Though I expect the Braves to be an improved team in 2016, I still expect the front office to operate in a similar manner when it comes to dealing and dealing often. Not only do the Braves have a bunch of veterans in the last years of their contracts once again, they also have a surplus of starting pitching options they must inevitably be moved in order to create opportunities for the arms coming up through the pipeline. We are still rebuilding, and our moves in 2016 will fall into that strategy. The team is going to look to shed salary to invest in international free agents, while adding cheap cost-controlled talent in the process. That, on top of a great draft, should give the Braves the best farm system in baseball. Let’s take a look at the type of moves the team will likely make between now and August 1st. (Note: I do expect the Braves to make a blockbuster move at some point this season, However, I have not included such a move in this article. Also, I assume nobody ends up taking Nick Swisher’s contract, so in this theoretical article Swisher has been handed his outright release ahead of Opening Day.
Braves Trade Nick Markakis, Mike Foltynewicz to the Baltimore Orioles for Dylan Bundy (Deal Made in ST)
The Orioles are still trying to fill the void Nick Markakis left in right field when he departed via free agency before the 2015 season. It’s also no secret that they are trying to solidify their rotation as well. The Braves give them two assets that can help them fill both of their needs for 2016. In exchange, the Braves get a guy with untapped potential in Dylan Bundy. The 4th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Bundy has been ranked as high as the second best prospect in baseball as an amateur. However, injuries have derailed his career. The righty is now out of options, and the team likely does not think he can start for the team right out of the gate. He has had a cup of tea in the majors, but besides that he has only made 8 starts in AA to this point, hence the risk. Many have suggested he may come out of their bullpen. Long story short, Bundy’s value has surely diminished, and they may opt to move him in order to fill team needs. He would be plugged in Atlanta’s bullpen, and stretched out into a starter’s role later in the season if he experiences success and can stay healthy. It’s a risk, but the the team could acquire a potential ace in this deal while shedding salary ahead of the IFA spending period.
Braves Trade Bud Norris for Shane Dawson
Bud Norris comes to Atlanta, and Roger McDowell helps him find success once again at the MLB level. However, with all the young arms coming up, Norris inevitably becomes the odd man out given he’s a vet on a one-year deal. The Braves trade the AL East familiar Norris to the Toronto Blue Jays, who are looking to solidify the back end of their rotation as they look to make another playoff push. The Braves get lefty Shane Dawson out of the deal, who has had a nice track record thus far in the minors, in their continued effort to acquire young arms.
Braves Trade A.J. Pierzynski, Gordon Beckham, Mauricio Cabrera, Andrew McKirahan and Ian Krol for Jesus Montero, Tyler Smith and Tyler Marlette
The Mariners go all in as they compete for an AL Wild card spot. They address two needs: Catcher and the bullpen. In return, the Braves get yet another former top prospect in Jesus Montero, who they decide to move back behind the plate. Montero has been a forgotten man in Seattle, but he did hit .355 with 18 homers and 85 RBI in AAA last season. Yes, those numbers are a bit inflated as he played in the Pacific Coast League, but they are nevertheless ridiculous. The Braves have hired a ton of former Yankees scouts in their revamping of their scouting department, and they get one of their most hyped prospects in the past decade in Montero. The team also gets some mid-level prospects in Tyler Smith and Tyler Marlette. Being a catcher, Marlette adds depth to our weakest position in the farm currently.
Braves Trade Erick Aybar, Matt Marksberry to the White Sox for Jhoandro Alfaro, Michael Ynoa
With the acquisition of Todd Frazier, the White Sox made it clear they’re putting their chips on the table in 2016. Unfortunately for them, they still need a shortstop. Bring in Erick Aybar. The Braves move the expiring contract of the veteran shortstop and add one of the more hyped catching prospects from the 2014 IFA market in Jhoandro Alfaro. They also add a former to prospect in Michael Ynoa, who becomes a bullpen reclamation project for our minor league instructors. The Braves clear more money to make a gigantic splash on the IFA market. Who plays shortstop for the team? Look no further than our next (and last) trade.
Braves Trade Jason Grilli, Kelly Johnson, Jim Johnson, Tyrell Jenkins and Williams Perez to the Texas Rangers for Jurickson Profar and Patrick Kivlehan
The Erick Aybar trade leaves a huge hole at shortstop, and while Dansby Swanson is a great prospect, the notion of him reaching the big leagues this season is ridiculous to me. In this move, the team trades vets in Grilli and the Johnsons to a Rangers team with championship aspirations. They also add a prospect in Tyrell Jenkins who should be MLB ready this season. The Rangers have a great team but their bullpen has been a weakness. This move helps them become a more serious contender for 2016. In return, the Braves get Jurickson Profar, a former top prospect who has struggled with injuries. Between the presence of Elvis Andrus and Roughned Odor up the middle of the field in Texas, Profar has become the odd man out. The team also adds a power hitting third baseman who may be MLB ready in Patrick Kivlehan. He has hit over 20 bombs in the past two seasons in the minors, and the Braves give him a prime opportunity to prove himself at the big league level at the hot corner. This trades makes sense for both teams, and the depth of pitching in our system makes Jenkins expendable.