The 2017 MLB playoffs are unlikely to feature the Atlanta Braves. This isn’t a great surprise to anyone, but it might be a disappointment. Could Atlanta make a run and reach the postseason? Of course. But should the team presently be planning to? Probably not, taking a look at the current (as of 5/30) playoff odds that Atlanta might play in a Division Series.
Baseball Prospectus: 1.9%
FanGraphs (pre-season proj.): 0.1%
FanGraphs (using ’17 stats): 2.1%
When GM John Coppolella looks at those numbers, he shouldn’t think of ways to push those odds to 10% or higher. It’s too hard, especially when you consider the team’s best player, Freddie Freeman, is out for a considerable amount of time and is expected to be something of a question mark upon his return.
With that hard reality in mind, the team, beginning in June, may look to move several pieces in order to help further stock the organization for future years, years in which the team’s playoff odds aren’t so pessimistic. Here’s my (mostly but not completely objective) ranking of how much different players could bring back, coupled with my proposals on just how into the idea of trading them Atlanta should be.
Note: I didn’t include pre-free agency players earning less than $1,000,000 in 2017, mostly because there weren’t many interesting ones. Chaz Roe or Ian Krol could bring something, but would it be enough to motivate Atlanta to move these cheap players, controllable players? The same goes for Jace Peterson, Adonis Garcia, and Danny Santana. If there’s a trade there, it’s probably not an interesting one. Foltynewicz has value, but he doesn’t have much of a track record yet, and I can’t see Atlanta selling low on him. Obviously, even younger pre-arb guys like Swanson and Jose Ramirez would garner interest, but they don’t seem like realistic players to be moved if the team decides to sell. Also omitted are players not expected to play in 2017, like Sean Rodriguez and Jacob Lindgren.
With that out of the way, here we go:
Remaining Cost: $48,000,000 through 2019
Remaining Value: $36,960,000 (1.2 remaining WAR in 2017 / 1.8 WAR 2018 / 1.5 WAR 2019)
Kemp’s remaining cost accounts for the $3.5M per year the Dodgers continue to pay him, but it doesn’t include the $10M sent from San Diego to Atlanta at the time of the most recent trade. Perhaps it should, but the verbiage is different, so I kept it separate. Kemp has rehabilitated his value enough to make him a player worthy of his contract. He’s hardly a bargain, and he is best used in a small OF corner or a DH spot, but Kemp, currently slashing .337/.376/.577, is still a presence in a lineup. With his age and injury history, he’s not a great bet to still be great when Atlanta is ready to contend, but he’s pretty great right now. For a bat that’s this good presently, there’s likely a team out there that would overpay for Kemp, even giving Atlanta a real prospect, even if the cost is too prohibitive to command a top-100 prospect.
What Coppy should do: Shop him. Kemp’s value is unlikely to be higher than it is right now. He’s well-liked in Atlanta, but with all that money back in the team’s pockets, I’m sure Coppy could find someone else that’s both well-liked and a better bet to remain productive when Atlanta’s contention window is open. If Atlanta throws in a little bit of money, they might even get a prospect out of the whole thing.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Texas. The Rangers have a deep-pocketed owner, one of the worst LF situations in baseball, and a window that should be open long enough to justify adding Kemp to the roster.
Remaining Cost: $5,833,333 (through 2017, including a 2018 buyout)
Remaining Value: $800,000
Dickey’s 4.65 ERA seems good on this team, but his 4.5 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 1.6 HR/9, and 8.64 DRA tells us more of what to expect going forward. Dickey wouldn’t return much in a trade at all, and Atlanta would mostly just be looking to save money if he is dealt.
What Coppy should do: Shop him, and offer salary relief for any team willing to take him, or just let him eat more innings down the stretch, depending on what the boss wants or needs to see from Aaron Blair or Matt Wisler.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Boston. Really, it’s no one, but after experiencing 5 starts from Steven Wright, Boston just might see Dickey as something useful.
