• Trade Target Team Profile: Atlanta Braves

    The Big Picture
    In the hyper-competitive NL East, the Braves are 4.5 games back of the division leading Nationals. But they’re also just one game back of the second wild-card spot, which happens to be shared by division rival New York Mets. Atlanta is reportedly searching for a top starting pitcher. That’s unusual ground for them – just last year they ranked 4th in MLB in ERA – but some injuries and regression by youngsters have them looking for rotation help.

    Why They Will Trade With The Twins
    The Braves are somewhat like the Twins right now, with two solid starters – Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson – followed by a whole lot of finger-crossing. They’ve been linked to just about every possibly available starting pitcher on the market already. That includes Francisco Liriano.

    Braves scout Jim Fregosi (which are four words that should get ’93 Phils fans a little worked up) was at Sunday’s game, though he claimed the Braves weren’t interested in Liriano.

    But the best reason they match up with the Twins isn’t because of what they need as much as what they can offer – young pitching. One of the guys struggling in their rotation right now is 24-year-old left-hander Mike Minor, who is sporting a 6.20 ERA. But last year he struck out 99 batters in 100.2 inning in AAA, and almost matched that 1:1 ratio in 15 games in the majors. There are at least two other major-league-ready young pitchers that could be available for whoever can provide a high-end starter.

    Why They Won’t Trade With The Twins
    Pay a lot of attention to this next paragraph. Or don't, since I suspect I’m going to be repeating it in a lot of these profiles.

    It looks like there could be an awful lot of awful good starting pitchers available at the trade deadline this year. Yes, there could be a lot more “buyers” than “sellers,” but there are fewer buyers with the will or need to make a big trade for a starting pitcher. The Brewers are rumored to be fielding calls for both Zach Greinke and (if he gets healthy) Shawn Marcum. The Phillies have started calling teams about Cole Hamels. The Cubs will certainly listen to offers for Matt Garza. Liriano probably slots behind all of those guys and maybe among some other names like Seattle’s Jason Vargas.

    However, one thing that Liriano does have going for him to facilitate a trade to the Braves: he’s left-handed. Atlanta hasn’t indicated they have a preference, but the Nationals team they’re chasing is hitting just .233 vs southpaws this year, 3rd worst in the majors.

    Conclusion
    There are a lot of other teams that would like to add Liriano to their rotation, and there are a lot of other pitchers that could help the Braves. But the Twins and Braves make a good fit both in terms of what is given and what is received. Don’t be surprised if rumors surrounding these two teams get louder as the deadline approaches.

    Possible Trade Targets

    Mike Minor – LHP
    He’s just 24. He’s left-handed. He has very little service time. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. And he has struck out 192 in 209 IP in the majors. But he’s sporting a 6.20 ERA this year (5.34 career) and is giving up WAY too many home runs. Sounds like an awfully good fit for Target Field. It’s a little hard to believe the Twins could get him straight up for Liriano, but perhaps they could include their own prospect to balance out the deal?

    Randall Delgado – RHP
    Here’s another one of the Braves promising pitching prospects that is struggling in the majors this year. Delgado’s problem this year has been control and that’s never been a particularly strong suit of his. But he’s just 21 years old and was rushed to the majors with only four starts in AAA. He also has 569 Ks in his 538 innings in the minors and a fastball that averaged 92.4 mph last year.

    Julio Teheran – RHP
    He’s one of the top pitching prospects in the minors with mid-90s stuff – and yet the Braves are looking for outside help? Yep. He’s just 21 years old. His strikeout rate in AAA doesn’t jump off the page and his brief callup last year (5.03 ERA w 10K and 8BB in 19.2 IP) was underwhelming. But again – he’s one of the top pitching prospects in the minors. And he’s in AAA. If the Braves don’t want to suffer through his growing pains, I know a team that will be happy to.

    A few more…

    Sean Gilmartin - LHP
    Stop me if this sounds like someone the Twins would like. Last year’s first round pick by the Braves projects as a middle of the rotation starter with outstanding control. The 6’2” southpaw is currently in AA.

    Zeke Spruill – RHP
    Also in AA, the 6’5” right-hander is positioning himself for a midyear promotion to AAA. With 63K in 98 IP, he doesn’t have outstanding stuff, but his control could make him a mid-rotation starter.

    Carlos Perez – LHP
    Only 19 and only in A-ball (again) and he’s not exactly thriving there. But he’s got a 90mph sinker that, if he can harness it, could rocket him up the ladder. He sounds a little bit like Liriano, actually.

    Arodys Vizcaino – RHP
    The 21-year-old fireballer rocketed through the organization to impact Atlanta’s bullpen last year. Unfortunately, it looks like that is his future, and it’s a future at least a year away as he was shelved for Tommy John surgery this March.
    This article was originally published in blog: Trade Target Team Profile: Atlanta Braves started by John Bonnes
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Twins were linked to Gilmartin in the 2010 draft, too. I'm sure he still has some fans in our FO.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Another great article on possible trade partners. I hope that someone in the front office is reading these.
    1. Dilligaf69's Avatar
      Dilligaf69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      Another great article on possible trade partners. I hope that someone in the front office is reading these.

