New Atlanta GM Alex Anthopoulos just broke the seal in a major way. Trading away the albatross contract of Matt Kemp – without eating a dime- was nothing short of a miracle. Getting two players who project as MLB contributors (and a lotto ticket to boot) is icing on the miracle cake. Now that Thoppy has the first one out of the way, should we expect more to come? In speaking to those who have followed his career and those who have met him, my sense is that Anthopolous will not be trading from the prospect pool at this time, but that doesn’t mean the Braves are done dealing this offseason. If you tuned in to the podcast with my esteemed colleague Andy Harris then you heard us run down a long (long) list of potential acquisitions and our thoughts on said pieces. In this particular piece, I’ll be throwing out two potential trades involving the player who, in my humble opinion, represents the most trade value of any player the Braves would be actively looking to deal this offseason: starter Julio Teheran.
Why Julio Teheran?
The answer is pretty obvious to anyone who has paid attention the last few seasons; he has just about maxed out in terms of potential, and he has a phenomenal contract. Eight million dollars in 2018 for a pitcher who, for his career, has a line of 3.59 ERA / 4.06 FIP / 4.16 xFIP is outstanding. Just to compare, Ivan Nova, a pitcher with a career line of 4.27/4.30/4.04, will make $8.5 million in 2018. Ervin Santana, a very comparable pitcher to Teheran, will make $13.5 million this season, with a $14 million dollar team option in 2019 – a season in which Teheran will make just $11 million. So, while Teheran’s career may never have quite evolved into that front line guy we all thought we were getting in his early years, Julio has had an extremely successful career that, paired with an extremely affordable contract, gives the Braves a tremendous asset for any team looking for a middle of the rotation starter who will have stretches of front line dominance.
You may be wondering, if Julio Teheran has such a great contract, why trade him at all? Why not hold on to him and wait until he’s able to be slotted into his more realistic third or fourth spot in our rotation? Again, the answer is pretty simple: Teheran is worth more in asset acquisition for a currently rebuilding Braves team than he would be as a number four or five in a few years time. This is especially so when considering the arms making a beeline for Atlanta. Throw in the recent acquisition of Brandon McCarthy (and, to a lesser extent Scott Kazmir) and Teheran becomes very expendable in the right situations. So without further ado, let’s take a look at a few deals for Julio Teheran that I could support.
Deal #1: Julio Teheran and Nick Markakis to Minnesota for LF Eddie Rosario and SS prospect Wander Javier
Eddie Rosario, LF
Slash Line: .290/.328/.507
Why it Makes Sense For Atlanta
A quiet force for Minnesota last season, Rosario thrived in his third season as a big leaguer. The stats above speak for themselves. While the defense took a significant step back (-6 DRS as opposed to +10 in 2015), the bat more than makes up for last year’s lapses. A lefty who can hit anywhere from second to seventh, Rosario is just entering his prime, and would make a great acquisition for Atlanta.
Wander Javier? He is exactly the type of prospect the Braves need to acquire after the devastation of #Coppygate. While only #12 on the International prospect lists, Javier showed the Twins enough to give a $4 million dollar signing bonus to the talented young man from the Dominican Republic. Javier shows consistent ability to barrel up the ball and make hard contact, leading most evaluators to revise their earlier opinion of him as a glove-first player. A propensity to pull the ball, coupled with a projectable frame, strong glovework (despite 16 errors a season ago, his glove is still seen as more than adequate for SS), and athleticism that should easily allow him to stay at SS long-term, Javier has all the characteristics of Didi Gregorius (post discovering how to hit).
Why It Makes Sense For Minnesota
There is no denying the Twins were the surprise team of 2017. After a seven-year playoff drought, the Twins rocketed to an 85-77 record and snatched the second wildcard spot in the American League. While they didn’t advance, Minnesota fans are extremely excited to see what the future holds for a young Twins roster that boasts one of the emerging superstars in the game in Byron Buxton. After this success ,you may, quite logically, ask why Minnesota would entertain trading a big piece of their 2017 success. The answer lies not in Rosario himself, but in some disturbing underlying numbers on maybe their biggest surprise player in 2017: Ervin Santana. The former Brave pitched his way to a 3.28 ERA and a 16 win season in what looked, on the surface, at least, to be an outstanding campaign. Unfortunately, that season will be nearly impossible for Santana to replicate once you take a deeper look into his numbers from a season ago. While the 3.28 ERA looks spectacular, it was accompanied by a 4.46 FIP, a 4.77 xFIP, a .245 BABIP against him, and a career best Soft Contact rate of 22.3% (a full three points higher than his previous career best).