Remaining Cost: $8,333,333
Remaining Value: $4,800,000
Big Sexy has a big ERA (6.96) and is at a crossroads, and there are both signs of impending improvement and continued doom. His FIP (4.85) suggests things will get better. The more complicated, but also slightly more accurate DRA (8.43) expects the collapse to continue. The most concerning aspect of Colon’s season is an increase in walks and home runs, signs that his command could be going. At 44, that wouldn’t be a shocking development. I’m not sure what Atlanta should do with Colon. With most struggling starters, you could go the Bud Norris route and slide them into a relief role, but Colon has a unusual skill set that may not translate to relief work – he eats innings and throws 87 mph fastballs. That’s pretty much it. With a questionable future, the return for Colon would be significantly low.
What Coppy should do: Answer the call if the phone rings, and be willing to pick up some cash if it saves the team from paying the full amount. If not, let Colon play things out and chase down the Latin win record in Atlanta.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: He’s a veteran pitcher who could serve as a mop-up long reliever down the stretch, so… everyone?
Remaining Cost: $17,500,000
Remaining Value: $15,420,000
The remaining value might be a little bearish, but the 33-year old is likely going to start declining at some point. His value isn’t likely to increase, so whenever a decent offer comes across the desk, it’s probably time to take it. If Atlanta traded Markakis, I’d miss him, but he’s a luxury player, a 2 or 3 win outfielder who’ll provide you with an above-average batting average and on-base skills, below average power, and good defense within a limited range. He provides some veteran leadership, and while that has some value for the young players, the team also has a 157-215 record since Markakis arrived, so the extent of that value is rather limited.
What Coppy should do: Listen to any offer, although the offseason might be a better time to trade Markakis. There’s not an obvious replacement in the organization, and waiting until the offseason would allow the team to broaden its list of potential trade partners as well as find a suitable RF to replace him. That said, if someone really wants him, Atlanta will listen.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: None. There’s not an obvious match, which is an even better reason to wait to move Markakis.
Remaining Cost: $7,500,000 (through 2018)
Remaining Value: $5,640,000
Don’t worry about the negative surplus when it comes to relievers. They’re all overpaid by this metric. The key with Johnson is that he isn’t drastically overpaid. There would be a market for him, and because he has significant bonuses for games finished, the Braves could be motivated to move him to a contender.
What Coppy should do: Listen to any team that calls, but don’t feel forced to move him. If the team has plans to be competitive in 2018, Johnson could be a late inning factor.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Minnesota. The Twins have been competitive so far, and a young, talented core could use better bullpen stability than they’re likely to have later this season.
Remaining Cost: $1,000,000 (through 2017)
Remaining Value: Replacement Level
Suzuki’s line so far is pretty impressive: .260/.378/.452. He’s been a very pleasant surprise, and Atlanta has already gotten its bang for the buck with the signing. But here’s the thing. When a 33 year old catcher, after two months, has the best hitting line of his career, it’s reasonable to expect him to return to earth. Over a very small sample (he still hasn’t batted 100 times), Suzuki is even playing decent defense. There wouldn’t be a huge market for Suzuki, but there’s a chance a contender could be interested.
What Coppy should do: Shop him. Suzuki isn’t signed beyond this season, and he’s playing way beyond expectations. Those two factors create the most obvious flashing “TRADE HIM NOW” sign on the roster.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Blue Jays. They could use a competent backup for Russell Martin.
Remaining Cost: $833,333
Remaining Value: Replacement Level
2014 was the last time Bonifacio was useful as a hitter, and while he has defensive versatility, he really isn’t very good at playing the many positions that he plays. He’s a switch-hitter with not-terrible speed, and he’s used to a bench role. That’s his value. Will it sell? Doubtful, but maybe.
What Coppy should do: By all means, trade him if you find a willing partner, but the line ain’t long for a .132/.150/.211 hitter.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Washington. There’s just no other contender I’d want to subject to this.
Remaining Cost: $833,333
Remaining Value: Replacement Level
Eric O’Flaherty Deserved Run Averages since his magical 2011 season.
Eric O’Flaherty has the best agent in the business, y’all.
