A really slick trade for the increasingly brainy Braves

John, John and Bobby announce their Reunion Tour. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

John, John and Bobby announce their Reunion Tour. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

At 11:54 p.m. Saturday, the Atlanta Braves announced a most unusual trade: They sent infielder Phil Gosselin, who’s hurt, to Arizona for the 38-year-old pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who’s also hurt, and Touki Toussaint, a pitcher who turned 19 on the day he was traded and who is, thankfully, not hurt.

Getting Toussaint was more of what the Braves have been doing since the two Johns — Hart and Coppolella — supplanted the one and only Frank Wren. He’s a young pitcher. The Braves now lead the world in young pitching, which is, if you’re a baseball club, the best thing in which to lead the world.

Dan Szymborski, the data-cruncher of note whose name shouldn’t be unfamiliar to regular readers, just ranked the top 25 big-league pitchers under 25 for ESPN Insider: The Braves had three — No. 4 Shelby Miller, No. 11 Julio Teheran and No. 17 Alex Wood. And this doesn’t count Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, Matt Wisler, Manny Banuelos and Tyrell Jenkins, all imported by the two Johns. Nor does it count Toussaint.

"Our plan is to sign every 31-year-old we can find." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

“We like young pitchers. Have I mentioned that already?” (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Braves trading for a gifted young pitcher? Not unusual. The Diamondbacks shedding a gifted young pitcher to land an infielder who might not become a regular (and who’s hurt to boot)? Most unusual, even by D-backs standards. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs writes that it “only makes sense when you add in the financial aspects of the deal. In taking on the remainder of Bronson Arroyo‘s salary — roughly $10 million, including the buy-out of his 2016 option — the Braves essentially bought Touki Toussaint for that $10 million figure.”

And even then it makes little sense. Writes Ian Frazer of Baseball Prospectus (who appraises the money owed Arroyo as slightly more): “The Diamondbacks are saving around $13 million and have signaled that they prioritize that savings over Toussaint’s future production. It’s a bizarre valuation, because Toussaint is tall, projectable, can touch 97 mph, and has a curveball the BP prospect team described as ‘guillotine-like in trajectory, a lethality.’ ”

The overwhelming consensus is that the Braves stole a pitcher who was, barely 12 months ago, the 16th player taken in the MLB draft. Here’s more from Cameron:

It shouldn’t be a big surprise that the team doing the unexpected is the Diamondbacks, who have been marching to the beat of their own drum ever since Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart took over. The D-backs don’t operate like the other 29 franchises do, and they don’t see things like everyone else, so they make moves that cause a lot of heads to be scratched. This move is no different, with the trade drawing near total criticism from Arizona’s perspective.

The part about Arizona being different cannot be understated. Almost nobody in baseball understood why Kevin Towers was so eager to part with Justin Upton. Partly because he was the guy who traded  J. Upton, Towers was deposed as general manager last season and replaced by La Russa, who has never run a front office, and Stewart, who had never been a GM. (He was an agent when La Russa tapped him.)

Given that Toussaint was the last No. 1 pick under Towers, it’s possible that the new regime took a look at the teenager and didn’t like what they saw. It’s also possible that what has happened a bit with the Braves in Year 1 after Wren is ongoing in the desert, the feeling that if you were a favorite of the old guy’s you must not be very good.

Still: This seems a terrible trade for Arizona and a dandy one for the Braves — even if Arroyo, who’s rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, never throws another big-league pitch. And here we have to say: The part about the Braves wanting to get younger and cheaper under the two Johns may only have been half-right.

As R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus notes, this is the third time since April Fool’s Day  the Braves have been willing to take on money. They dumped Carlos Quentin, who was part of the Kimbrel/M. Upton trade with San Diego, and they’ve since dumped Trevor Cahill, who came from Arizona — OK, the D-backs knew what they were doing there — and could hold a job in neither rotation nor bullpen. Writes Anderson:

Add the three together, and the Braves are paying more than $23 million to players who were released or could be soon … Of course it helps that Hart shed salary earlier in the rebuilding process, and that most of the deals are short in nature. Still, consider ownership’s willingness to absorb these bad contracts a testament to its faith in Hart—or, at minimum, a testament to Hart’s salesmanship. Either way, Hart continues to show he’s not too old to get creative.

Buying up young pitching? That’s good. Being creative about it? Better still. Big thumbs-up for the two Johns on this trade.

