Trade season has already begun briefly, as the Rangers made the first blockbuster deal of the offseason by acquiring former Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber for two minor league prospects. There hasn’t been much action outside of that, but once Josh Donaldson signs the dotted line – whether it is with the Braves or not – that should ramp up the trade talks significantly among a bevy of teams.
The Braves will be one of those organizations, checking every stone to see if there is a deal out there that will better their team. If they don’t re-sign Josh Donaldson, they should be the first in line for talks regarding Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado. But even if the Braves do bring back Donaldson, they will still be heavily involved in trade conversations for other players at different positions. Despite all their recent success, Atlanta has one of the top farm systems in baseball, and eventually, they are going to have to deal a few of their coveted prospects.
Our very own Clint Manry outlined some of the Braves farmhands that could be used in a blockbuster trade package, but it doesn’t stop with the minor leaguers. If Anthopoulos is going to make a massive splash via trade, like for Kris Bryant, major league talent will be involved. Here are three names to watch out for in potential deals:
The Braves acquired Sean Newcomb straight up for Andrelton Simmons from the Angels before the 2016 season. In hindsight, I’m not saying the Braves wouldn’t deal Simmons again, but they probably would ask for a little more from the Halos.
Simmons has turned into an All-Star and borderline MVP-candidate for the Angels, while Newcomb has shown flashes but been unable to perform at a high level consistently. At one point in 2018, it looked like Newk was becoming the top-of-the-rotation arm the Braves were hoping for, but he fell off a cliff in the season’s second half. And after a rocky start to 2019, he found himself in the bullpen, where he thrived.
However, the Braves didn’t trade Simmons so they could receive a reliever in return. They need Newcomb to become the electric starter they have seen sparingly every time out, or it will be difficult ever to call this move a win. It looks like the plan is to give Newk another chance in the rotation to begin 2020, but he could also be the bow that wraps up a blockbuster deal.
Newcomb may not have the trade value he did two years ago, but he will still attract a lot of suitors given his age, major league experience, and upside. At the very least, you know you’re adding a high-quality bullpen piece – with an outside chance of becoming a shutdown starter. Teams like the Cubs, who will be looking for at least one major league piece in return for Bryant and are starved for pitching, should be interested in Newk’s services.
Austin Riley will be a top target for opposing teams looking to trade with the Braves. In a hypothetical deal for Bryant or Arenado, you have to think Riley would be involved as the centerpiece. He was Atlanta’s top prospect this time last year and burst onto the scene with a blazing hot start, but his collapse to end the season makes him an intriguing trade piece for both sides. Everyone is aware of Riley’s outstanding upside, but he also comes with his fair share of risk.
Even if the Braves bring back Donaldson on a four-year deal, Riley remains a name to keep an eye on. Unless Atlanta views him as an outfielder full time, which is fathomable based on his play in left field last year, he will no longer have a future position with this team. And remember, the Braves have Pache and Waters on the horizon. If Donaldson re-signs, and Atlanta plans on using Riley in the outfield, eventually, one of the three young stars is going to have to be moved.
I’ve talked about this at length before. I don’t think it’s a necessity that the Braves move Inciarte, and unless they already have a plan in place to add another outfielder, they probably shouldn’t. However, he is a candidate to be traded because he is unlikely to finish off the final years of his contract with the Braves. Given Pache and Waters are on their way, it could save the team money, allowing them to boost their lineup even more this offseason.
When looking at how the Braves can improve heading into 2020, adding power to their outfield is an easy answer. Inciarte is a superstar in the field, but his offense leaves a lot to be desired, and he’s scheduled to make nearly $8 million in 2020 and $9 million in 2021. There are no guarantees, but that money could probably be better spent within an organization that isn’t known for opening their pockets. Inciarte will not net the Braves much of a prospect haul, but ridding of his salary gives Anthopoulos a little more room to maneuver, which could allow for another significant splash.