      I'm sure Ryan has this site bookmarked.
    1. fetch's Avatar
      fetch -
      I hate the Braves so as long as we totally fleece them I'm good with whatever. But no thanks on Gilmartin.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      I wonder just how reasonable it would be for the Twins go get one of those top 3 guys. I would think that the Braves would need to be outmaneuvered for some of these other guys and need to feel like they had to respond to another contender. Boy, I'd be really happy with any of them.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      It may work in the Twins favor that they play in the AL, as the other teams with top-flight starters all play in the NL, and the Braves may not want to deliver a young starter to teams their directly competitive with (all other things being equal, that is).
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      the Braves may not want to deliver a young starter to teams their directly competitive with
      Ummm....perhaps you forgot a little thing called the 1991 World Series???? Yeah.
    1. mini_tb's Avatar
      mini_tb -
      Another name to add to the list is the Braves' 2011 4th round pick, J.R. Graham. He's a 22 year old righty in high-A who is starting full-time for the first time.

      Everything you read about him talks about how electric his stuff is. He works primarily off of a low-mid 90s sinking fastball and a slider, and, given his 2 pitch mix, he may very well be a reliever.

      He has only struck out only 61 batters in 92 2/3 innings, but he has also walked just 16. He has been successful this season despite the noticeable lack of strikeouts because he's an absolute ground ball machine, generating 2.23 outs on the ground to every 1 in the air.
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      A Liriano for Diamond trade sounds fair. Billy Bullock?

      Yes, I'm kidding, but it kind of makes you choke, doesn't it?
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      I'd chop off my arm to get Christian Bethancourt, but that's a bit too rich for for ATL to give up.
    1. mini_tb's Avatar
      mini_tb -
      Quote Originally Posted by DPJ View Post
      I'd chop off my arm to get Christian Bethancourt, but that's a bit too rich for for ATL to give up.
      Bethancourt's hitting just .253/.276/.281 in AA this season in 49 games. He has not had an isolated discipline above .025 since 2009. I'd probably want to see some marked improvement in both his plate discipline and power before dismembering myself.
    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      I wonder just how reasonable it would be for the Twins go get one of those top 3 guys. I would think that the Braves would need to be outmaneuvered for some of these other guys and need to feel like they had to respond to another contender. Boy, I'd be really happy with any of them.
      Agree. I can't imagine that anything above a AA prospect would be an option for Liriano. Having said that, those listed seem promising.
    1. DPJ's Avatar
      DPJ -
      Quote Originally Posted by mini_tb View Post
      Bethancourt's hitting just .253/.276/.281 in AA this season in 49 games. He has not had an isolated discipline above .025 since 2009. I'd probably want to see some marked improvement in both his plate discipline and power before dismembering myself.
      ATL has pushed him agressively, hell he's only 20 year old playing at AA.

      The athleticism behind the plate is there and I believe in the end he'll hit enough to be a damn fine catcher. Maybe not a star, but an cheap cost controlled everyday catcher as it looks like Mauer being a full-time catcher is over.
    1. Musk21's Avatar
      Musk21 -
      There's been a lot of chatter linking Greinke to the Braves, but clearly the price is quite a bit steeper for him. They just might decide to roll the dice on Liriano instead.
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      Quote Originally Posted by fetch View Post
      I hate the Braves so as long as we totally fleece them I'm good with whatever. But no thanks on Gilmartin.
      And why on earth would you "hate" them?
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      Quote Originally Posted by mini_tb View Post
      Bethancourt's hitting just .253/.276/.281 in AA this season in 49 games. He has not had an isolated discipline above .025 since 2009. I'd probably want to see some marked improvement in both his plate discipline and power before dismembering myself.
      Yet every scout you talk to says he's the best catching defender they've ever seen and compare the bat very favorably to Yadier Molina, who really didn't bring any real power until he was in the majors, either.
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      Quote Originally Posted by Musk21 View Post
      There's been a lot of chatter linking Greinke to the Braves, but clearly the price is quite a bit steeper for him. They just might decide to roll the dice on Liriano instead.
      The Greinke interest has been in acquiring him while extending him, a la Santana to the Mets. Otherwise, they aren't willing to pay much in prospects for a rental, according to Frank Wren's recent local and national interviews.
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      My post on this would be that the Minor/Liriano thing would fly all day if it was proposed on both ends, I think. Gilmartin is on the way as a Minor clone in the Braves organization, and Minor on the way was why Diamond was traded to the Twins. I could definitely see that being a possibility. Otherwise, guys like Teheran and Delgado will be saved for a guy they want to re-sign for 2013 and beyond as Brandon Beachy will be back in mid-2013 and money continues to fall off their books to have good money to invest in a starter if they feel the need rather than trading the farm for one.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Teheran is literally untouchable. He has ridiculous potential that the Braves have zero intention of trading away. It would also be a moonshot to pry away Minor and Vizcaino. All of these guys are extremely unrealistic for Liriano which is what you hinted at being the most likely deal. And it is, since the Braves shouldn't have any interest in Morneau or Span.Otherwise I'm fine with the article, John. I just think "Potential Trade Targets" should be guys who could actually be traded.
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      Quote Originally Posted by YourHouseIsMyHouse View Post
      Teheran is literally untouchable. He has ridiculous potential that the Braves have zero intention of trading away. It would also be a moonshot to pry away Minor and Vizcaino. All of these guys are extremely unrealistic for Liriano which is what you hinted at being the most likely deal. And it is, since the Braves shouldn't have any interest in Morneau or Span.Otherwise I'm fine with the article, John. I just think "Potential Trade Targets" should be guys who could actually be traded.
      Hmmm. Not exactly on point. Vizzy is pretty much untradeable, but Minor has worn some welcome in Atlanta away, much like Liriano in Minnesota. Teheran is also not untouchable anymore. He's had some struggles on and off the field this year that has knocked him down a peg. Heck, check out the fall he had in the recent midseason top 120 that Sickels released. He's still a VERY high level prospect, but the untouchable status has come down.
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