loaded and 1 out in the top of the 3rd and SHUT THEM DOWN..BUT ALSO by pitching 3 1/3 innings of SHUT DOWN relief pitching). Carle not only saved the bullpen from really being blown through tonight while trying to win a MUST WIN GAME..but also gave the offense enough time to PAD THE LEAD!

Even if we lose tomorrow…we’ll still be 3-3 (2 games behind The Nationals)..DESPITE not getting very much from out starting pitching. The offense can score AND the bullpen can get outs. The good news is that despite The Starting Pitching’s performance the 1st 5 games..I feel that the potential is there for these guys to SETTLE DOWN/BUCKLE DOWN and perform good enough to give The Braves a chance to compete night in and night out (going 6 innings or so/give up 3-4 runs a night…our offense can score runs).

If Teheran comes out in his next start in Washington and puts up a good performance…then Braves Management is going to have to consider if trading Teheran sooner rather than later is the move to make (because I feel that for whatever reason, Sun Trust Field is simply GETTING IN Teheran’s head!). I feel that from a mental standpoint, Teheran simply feels that he has to make perfect pitches (which NO ONE can consistently make) or risk every pitch landing in the cheap seats! He’s getting KILLED at our home ball park!

When a pitcher’s mind is affected….I’m not sure what can be done to ‘cure’ him of this! I know that Gohara coming back would relegate Sanchez back to being the long man (I think that at this point in his career, Sanchez would be better off being the 1st long man out of the bullpen option). However, if Teheran continues to struggle (especially at home), AA is going to have to make a decision at some point (especially if The Braves offense/bullpen continues to perform as the season wears on).

If it was our young guys who were struggling…I would be wiling to be ‘more patient’. However NOT when it is guys who are either veterans OR when it is pitchers like Newcomb who have GREAT STUFF but for whatever reason wants to NIT PICK the corners like he’s Tom Glavine (at least Glavine/Maddux could LOCATE LOCATE LOCATE their pitches).

AA got RIPPED by The TC Clowns when he signed/traded for Flaherty, Burgois, Tucker, Carle, Sanchez (instead of spending many millions going after the likes of Moustakis, Frazier and Holland)….however all 5 of those guys have contributed to our 3-2 start…on the cheap!

Tonight’s win was so important..because assuming we lost against Scherzer tomorrow, we’d still be 3-3 (as opposed to 2-4 if we lost tonight AND tomorrow) going into a 9 game road trip. We have to find a win AT LEAST 4 of those 9 games. Sure, it’d be nice to have a winning record on that trip…however history has proven that cross country road trips (Atlanta to Colorado…to Washington…to Chicago..then back home to Atlanta) can be TOUGH on the road team! A 4-5 record would put the Braves at 7-8 coming home to open a 3 game series against Philly…..presumably with Ronald Acuna making his home debut (I’d love to see Acuna make his debut at Chicago prior to the Philly home series..however MONEY rules, meaning that Braves management wants to sell some home tickets).

If I was told at the beginning of the season that The Braves would be 7-8 by the time Acuna was called up (given that Gohara and Carmago are out…and that Flowers AND Suzuki would BOTH get hurt in the 1st two games of the season)..I’d be HELLA HAPPY with that record!

The old ‘one game at a time’ mantra can be applied to the upcoming road trip…however I feel that there is ONE THING that works in our favor: 2 off days. The 1st one is tomorrow (meaning that The Braves can get into Colorado and get settled in the day before…with a rested bullpen. Folty going at least 7 innings tomorrow would be REALLY NICE)…the 2nd one is Thursday the 12th (giving The Braves bullpen a day off before The Chicago Series starts).

As good as the offense has been….we need Suzuki back when The Colorado Series opens (Flowers’ oblique will probably push his return to sometime in May). Stewart is ‘ok’…however not someone I want catching 5-6 games a week! Carmago coming back will give the bench some big time flexibility (as long as Flaherty continues to hit, keep him at 3rd).

