Welcome to another Walk-Off Talk where the blog gets together and provides our quite different points-of-view on a subject. Today, we’re talking trades with the non-waiver deadline just a couple of weeks away. The Braves are in position for, at worst, a run at the Wild Card but have struggled since a hot start landed them in first place in the East. With the exception of defense, there have been problems in every facet of the game. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has suffered quite a bit of blame as he has yet to improve the club.
That’s where we come in. We’ll look at four possible spots for improvement and give Anthopoulos four different options. And hey, Alex, if you’re looking for a new Assistant GM, we don’t cost too much.
Let us know your preferences in the comment section – especially if we didn’t mention a player you’d definitely want to go with.
1) What starting pitcher do we want?Tommy: Okay, I’ll start with a long shot because, according to Jon Heyman, a source puts the chances of this player being on the trade market as “zero.” That said, I think a lot of people were shocked when the Pirates traded Gerrit Cole. Now, Jameson Taillon has more team control than Cole did when the Bucs made that trade, but I’m just saying – the Pirates have already made it a practice to trade their best players so why not Taillon?
This season, Taillon has done exactly what you want to see from young starters – progress. His strikeout rate is up, his walk rate is down, and even his groundball rate has improved. And much of that comes from the addition of a slider, a pitch he didn’t have before. He already has plus potential with the pitch the more he grows comfortable with it. The end result is a pitcher who could finish the year with a 3-win season in his first full year in the majors and is only 26.
Taillon likely won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2020 and is team-controlled through 2023. That makes his cost higher than some other targets. But he is also a building block player – the type you can give up good prospects for because you know he’ll be around for a while. Sure, there’s the whole cancer thing, but I choose to look at that as a strength. The dude stared down the Big C and never blinked. Taillon is the perfect pitcher to bring in to stabilize the rotation and give the Braves a potential ace-in-the-making.
Ryan: Tommy, I really like the idea so I’m going to just say I agree and move on. Wait…no I’m not. For me, this year is about trading excess to fit needs and maybe add 1 good piece to push a deal through. I know this pitcher has not been performing up to his standards of the past, but if I’m trying to upgrade at SP, I’d like a piece that wouldn’t cost much but could provide serious value for a playoff push and beyond. That guy is Cole Hamels.
His numbers are down. His peripherals tell the same story. Oh…and he’s been downright awful lately. So why do I want him? Simple. Pedigree, and lower cost. His HR rate has spiked this year, but being in a neutral park that caters to LHPs, Hamels could easily rediscover his arsenal and become a force in the Braves run at the postseason. If the HR rate falls back to career norms and Hamels can muster some added motivation by being back into the thick of things, it could work out really well for both parties. I’d like to do more shopping in Arlington but I’ll leave that for the other parts.
Edit: I don’t want recency bias to take over my thought process too much, but I watched a good bit of Hamels last night and was hoping for a rebound, but he looked bad. Good dude. Still wouldn’t be upset it the Braves grabbed him, but if I were picking a consolation for Hamels, it’d be Eovaldi. Cheap, good, under control only through this year, good BB/K rates.
Brittni: Guys, I like both of your answers, but I am going to have to go with Jacob deGrom on this one. He has been on fire this season and even though he might be a reach and a pretty high-priced player, I think he would fit in nicely with the club. He’s still young, his ERA is rocking, and he has been consistent. I think he could be a good leader in the rotation, maybe not exactly a “veteran” starting pitcher, like a Verlander or Scherzer, but I like him mostly because of his consistency, which is what the Braves need.
If the Braves decided to go after him, I would like to see them trade away someone like Matt Wisler, with a few relievers like Lucas Sims or Luiz Gohara, along with cash. I would be ok with seeing these guys leave the Braves because look who you would be getting in return! You would be getting a guy who at the end of each season, since 2014, has never had an ERA over 4. The highest ERA he has ever had was last year with a 3.53. Plus if we get rid guys like Wisler, Sims or Gohara, that makes room for other young guys to come up and contribute. But if we think logically, the Braves would have to give up someone much more valuable than Wisler and Gohara to get deGrom. Additionally, if they are going to spend a ton of money, I don’t think they would spend it on him.
Stephen: The guy I want and have always wanted, is Chris Archer. Atlanta needs a number 1 starter. They need a star in the rotation. The playoffs are about leaning on your stars, especially your pitching staff. deGrom fits this description as well but I’m skeptical NY would actually trade him in the division without an extra premium cost. Also, deGrom is controlled for just 2 more seasons after this one while you would have Archer for 3.