What Coppy should do: If anyone calls, you do what you need to do to get something done.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Washington. It’s a good time to be a spy in Washington, and comrade O’Flaherty could reliably execute his mission.
Remaining Cost: $8,000,000 (through 2017)
Remaining Value: $7,200,000
While much of the focus in Atlanta has been on the disappointment of the Bartolo Colon deal, the addition of Garcia has been disappointing. His 3.58 ERA belies some concerning trends, as his K rate and BB rate inch toward one another. The BABIP gods have been kind to Garcia so far, and that alone is keeping the ERA respectable. His DRA of 5.69 tells the story of a pitcher who simply hasn’t been good at all. Despite the less than rosy projection, Garcia is a 30 year old lefty with a past history of success, so there would be a market for him. It’s just going to be less exciting than what Atlanta hoped when the team traded for him in the offseason.
What Coppy should do: Sell. Garcia isn’t signed for 2018, and he’s a veteran with 7 postseason starts under his belt. Some team in the hunt could probably add him at a low cost.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Seattle. The Mariners are a quasi-contender, which means they’d likely be taking a look at low-cost chances to take. Garcia would be that kind of low-cost acquisition. Safeco would be a good fit for him as well, as it would help keep the ball in the park, particularly against right-handed hitters.
Remaining Cost: League minimum
Remaining Value: Replacement level
Motte may not be a sexy addition for other teams down the stretch, but he’d be low-cost, he sports a respectable 3.74 DRA, and the man has playoff experience. There would be a market.
What Coppy should do: Shop him. Motte has been a pleasant surprise, and pleasant surprises serve 2 purposes: they either get you to the playoffs, or they are traded for prospects who hopefully will help you get to the playoffs.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Every contender needs middle relief depth.
Remaining Cost: $666,666 (through 2017)
Remaining Value: $3,200,000
I’m not sure what kind of agreement the Braves have with Phillips regarding trades, but there’s a chance the team unofficially agreed not to trade him. If no such agreement took place, Phillips is an excellent trade candidate. The Reds paid $13,000,000 of his 2017 salary, leaving the Braves (and an eventual trade partner) with a relative bargain. Like Kemp, Phillips’ value is high (slashing .301/.351/.423), and he’s not signed for 2018.
What Coppy should do: Shop him, as long as Phillips is cool with that. Phillips isn’t under contract long enough to be a part of the next Braves playoff team, so he could bring back something of value. Also, Phillips deserves another crack at a postseason.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Arizona. Brandon Drury is doing ok so far, but he’s unlikely to keep it up all season. The Diamondbacks have been surprisingly competitive, and Phillips wouldn’t carry a drastic cost, which would be a nice option for a rebuilding team that didn’t expect to find itself in contention.
Remaining Cost: $1,033,333 (through 2017) / $9,001,333 (through 2019, projected arbitration earnings)
Remaining Value: $14,000,000 (through 2019)
There seems to be little stability in Vizcaino’s stats, except that he’s effective. He’s giving up fewer hits AND fewer walks than ever before, but his HR rate has risen. His groundball rates have been all over the place as well. A good bit of it is BABIP-induced (only .200 this year), but a 2.33 DRA tells us Viz isn’t simply lucky. He has been really good so far, and if he were put on the market, there’d be a frenzy of interested teams.
What Coppy should do: Let the market decide. Technically, that should always be the answer, but with Vizcaino, the team really could go either way. While he wouldn’t bring back the return New York got for Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman last year, it could be comparable. After all, Viz isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2019. If a similar deal is offered, Atlanta should pounce on it. If not, Vizcaino can be a reliable piece of the 2018 bullpen.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: The Dodgers. As the Cubs and Indians showed last year, it’s the teams with long droughts and a lot invested in the current season that are most willing to go overboard to fortify their bullpens. There’s not even anything wrong with LA’s bullpen, but a Viz move wouldn’t be to fix a hole as much as to create a super-strength.