AA has done a nice job of ‘getting players’ that gives Snitker some flexibility…we just need these guys to get healthy! However, if The Starting Pitching doesnt improve…2018 will be a frustrating year.

Sure, I ‘harped’ about 2018 being a year that “SUCKS”….however dont forget that the day before the season began, when you guys did your win total prediction article…I DID STATE that I feel that this Braves team could win 86 games! The last week of Spring Training had me really ‘seeing’ that the moves AA made had some ‘potential’! Sure, we lack middle of the order power behind Freddie….but Markakis is in a walk year (it’s a motivating factor for many a past Free Agent)….I felt that Flowers/Suzuki would not fall ‘that much’ from their 2017. A full season of Albies and most of a full season of Acuna would do WONDERS for The Braves offense! I expected Swanson to reasonably ‘rebound’ in 2018.

I felt that we could be ‘competitive’ during the 1st half of 2018….then after AA made a number of trades to clear open Starting Pitching slots for Soroka, Allard and Wright (along with some bullpen spots opening for a number of our young guys in AA and AAA like Clouse, Watts, Graham, etc) the 2nd half could be either a push for a Wild Card possibility OR ‘typical growing pains’ that many prospects who are getting their initial ‘cups of coffee’ endure!

I decided the day before the season began..that I would take ‘the former’ position: I feel that our young prospects who end up getting promoted will be positioned to perform well (because the team they will be playing on will be better than is typical for young prospects who 1st get onto ‘rebuilding teams’).

Newcomb struggling like he did in yesterday’s game…will make it TOUGH for The Braves to position themselves for a 2nd half push (not only losing games/but wearing out our bullpen due to him getting pulled early in his starts). I HOPE that yesterday was an aberration. However, I saw this ‘song and dance’ too many times from Newcomb in 2017. With Soroka, Allard and Wright surely knocking on the door sometime this summer (along with those Class A STUDS like Wentz, Wilson, Anderson, Davidson…as well as Tousiant and Weigel come 2019)…Newcomb, Teheran and Folty may not have spots in our rotation for too much longer (McCarthy will surly leave as a Free Agent after 2018…and Gohara pretty much has one of the 5 rotation spots LOCKED UP Long Term).

I guess that Roger’s desire to see The Braves compete in 2018..has WORN OFF on me, lol! As long as our future progress isnt affected…I can get behind 2018 being a possible playoff push season effort!

I saw Keith Curcio signed with Indy league Kansas City TBones. Guess we’ll see him on this list next week. : (

Indeed. Along with at least Carlos Castro. Rosters haven’t been officially announced from what I see, which is different. We usually got the rosters a few days in advance. It appears the Braves won’t go with a very aggressive route for most of these guys, though.

Tommy….I know that it’s only 6 games in, but Preston Tucker is making a case to “Wally Pipp” (at least for a few months) Ronald Acuna, lol. In 21 at-bats, Tucker has hit 2 homers, 2 doubles, knocked in 8 runs, batted .429 with an OPS of 1.264 (with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts).

I know, ‘small sample size’…however if Tucker continues producing during the next 6-9 games (depends on when AA would consider promoting Acuna)…AA will have a ‘tough’ decision to make (a good tough decision)..especially if Markakis continues to produce (while batting .333 with an OPS of .970, 1 homer, 2 doubles, 6 go with 4 walks and 4 strikeouts…may not be as impressive…the fact that Markakis is making $10.5 mil in 2018 means that he isnt going to be benched UNLESS he starts to struggle big time).

Again, I know it’s early..but what if Preston Tucker is this year’s version of Chris Taylor (a no-name player who gets traded ONLY to have a breakout year because he’s ‘got down’ the whole ‘launch angle revolution’, lol)? Benching him for Acuna in mid-April would be HELLA FOOLISH (if he’s still raking at the plate come mid-April).