While Jose Berrios is a stud, with Santana due to regress and a plethora of inexperienced players and/or hot garbage filling the rotation, the Twins desperately need someone to round out their rotation and provide some balance. Enter Julio Teheran, who comes equipped with one of the most team friendly starting pitching contracts in all of baseball. Teheran’s $19 million for 2018 and 2019 will be nearly the same amount as Jeremy Hellickson made in 2017. Adding Markakis gives Minnesota a player who still excels at getting on base and will provide better defense than they received a season ago. Why give up Javier? Normally I would say a prospect of his caliber would cost you much more than a pitcher and an $11 million expiring contract, but Wander, as good as he is, happens to be buried behind Royce Lewis and Nick Gordon in the Twins farm system, making him an ideal target for Atlanta.
Deal #2: Julio Teheran to San Diego for Yangervis Solarte and Adrian Morejon
Yangervis Solarte, 3B/2B
Slash Line: .255/.314/.416
Why It Makes Sense For Atlanta
A solid if unspectacular player, Solarte, on his own, would not be worth Teheran. Where this gets interesting is SP prospect Adrian Morejon. A polished 18-year old with a solid four pitch mix, coupled with strong command and poise, Morejon isn’t quite the prospect that fellow Padres farmhands Cal Quantrill, MacKenzie Gore, or Anderson Espinoza are. However, he is plenty good enough to be worth acquiring. With his impressive mix that includes a knuckle-change (FTW!), a fastball that sits between 91 and 93 MPH (and touches 96 MPH), a plus curveball, and a more traditional change-up, Morejon is a very high floor prospect who should be a fast riser in any system he is in.
Why It Makes Sense For San Diego
With the Padres looking to contend now, the asking price for a pitcher like Julio Teheran should certainly include a top 100 prospect like Morejon. Solarte, while simply filler in the trade, makes for a great complement to Johan Camargo, as nearly all of his success came against righties last season. For $4 million, the Braves could do a whole lot worse. Why would the Padres be interested? The number one pitcher on their depth chart according to Rotoworld? CLAYTON RICHARD!
Deal #3: Julio Teheran, Nick Markakis, Sam Freeman, and Kyle Muller to Milwaukee for Domingo Santana
Domingo Santana, RF
Slash Line: .278/.371/.505
Why It Makes Sense For Atlanta
Beyond the obvious “he’s cheap, he’s young, and he hit 30 homers”? Santana adds a bona fide power element to a Braves roster that will be severely lacking in the power department next season. Milwaukee was dangling Santana earlier this off-season in the hopes of selling high, but with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna on the trade market (not to mention J.D. Martinez available as a free agent), the Brewers received little real interest in the powerful young man. That’s good news for Atlanta, who could conceivably swoop in while the iron is hot and nab a big time power profile for themselves. The 126 wRC+ isn’t likely to be repeated due to an absurdly high .363 BABIP and an equally absurd HR/FB of 30.9%, but the fall to Earth won’t be as large as some will expect for the young man who has averaged a .354 BABIP over the course of his career.
Why It Makes Sense For The Brewers
This is the more difficult case to make. Most teams aren’t looking to deal a cost effective, young player with 30 HR power, but the Brewers have already shown they’re willing to deal him. The question is what package the Brewers are looking for. I would safely assume they were looking for a deal along the lines of what St. Louis gave up for Marcell Ozuna (Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano), but after receiving no offers of substance the asking price should be lower. The real question is how much lower. In all honesty, the package I’ve provided may be a tad light, but it’s the best I could come up with for Atlanta may be willing to let go.
As stated earlier, with the absurd prices of solid SP in today’s game, the extremely team friendly deal of Julio Teheran is truly a boon for Atlanta. While last season was most definitely the worst of his career, Julio did pitch better after the All-Star break, and much, MUCH better away from SunTrust Park last season, so there is still value outside of simply the contract. Nick Markakis is a bridge piece that can still provide a rock solid OBP and clubhouse presence for a young team, and is an expiring contract that can bridge the gap should Milwaukee find a taker for Ryan Braun at some point in 2018. Coming off a surprisingly (to me at least) strong season, Sam Freeman would give Milwaukee a strong lefty specialist for a bullpen that really only features Josh Hader as an acceptable lefty. Kyle Muller is the wildcard here. An intriguing mix of stuff and upside, Muller would slot in as the #4 pitcher in the Brewers farm system while barely making a dent in Atlanta’s own stacked farm system of pitchers. While this should be viewed as definitely the most unlikely trade scenario on this list, there’s no doubt this trade would hold the most appeal with Braves fans.