After a slow start to the season in April, Archer has looked every bit like his normal dominant self. Since May 1st, Archer owns a 2.98 ERA with a 2.97 FIP, striking out 10 per 9 innings and only walking 2 per 9 innings. The league has posted just a .298 OBA in that span. And remember, that’s playing in the American League, with the DH, and in the AL East. Imagine his numbers if he got to pitch against fellow pitchers on a regular basis? The cost would be elite, because well, he’s elite. Probably 3 of our top 100 or so prospects. The goal would be to build it around pitching. I’d go with Ian Anderson, Kolby Allard, and Luiz Gohara plus a guy like Juan Carlos Encarnacion as the initial offer. I would do everything possible to not include Wright, Pache, Touki, and Waters. Atlanta has plenty of top 100 level prospects to protect a few and still offer a considerable amount. Maybe Alex Jackson if they’re interested? He’s had a nice start to his AAA career. Archer’s value is down a bit at the moment because of the slow start he got off too but not by much. It would still be a top-shelf package. But it’s a major need filled for multiple years. This is not just a 2018 move.
2) What reliever do we want?
Ryan: Going back to the Arlington outlets, I’d like to see the Braves go after lefty Jake Diekman. He’s a big lefty who’s dealt with control issues of which have dissipated in the last 20-ish innings. Just like Hamels, I think Diekman can be had for near spare parts and keep most of the system intact as he’ll be purely a rental. Guys like Rio Ruiz, Dustin Peterson, Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler are who I would be willing to deal, and even guys like Travis Demeritte, Alex Jackson, Patrick Weigel, Josh Graham, Huascar Ynoa, Caleb Dirks, Michael Mader, Jacob Webb, Jonathan Morales, Philip Pfeifer, Bradley Roney, Chad Sobotka, Matt Withrow, Sal Giardina, Ray-Patrick Didder, Brandon Downes, Chase Johnson-Mullins, and Braxton Davidson who will be Rule 5-eligible next year (shout-out to Boggy for the info via Twitter).
Brittni: There are a lot of great relief pitchers out there right now and one that I think that would be amazing to add to the Braves roster would be Collin McHugh. I think it would be highly unlikely that the Astros would give him up because he has done so well this year, but they are stacked in pitching. He is kind of flying under the radar right now with amazing numbers and was snubbed from the All-Star game. He has a 0.96 ERA, in 33 games, in 47 innings pitched. Lefties are hitting .192 against him, while righties .098 against him. Plus, for personal reasons, I wanna see a Berry Alum with the Braves.
Stephen: Relievers are so volatile, I’m really not interested in going after one with multiple years of control, simply because the cost is going to be so much higher. When it comes to the bullpen, I love rentals. Especially right now because of how incredibly cheap rentals are going for. So the guy I like is Joakim Soria of the White Sox. Soria is having an incredible year in Chicago, posting a 2.78 ERA and a 2.18 FIP with an elite strikeout and walk rates. How nice would that be, a reliever with an elite walk rate? Soria is also a veteran, and as I do this more and more. the more I’ve come to appreciate the difference that makes. The Braves, and especially the bullpen is leaning on so many young arms, that a guy who’s been through it all helps a ton. If Atlanta does make it to the postseason, just about all of our guys will be pitching in the playoffs for the first time. You need the experience to go along with talent and Soria has both.
Tommy: The Orioles are in complete fire-sale mode after trading Manny Machado and their bullpen arms seem almost sure to get the boot next. Usually, those rumors center around Zach Britton and Brad Brach. Neither name really interests me. Rather, I’ll go right-hander Mychal Givens. While his ERA has received a significant boost this season, I’m not worried. Having Machado at short likely did him no favors as his .351 BABIP may suggest. His FIP is a career low at 2.73 and his xFIP is in the same area for the last three years.
But the Orioles know that Givens is good. While their actions may run counter to this statement, they aren’t complete idiots. They understand that Givens is one of their best assets. He won’t come cheap. Part of that is due to Givens not being a rental and that’s also a big part of his appeal. Givens will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. That means he won’t become a free agent until after the 2021 season. While depending on relievers to be both healthy and good is always questionable, Givens is a high-leverage arm the Braves can count on. While there will be a lot of relievers available to acquire this buying season, in my mind, no reliever fits what the Braves want better than Givens.
3) What shortstop capable infielder do we want?
Brittni: Ok, let me preface before I say anything else…I do not want to get rid of Dansby. Period. I like Dansby and not because we have the same last name. I don’t want him to leave Atlanta, he has been pretty darn good this season defensive wise. Yeah, he may have had a little bit of a slump at the plate lately, but I have nothing to complain about. I know some people don’t like Dansby and to each his own opinion, but I’ll stay out of that fight. Everyone has peaks and valleys of their careers, so it happens…that’s all I’m going to say about that.
BUT, if we are talking about trades in the hypothetical sense and Dansby wasn’t around, I would love to get Andrelton Simmons back. He IS the best shortstop in the majors and he has been for a long time, but I don’t think the Angels will give him up any time soon. Dansby is slowly getting to that level and that’s why with a little more experience, he could be the next Simba.
If I had a second choice, I would also like to have someone like Jean Segura or Didi Gregorius, to me they would fit in well with the club. With an Infield of Freeman, Albies, Segura or Gregorius, and Camargo, the game would be pretty sweet and filled with a lot of power hitters.