Tommy…I have an idea that I want to run by you..and please let me know what you think:

Let’s say that BOTH Tucker AND Markakis are still producing come mid-April. It becomes a NO-BRAINER to keep Acuna down in Triple A (from an economic sense, having Acuna as your ‘4th outfielder’ would be A WASTE…because it would be throwing away a ‘pre-arbitration year’ where The Braves can GET HELLA VALUE from someone’s of Acuna’s talent).

However, come mid-June (when Acuna would lose his ability to become a ‘Super 2’ arbitration player), The Braves could call up Acuna and have him be ‘the 4th outfielder’ who would give Tucker, Inciarte and Markiakis a day off on a semi-rotating basis…UNTIL they are able to make a trade involving Markakis (a playoff contending team will need a hitter like Markakis come The July Trade Deadline..ESPECIALLY when he’s on the last year of his contract).

If Tucker is producing..NO WAY do The Braves trade him (NOT with Tucker having 2 more years of pre-arbitration eligibility left)! Again, I recognize that it’s early…BUT if Tucker ends up having a ‘breakout year’….that could VERY WELL change things as far as AA needing to spend BIG MONEY addressing Left Field in The 2018 Free Agent Class! I LOVE Bryce Harper….but Preston Tucker could potentially be a sleeper great value!

I still LOVE what Acuna will bring to the lineup…however I recognize that economics play A HUGE ROLE in MLB. Unless The Braves are going to start Acuna…NO WAY does it make sense to call him up if they are not going to bench either Tucker or Markakis.

Your thoughts?

Interestingly, I made that argument – though less about Super 2 – last summer when I compared what the Braves did with Andruw Jones in 1997 to what they could do with Acuna Jr. if neither Kemp or Markakis was traded. They found the taker for Kemp, which is still a bit surprising.

If Tucker and Markakis both continue to produce – which I don’t believe is all that likely – then it could prompt the Braves to keep Acuna Jr. in the minors. I hate that plan, though. I would rather get him before a hypothetical late June date. After all, if Tucker and Markakis are both producing, it would be logical to believe the Braves could be a playoff contender even if only a Wild Card Game contender. Getting Acuna Jr. up in the as option B at three outfield spots, plus potential impact bat off the bench or difference maker on the bases just makes too much sense if Atlanta is rolling.

Of course, neither Tucker nor Markakis will continue at their current rate so we’ll have to see what happens after they fall back to Earth a bit.

Tommy….I tend to agree that at some point, BOTH Tucker AND Markakis will sooner or late ‘fall back down to Earth’…resulting in the beginning of Acuna’s LONG and PROSPEROUS Career!

However, if Tucker AND Markakis continue to produce throughout The 2018 Season…Acuna could very well be ‘Wally Pipped’, lol!

I agree with your assessment that in this scenario, Acuna could be a VERY VALUABLE 4th outfielder. However, it would only be ‘valuable’….if it DID NOT result in Acuna being a Super 2/eligible for Arbitration after The 2020 Season. That would mean that The Braves would only be getting an Acuna who STARTS games on a regular basis for only 2 Seasons at pre-arbitration prices!

If Acuna was going to come up and start RIGHT AWAY, I’d have NO PROBLEM with seeing Acuna obtain Super 2 Status (because minus the 12-15 games he’d end up missing at the start of The 2018 Season by being held down in Triple A…Acuna would basically be a starter for almost 3 full seasons)!

However it makes VERY LITTLE ECONOMIC SENSE for AA to call up Acuna prior to early-mid June IF Acuna is going to be the 4th outfielder in 2018. That would be WASTING one of Acuna’s 3 pre-arbitration years as a 4th outfielder! After a mid-June call-up…then let Acuna be the 4th outfielder if AA cannot trade Markakis/if Snitker isnt willing to bench Markakis (that’s assuming that Tucker is pulling his Chris Taylor 2017 impersonation during The 2018 Season).

