All winter long there was a cloud of uncertainty hovering over Evan Gattis’ head. Would he catch? Would he play in left field? Would he be moved to an American League club and DH? The latter of these options proved to be the case. Many speculated that with the departures of Justin Upton and Jason Heyward that Gattis would be next to be dealt. Personally, I wasn’t buying the hype due to the Braves’ four years remaining of team control on his deal. But to my surprise, on January 14th, John Hart packaged up Gattis and minor leaguer James Hoyt and sent them to the Astros for a haul of prospects that included Mike Foltynewicz, Andrew Thurman and Rio Ruiz. I have mixed feelings about this deal. I am comfortable with Christian Bethancourt behind the plate as I believe he is the future in Atlanta at the Catcher position, but I think we will really need Gattis’ power in our lineup this year. He hit 22 bombs in 369 At-Bats last year and was one of our best hitters. But the problem has been that Gattis has not been able to eclipse 400 At Bats in either of his first two major league seasons. I think the primary reason Hart moved Gattis is because he felt that Fredi would not be able to put him in the lineup enough in addition to him being a defensive liability in Left Field. Gattis is of more value to an American League team as he has the ability to become primarily a designated hitter. Despite this, it truly is a shame to see the fan favorite leave. But let’s take a look at what we got in return:
The “prize” prospect Atlanta got in this deal is RHP Michael Foltynewicz. Folty was Houston’s first round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Though he spent some time out of the Astros bullpen last season, Foltynewicz has been projected to be a top of the line starter. If this turns out to be the case for Atlanta, this deal could be looked at in retrospect as a steal. His fastball hits 100+ MPH in starts, but he has issues with his command. Folty is currently battling Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez, and Cody Martin for the 4th and 5th starter spots this Spring Training. However, I think he is likely to repeat AAA with Gwinnett. He posted a 5.07 ERA in 21 games (18 of which were starts) in AAA Oklahoma City last season, and then the Astros rushed him into a bullpen role at the Major League level where he did not fare much better, posting a 5.30 ERA in 16 appearances. The Braves are going to bring along Folty slowly, as they should. When ready, I think Roger McDowell can make this kid into a superstar. You can teach control but you cannot teach 100 MPH. Foltynewicz was ranked the #78 2015 prospect by MLB.com. I personally have him ranked 6th on my Braves prospect list.
The prospect that really intrigues me in this deal is 3B Rio Ruiz. The Braves have been stockpiling arms, but needed to add some positional strength to their farm system. Let’s face it, Chris Johnson is not a long term option at Third Base for Atlanta. Ruiz, Houston’s 4th Round pick in 2012, had a break out season last year in A+ ball. He hit .293, with 11 homers and 77 RBI in 131 games. With Ruiz only 20 years of age, this trade is clearly about the future, and my money is on Ruiz to be the starting Third Baseman on Opening Day at SunTrust Park. He will likely start for AA Misssissippi this season. I have him at #8 on my list.
The final player that Atlanta acquired in this deal was RHP Andrew Thurman. Though he struggled to a 5.40 ERA in 26 appearances (20 starts) last season in A ball, Thurman was a 2nd round pick just two seasons ago. Due to this fact alone, Thurman should be considered more than just a throw in. He fell short of my prospect list, but with a good performance in Rome this season he will get great consideration.
This trade was a big gamble by John Hart. On one hand acquiring two Top 10 prospects for a guy who likely wouldn’t see over 400 At-Bats is a steal. On the other hand, Gattis has undeniable talent and will be missed in a depleted Atlanta lineup this season. With Washington and Miami both looking like contending teams and Atlanta’s current financial woes, this is the perfect time for John Hart to look a year or two ahead.
I see the upside in this trade, but I am still not sold. Only time can tell whether John Hart hit on this one. You will be missed, El Oso Blanco.