Stephen: With Dansby, Albies, Culberson, and Camargo on the roster, I don’t think this acquisition necessarily has to be able to play SS. The thing I want most if they go get a bat is the ability to hit RH pitching. This is why I’ve been on the Moustakas train all year. Not because I’m under the allusion he’s some great player, but because he’s good at Atlanta’s biggest weakness. He crushes RH pitching. Camargo’s weakest side by far is when he bats LH so a simple platoon could work or, with so much versatility among the other infielders, you could do any number of things. It would simply add depth and options. And the cost would be minimal. He’s a rental and KC has absolutely zero leverage because they can’t even offer him a qualifying offer this winter. They just have to take the best they can get. Rio Ruiz and a C prospect might do it. Releasing Ryan Flaherty‘s would be the corresponding move.
Tommy: Let’s bring back a classic – the Jose Peraza hype train!
Ah, welcome back, old friend. Do I love Peraza? No. But I do recognize that he brings value. He’s probably best suited to play second base, but he’s competent enough to push Dansby Swanson for playing time at shortstop. He has experience – I guess – in the outfield over the last few years. But why I want Peraza is because he brings a competent-enough bat to the bench with the added bonus of bringing serious speed. Peraza is a plus baserunner with Ozzie Albies-like speed.
Honestly, I don’t even think he’ll cost that much either. At his best, Peraza is an okay starter – though he’s pressed too much as a shortstop. Now, the Reds may not be anxious to deal him, but throw some pitching prospects that are close to the majors – but not some of Atlanta’s top pitching prospects – and I think the Reds go for it. Peraza, by the way, will *probably* be arbitration-eligible this offseason. Atlanta could flip him then or bring him back for added depth.
Ryan: I’m not going to have to answer number 4 as my answer here suffices for both as this guy is capable of playing all over the diamond, is a switch-hitter, and has been bashing LHP this year. I’ve been trying to coax the Braves into landing him these past 3 years and Coppy even told me personally once that he was very interested in trading for him (then told me to keep it quiet which makes me wonder just how many people he told the same thing…). That man is Jurickson Profar.
Profar has logged innings at 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and LF this year and while his defense at both SS and 3B has been shaky according to DRS, he’s an athlete that I think would do just fine fielding all over the diamond. He’s hitting the ball very well against LHP, too. A .863 OPS. Profar would come with 2 more years of control, too and with Camargo, Culbertson, and Profar in-tow, the bench would be righteous all the time.
But can I say this? There’s no question that fits this answer so I’m going to say it anyway….I still want Moose.
4) What outfielder with platoon possibilities do we want?Stephen: A platoon in the OF is an interesting notion. The most obvious need is an RH batter who can play LF when Acuna moves over to play CF. I don’t know if Snitker will continue to bench Inciarte against lefties, he should, but if he does, that’s the clearest need. Though the team may be fine with Culberson playing that role. If they do add externally, Hunter Renfroe absolutely destroys LH pitching and plays plenty well enough in LF to not hurt you. Atlanta was linked to Renfroe in the off-season so there’s at least a minimal connection there. And like Moustakas, Renfroe helps in the power department, which is vital in the postseason, where stringing together 4 or 5 hits in an inning is exceedingly more difficult because of the level of pitching. Optioning Michael Reed would be the corresponding move.
Tommy: I do like the idea of moving Acuna Jr. to center against lefties. The Braves could go all-out there – even possibly replace Nick Markakis for 2019, but this is a bench move and as such, I’m looking to just improve. Robbie Grossman is a switch-hitter with a heavy preference of facing lefties (career 110 wRC+ against them) but also isn’t an embarrassment against righties (98 wRC+). He’s an on-base machine with a career rate of .348. He’s not a Matt Diaz-like basher of lefties, but he is a plus option.
Defensively, well, he’s not great. But I don’t need him to be. He just needs to play enough left field against lefties to make the Braves a better team and I believe he will. He’ll also come cheap as an arbitration-eligible player for the second time this offseason. As a result, he can hit free agency after 2020 if the Braves don’t cut bait before that.
If you notice one thing about my suggestions – Taillon, Givens, Peraza, and Grossman – it’s that they fulfill the idea of acquiring controllable assets that Atlanta can bring back through at least 2020. I spent heavy in prospect capital for pitchers but refrained from going crazy for position players. All four, combined, will add probably about $8 to $10M in salary to the 2019 roster – that’s if you keep Peraza and Grossman. Atlanta will still have plenty of cash to go shopping during this upcoming offseason’s class.
To acquire all four, you are definitely looking at a hit to the prospect lists – especially for Taillon and Givens. But do the Braves get better for these moves for now and the future? You betcha.
Brittni: For the outfield, I wouldn’t mind adding Rhys Hoskins to the outfield platoon with Acuna and Markakis. He has definitely come out in full force this season. He wouldn’t cost all that much considering he is still new to the majors and was good enough to be in the Rookie of the Year voting last year. I think if the Braves decided to bench Ender, because he hasn’t been doing well lately, I think Hoskins would definitely be a good, cheap-ish pickup.