This week MLB’s hot stove remains so cold, a trade that included Luis Avilan as a major component was the biggest news. The only thing keeping baseball fans warm is the hot Christian Yelich trade ideas.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi shifted the speculation into overdrive with this reporting early last week:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 3, 2018
MLB.com Braves beat reporter Mark Bowman did absolutely nothing to quash Braves fans Yelichmania with this follow-up tweet:
The Braves made some progress toward acquiring Yelich during the Winter Meetings. But the Marlins slowed things down as they were dealing with backlash from the Stanton/Gordon/Ozuna deals. Atlanta has maintained interest and there was always a sense the talks would resume. https://t.co/PaEgxCS02M
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) January 4, 2018
So the Braves have had conversations about Yelich with the Marlins, and have also expressed interest in Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Yelich has one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball right now, guaranteed $44.5 million over the next four seasons, with a net $13.75 million club option for 2022. Yelich just turned 26 years old, and it’s reasonable that he should at least maintain his production going into what is typically the prime of most hitters careers. Realmuto is one of the top offensive catchers in the game and is under team control through the arbitration process through 2020. Realmuto has accumulated 8.4 bWAR over the last three seasons, second in the majors after San Francisco’s Buster Posey and beating the next highest catcher, Kansas City’s Salvador Perez, by a full win.
Nearly every team in baseball would be improved by acquiring these players, but the Braves are one of the only teams that would potentially have the prospects a club like the Marlins would need to pull of a deal. Reports suggest that unlike earlier salary dumps of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna, or Dee Gordon, the Marlins would want full prospect value for Yelich and/or Realmuto and they aren’t interested in diluting a return by attaching an unattractive contract, like those of pitchers Brad Ziegler or Wei-Yin Chen or infielder Martin Prado.
What that kind of package would look like has been the major subject of speculation for Braves fans and national media this week. My own conjecture, based on recent trades of comparable players, put the price tag for both Yelich and Realmuto a package that would include players like Luiz Gohara, Mike Soroka, Austin Riley, Cristian Pache, Alex Jackson, A.J. Minter, and Kyle Muller. That package operates under the presumption that the Braves would consider Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna core players that they would prefer not to move.
Bowden: Braves Looking At Short-Term 3B Options
Writing for the The Athletic, former Reds and Nationals GM-turned-rumormonger Jim Bowden indicates the Braves are still in the market for third baseman that could be had on short-term contracts, name-dropping Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez specifically, while they wait for OFR #6 prospect Austin Riley to develop.
Bowden opines that the Braves should invest in free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, formerly of the Kansas City Royals, and use Riley in a trade for Yelich or Realmuto, as discussed above.
My opinion: the Braves should not invest in Moustakas, a player whose production has fluctuated drastically over the years and has “free agent bust” written all over him. Potentially including Riley in a trade for Yelich and/or Realmuto can be done with or without signing Moustakas. As for Frazier or Nunez, either would strengthen the team and would be fine inclusions on deals of no more than two seasons; if the commitment needs to be longer than that, I would just as soon go with the current in-house options.
Hudson, Simpson To Be Inducted to Braves Hall-of-Fame
Hudson was acquired by the Braves in a trade with the Oakland A’s before the 2005 season and pitched 9 seasons with the organization, going 113-72 with a 3.56 ERA in 244 appearances. Hudson’s best season with Atlanta was 2010, when he pitched 228.2 innings to a 2.83 ERA, leading the team’s pitching staff to a playoff berth and securing an All-Star selection and a 4th-place finish in Cy Young Award voting. Hudson also provided the Braves his best post-season appearance as a Brave that year, pitching 7 shutout innings against San Francisco in the third game of the Divisional Series.
Simpson joined the Braves broadcasting team in 1992, joining a rotating crew with Braves Hall-of-Famers Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren, and Don Sutton that would alternate between calling the games for TBS and for Braves radio. It’s this team that would call one of the most successful winning runs in baseball history, providing the narration for the formative baseball experience for a generation of Braves fans. Since 2007, Simpson has been the color analyst on the SportsSouth/Fox Sports network television broadcasts, first partnering with Jon “Boog” Sciambi, then starting 2010 with Chip Carey.
OFR congratulates both men on their honor.
Arbitration Deadline on Friday
Baseball’s deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players is this Friday, January 12. The Braves didn’t tender contracts to first baseman Matt Adams, infielder Jace Peterson, and outfielder Danny Santana, making them free agents (Adams and Peterson have since signed contracts with the Nationals and Yankees respectively, and Santana signed a minor league deal with the Braves). The Braves came to contract terms with lefty Rex Brothers last month, leaving pitchers Mike Foltynewicz, Arodys Vizcaino, Sam Freeman, and Daniel Winkler still unsigned and arbitration eligible.