(Oh, and in case you missed it: Last week we offered a two-part effort on the Braves’ pitching. Part 1 wondered why the Braves haven’t been able to turn a young pitcher into an ace this century. Part 2 offered a look at what the Braves are doing to try to give these dearly acquired young pitchers a chance to succeed.)

Reader Comments 2

29 comments
Been there
Been there

John Hart doesn't get enough credit.  He built a winner in Cleveland and Texas and has now put together a very exciting team this year and is building the farm like Bobby did before he left to coach Toronto. Not sure they will win 14 straight division titles again but I haven't been this excited about the Braves in a long long time.

GT71
GT71

Young and hurt better than old and hurt.

Young and talented better and cheaper than old free agents.

Good plan.  Execution coming along.

See you in 2017.

Diamond Dawg 37
Diamond Dawg 37

Toussaint played summer ball for an Atlanta based team a couple of years ago, so I'm sure the Braves saw enough of him to make a pretty good judgement about his potential. At 17 he was throwing 90+ with a sick curve. He's still a little raw, but he has top of the rotation potential. If Toussaint stays healthy, this could top the John Smoltz trade for long term value at a minimal price.

RWill2073
RWill2073

Those two articles linked at the bottom of this article don't tell the whole story.  I can't speak on whether Roger McDowell is good with mechanics or not, because these pitchers are coming to him with bad mechanics already.  It's seemed to be a consistent thing with the Braves, that they draft pitchers with poor mechanics.  The Cardinals are another organization that does this as well, and they've had their share of injuries.  I found it comical that they mentioned Kevin Appier, when he actually had solid mechanics.  At no point did he have an inverted L or inverted W, nor did he show the ball to CF like a lot of pitchers do.  So, he avoided two of the main issues that lead to timing problems, which puts extra stress on the arm.  


Of the pitchers the Braves have now, look at their mechanics.  Miller is going to blow out his elbow within the four years he's under contract for.  Wood already has, so he'll flame out a lot earlier than usual, plus he's got problematic mechanics (although they're not quite as bad as they look), I didn't know Folty had TJ surgery.  Wisler has a little inverted W, and a timing problem.  It looks as though Lucas Sims does, Touki Toussaint has a timing problem and inverted W as well.  Really, Teheran has as good of mechanics as any of the Braves' young starters, but I see similarities between him and Tommy Hanson's mechanics, which would lead to shoulder issues, not TJ.  So, if Teheran ever goes down, I predict it won't be for TJ, but for shoulder issues.


It's frustrating that all these young arms the Braves target have mechanical issues.  There's not much McDowell can do with that after they're in the big leagues.  


One theory I've come up with, is that pitchers now, every time they throw a baseball, they do it mechanically.  They are always conscious of their mechanics, even when just playing catch.  They never just throw a ball around, from different arm angles.  I think what they're doing, is developing strength in their muscles for a specific arm slot and throwing motion, but nothing else.  Then they get in a game, their mechanics may be off, and they're unknowingly throwing from a slightly different arm slot, and it's putting stress on the arm that it hasn't been developed to withstand.  This new pressure is happening under the max stress too.  I think, kind of how Mazonne had them throwing lightly twice between starts, I think it'd be good for them to take infield practice occasionally.  Just make throws from different angles to first, turn double plays, etc, just to put their arms in different slots without too much stress on the throws, just to develop the muscles from all angles.  Just my theory, though, could be way off, lol.

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

@RWill2073 So what you're saying is all of our freakin pitchers will blow out their arms before the season's out dude, really?  You could've saved us all alot of time and said it like that.  Sounds like a bunch of garbage to me other than your last couple of sentences

candlin14
candlin14

Make a move this season to win this season. I am about tired of "hold on Braves fans, give us two or three more years and we will be really good"... This attitude around the city and throughout our sports teams drives me insane. One championship in this town.... What a joke!

RWill2073
RWill2073

@candlin14


So, do you think the Cubs screwed up in building for the future the past two-three years?  

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

How about a blockbuster trade for the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy? He'd look great catching for the Braves !

Chopp
Chopp

Youtube this kid, his stuff is nasty.  I'm talking naaaaaaaaasssstttttyyyyyyyyyy. Go Braves.