I know, this seemingly goes against what I preached all winter about how ‘essential’ that Acuna is to The Braves line-up. He still will be…..long term! But the fact remains that Preston Tucker is absolutely RAKING at the plate right now. If he continues this during the upcoming 9 game road trip….what is AA going to do once The Braves get back to Atlanta? That’s a GOOD PROBLEM for a team/GM to have!

It’s probably a little too early to take any of these fast starts as anything more than hot streaks. If they did, hypothetically, and against the odds, sustain themselves though- the worst thing the Braves could do for Acuna’s development would be call him up to sit the bench as a 4th OF. It’s better he gets consistent playing time in AAA than the occasional start or PH AB in the majors.

I’m a bit worried about how AA will play this, though. It seems as if he likes to tinker and shuffle the roster, all the while avoiding impactful moves. It’s been maddening, for me, to watch the guy work. They gave Akeel Morris, for nothing- and that’s idiotic. They bring this guy up for a game, and then ship that guy down… then let’s DFA somebody… because why not? And I realize that moves need to be made over a long season, but the pace of the moves AA has made so far makes me wonder if he has a plan? Of course had he signed a quality FA, or (gasp) two… maybe he wouldn’t have to try and shuffle 35 guys on and off a 25 man roster… ?

King….AA is trying to find players who give the most ‘bang for the buck’ (given the payroll constraints for 2018).

I seriously doubt that AA is going to ‘shuffle players back and forth’ during The 2019 Season like he has so for/will continue to do so during The 2018 Season.

I’m willing to be patient and see what AA can do once the deadwood payroll is cleared after The 2018 Season ends (a lot of GMs are going to be HELLA ENVIOUS of AA..given BOTH The Wealth of Cheap, young, potentially high ceiling talent coming up..AS WELL as the payroll flexibility AA will have when it comes to going after BIG NAME/EXPENSIVE Free Agents during The 2018 Free Agent Offseason to fill the holes we’ll have in Left Field and 3rd Base!

King, agreed. I see a lot of inconsistency and poor judgment in the roster making. I can only think one of two things – 1) AA can only deal with assets he’s familiar with and 2) he is looking for an unpolished diamond in a sea of sand. He said at one point that the prospects may rotate through the bullpen rather than starting right away but he has none of them there (and even sent Fried to MS). He also said he wanted to slow down the pace of development which is apparently why Riley is at MS, but if he doesn’t expect Riley to contribute in 2018 then he should have brought in a decent veteran to cover two years at 3B. He says the focus is the major league product but he has done very little to maximize the major league team. I hope we’re lucky and Tucker is a keeper. I think it would be foolish to alter the plan of bringing up Acuna ASAP even if the most logical choice is to sit Markakis. A lineup of Freeman 3rd, Acuna 4th, and Tucker 5th might end up being a murderer’s row especially if you slot in Flowzuki 6th and Albies starts hitting. You could even give Acuna days off against tough righties and Tucker days off against tough lefties to give Markakis a few starts. Salary should be a non-issue with determining who starts. Just close your eyes and imagine Acuna’s making $11M and Markakis is making the minimum. The money is the same either way. Markakis accepting that kind of role graciously is the very definition of veteran leadership.

I think Markakis would accept a role like that too, Roger. He’s such a strong veteran leader, he doesn’t seem the type to make waves. Plus, moving forward, he’s probably going to end up as a reserve anyway, wherever he signs next season- unless he latches on with a bottom dweller. So it’d make for a nice chance to show some clubs what he could bring that way.

On the Braves side, it’d be classy if they also went to Nick and asked him some places he might like to play, and try to make a deal- even if the return is a bag of balls. Don’t try to pull two lottery tickets out of some team he doesn’t want to play for, either.

Whatever they do with Acuna should be based solely on Acuna’s development, and what’s best for it.

Not to mention that Freeman, Acuna, Tucker, Flowzuki would be RH, LH, RH, LH for perfect lineup balance. And slotting in Swanson and Flaherty behind them would be another RH, LH duo meaning that teams would have extreme difficulty matching up with relievers.

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