Traditionally, the Braves have been a “file-and-trial” team. This is a policy decision that means that once the team and players have exchanged arbitration numbers, as is scheduled for Friday, the team will no longer try to sign that player to a deal to avoid arbitration. While it remains to be seen if that policy will remain in effect under new GM Alex Anthopoulos, it should be noticed that while Anthopoulos was GM of the Toronto Blue Jays that team had an identical policy.
Atlanta has had a very good track record over the last several years of signing their arbitration-eligible players prior to filing, perhaps due to the file-and-trial policy. The Braves have also carved out an exception to the policy for negotiating multi-year extensions, which the Braves did extensively before the 2014 season to sign Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, and Julio Teheran to extensions. It is unlikely however that any of the group of four this season will be signed to a multi-year extension. In any case, look for activity this week around these players; I would be mildly surprised if any of the four actually went to arbitration with the team.
Cumberland Comes Home
Brett Cumberland, OFR’s #17 prospect, played his final game with the Melbourne Aces this weekend and left on a high note. Cumberland went 2-for-3 with two walks, a double, and a home run. Cumberland’s 7 home runs for the Aces leads the team and is sixth in the league.
Cumberland is leaving the team to come home to prepare for spring training in Orlando with the Braves. Cumberland will bring home two surfboards purchased from Aces teammate and former major league pitcher Mark Hamburger as well as experience playing right field. Cumberland said “It’s been good being in the outfield. It’s been a lot of fun. I’d like to continue that a little bit and get better out there.”
Cumberland also praised the opportunity to play in Australia. “It’s a great league, there’s a lot of talent.”
Tyler Neslony, ranked #41 by OFR, hit his 4th home run for the Aces over the weekend and is now hitting .286/.381/.486 on the season. Left-hander Jon Kennedy, who played last summer with Rome, got roughed up in his start on Sunday however, surrendering 4 runs on 5 hits in 3 innings. Both players will presumably also be leaving the team soon to come back to prepare for spring training.
Johan Camargo, who had to leave the team briefly to fulfill other commitments, will return to Aguilas Cibaenas as the team starts its next round robin. Camargo, the presumed front-runner to be the starting third baseman for Atlanta, has been the team’s best offensive player this winter, hitting .324/.425/.500 on the season. Camargo will hopefully provide a boost to the squad, who has gone 3-5 so far in the postseason without him.
Catcher Jonathan Morales, ranked OFR’s #44 Braves prospect, has joined Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican winter league for the postseason, joining recently-signed minor league infielder Christian Colon as Braves on the squad. Morales has only suited up in 3 games so far, hitting .143/.286/.429, but caught a complete game shutout on Saturday.
Braves Release Three Minor Leaguers; Jackson Outrighted to Gwinnett
The biggest surprise of this group was Custred, who pitched a fine season for class-A Rome in 2017, though he did miss significant time in the middle of the season with injury. Custred pitched to a 1.16 ERA in 38.2 innings pitched, and owns a 2.11 career ERA over 128 minor league innings, striking out 158 batters in that span. Custred was a 31st-round pick in 2015 out of Texas Tech and just turned 24 years old.
Lewis is a Claxton, Georgia native and University of Florida alum who was drafted in the 9th-round of the 2015 draft. In 2016 Lewis looked like a strong bullpen prospect, rising through three levels including a 19-appearance, 0.53 ERA stint at the high-A level. Returned to high-A in 2017 however Lewis faltered, and after posting a 8.87 ERA in 16 appearances, he was demoted back to Rome where he finished out the 2017 season.
Suarez was an 18th-round selection by the Braves in the 2015 draft out of San Ysidro High School in San Diego. A raw but promising arm, nagging injuries had slowed his development, and Suarez completed his third year with the GCL Braves in 2018.
The Braves also outrighted right-hander Luke Jackson to AAA Gwinnett. Jackson was designated for assignment on December 20 to make room on Atlanta’s 40-man roster for outfielder Preston Tucker, who was acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros.
Once a top prospect for the Texas Rangers, Jackson was traded to the Braves last offseason for righty Tyrell Jenkins. Jackson bounced between Atlanta and Gwinnett, pitching to a 4.62 ERA/4.24 FIP for the big league club in 50.2 innings. Jackson will remain with the Braves organization and look for another opportunity to show he can be a contributing member to the Atlanta bullpen.