Remaining Cost: $1,800,000 (through 2017) / $6,228,000 (includes projected 2018 arbitration)
Remaining Value: $4,000,000 (through 2017) / $11,380,000 (through 2018)
The Adams addition has gone as expected, with Adams being more bad than good, but the good has come at the right times, and Adams has endeared himself to fans. He’s a power bat who can play LF poorly or 1B well. There’d be a market for him.
What Coppy should do: With Freeman unlikely to really be himself until late in the season, if at all in 2017, the best course would be to hold onto Adams until the offseason. If a Kemp trade offer comes around, Adams gives the team an emergency option for LF. The offseason is a better time to sort these things out.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Tampa Bay doesn’t have the sunniest outlook at 1st and Left, and having Kevin Kiermaier in CF could even help mitigate Adams’ lack of range.
Remaining Cost: $2,300,000 (through 2017) / $6,000,000 (through 2018)
Remaining Value: $9,600,000 (through 2017) / $20,260,000 (through 2018)
Surplus: +$14,260,000 (through 2018)
Flowers has a pretty amazing batting line (.352/.460/.467), thanks to a .442 BABIP, and while that offense is unlikely to continue, Flowers is still an above-average catcher. There would be a market, and Atlanta could command a good return.
What Coppy should do: Set the price high, because Atlanta should have no qualms about taking Flowers into 2018. A top 101-150 offensive or top 75-100 pitching prospect would be my price.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Arizona. No team with legitimate postseason chances should be relying on Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis to take them there.
Remaining Cost: $24,200,000 (through 2019) / $35,200,000 (through 2020)
Remaining Value: $56,180,000 (through 2019) / $82,840,000 (through 2020)
Surplus: +$47,640,000 (through 2020)
Teheran has been pretty bad this year, and he’s also affordable for several more years. There’s a chance he’s a key part of Atlanta’s next playoff team, and his value has never been lower. There’s almost no chance Atlanta could presently command the return his contract and past history probably deserve. The choice here is pretty easy.
What Coppy should do: Don’t sell low. Teheran stays.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: If Atlanta decides to sell (they shouldn’t), a team with limited resources, a chance to compete for a few years, and some shaky starting pitching would be interested, and Baltimore would be a potential match.
Remaining Cost: $99,666,666 (through 2021)
Remaining Value: $155,420,000
Let’s be clear. Freeman isn’t a realistic trade possibility, and he’s only being included so as to offer a complete view of values on the team. Freeman is one of the league’s best hitters at a position that’s tough to fill via the open market. He’s also mending a broken wrist, so if Atlanta called teams to talk trade, teams would be justifiably suspicious. He’s not going anywhere.
What Coppy should do: Nothing, unless some ridiculously unrealistic trade is offered. And, Dave Stewart is unemployed, so that’s doubtful.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: None. We’re not even playing this game.
Remaining Cost: $26,358,333 (through 2021) / $34,333,333 (through 2022)
Remaining Value: $164,420,000 (through 2021) / $199,520,000 (through 2022)
Last December, the Nationals acquired Adam Eaton, and it cost 2 of the top 10 pitching prospects in the game, plus another recent 1st round pick, to do so. They got 5 years of Eaton (2 of which are club bonuses) at $38,400,000. Eaton is a slightly better hitter than Inciarte, but he’s worse as a centerfielder. So, needless to say, 5 1/2 years of Inciarte, at a cheaper price than Eaton, with better long-term value thanks to better CF defense, would bring at least as hefty a return. Inciarte is a 4-5 win player, and Atlanta is paying him $34 million over the next 5 1/2 years. Bryce Harper is a 6-8 win player, and there’s a real chance he gets a $500 million contract in 18 months. That’s value, and that’s why Inciarte is the most valuable trade chip on Atlanta’s roster.
What Coppy should do: Keep Inciarte. If someone overwhelms him with a huge offer (like, better than the Eaton price), sure, take it, but Inciarte can be a part of the next Braves playoff team, and having him on the roster allows you to justify a big free agent deal elsewhere.
Possible, completely hypothetical trade partner: Chicago Cubs. Any team in baseball would be wildly interested in Inciarte, but he’d be most appealing to a team with high-value contracts elsewhere.