ImaNitwit
ImaNitwit

Wake me when the Braves have a decent team.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Boy, what a gig. Rake in the credit and the pay now for work that can't be evaluated for 2-3 more years. This kid blows an elbow and you've paid multi-millions for the privilege of giving away Phil Gosselin. Last I checked Gosselin wasn't a sub-Mendoza centerfielder with an attitude problem raking in $15-17 million a year while posing with bimbos on magazine covers.


Now that that's off my chest, converting Gosselin into a pitching prospect is not a bad risk. Lot of money changed hands, though, money that could have helped make up two games in the standings.

Joe Genovese
Joe Genovese

My friend what you know about baseball youcan put on the head of a pin. Gosselin is below average at best....And who gives a rat's behind when your talking about raw talent and great potential, and lights out stuff from this young kid. Get with the program...

RickinWarnerRobins
RickinWarnerRobins

@Joe Genovese  I'd suggest to you that he has just as much right to express his opinion here as you do.  You don't have to subscribe to his theory, but you should at least respect that he has an opinion.  Your comment makes you sound an Obama-lovin, liberal, socialist Democrat.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Broken Ut infielder for starting pitching.....Why do other GM's even answer the phone?

#opposinggmsbuttshurt

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

Love the trade...very excited about Toussant but nobody is really talking about the possibility that Arroyo could be a nice player for us as soon as later this season.  Anyone remember Mike Remlinger?  He was an aging, middle-of-the-rotation starter for Reds and we acquired him and made him one of the premier relievers in the game for many seasons.  Arroyo strikes me as a pitcher with that same type of savvy and potential.

Calel
Calel

I completely trust the folks running the show now.

mdet
mdet

If only Hart could steal A.J. Pollock away from the snakes!

AtlantaSportsVictory
AtlantaSportsVictory

What is NOT slick is that the Braves could have used that $10 million to improve this year's club which has a chance to make the playoffs this year! Toussaint won't be in Atlanta (Cobb County) for 2-3 years at a minimum, meanwhile this year's squad just need a couple tweaks to make the playoffs. We've basically become the 76ers on baseball, except that this year's squad has greatly outperformed expectations. 

BostonBullDawg
BostonBullDawg

@AtlantaSportsVictory I think the idea has been, and continues to be, build for future.  If they make the playoffs this year, great!  But it's not the goal.

Shawn Lyndaker
Shawn Lyndaker

@AtlantaSportsVictory There is still a surplus of money left from the BJ salary dump. But, what exact player do you know will be available to throw money at midseason?? Trade is the only option, and this recent trade did nothing to negate the possibility of any future moves. I can't even fathom the comment about the 76ers, holy hyperbole, Batman! 

candlin14
candlin14

@BostonBullDawg @AtlantaSportsVictory


The goal every year is to make the playoffs... My god man, I don't know about you but 99% of all other Atlanta fans are tired of watching this pathetic sports city say "wait until next year".

Bogey
Bogey

@candlin14 @BostonBullDawg @AtlantaSportsVictory  My God, all the Braves have done for the past dozen or so years is make ill-conceived short term stop gap moves to hope to bring in someone who might make enough difference to make the playoffs again. BUT, we haven't truly seen a world series caliber team since the '90's.....so why would you want them to continue with an obviously flawed strategy??


Hart has a plan and is working it....and he's not done yet.  This coming off-season should be really interesting as he does more wheeling and dealing.  He needs to address LF, 3B and catcher, and we all know we can't outbid anybody for FA's, although we do have some money opened up with Kimbrel, Uggla and Melvin gone.  He will fill these slots thru trades, and we now have some real value to accomplish that (don't be surprised to see Teheran included in one of these deals).


You gotta show a little more patience.  I think Hart is building a sustainable program.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Good story on trade...I trust Hart and Coppy to make the right deals.  So far I like what they have done. Go Braves!


I don't like the picture you used it's been used already many times, get something new.

Curious_George
Curious_George

If a trade seems TOO GOOD  to possibly be true, that might be the case. 



Considering that Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart are running the Diamondbacks now, not exactly rank amateurs when it comes too judging quality baseball talent (certainly not LaRussa), could it be they knew something about this young pitcher the rest of us don't (yet) realize?




#AdamWainwright



MichaelProcton
MichaelProcton

@Curious_George Umm...are you saying Phil Gosselin is Wainwright in this cautionary hashtag?  Because it seems like the Braves are plenty aware of the "get young pedigreed pitching" strategy that got Adam over to St. Louis.

ChuckinAlpharetta
ChuckinAlpharetta

@MichaelProcton


He's saying don't get too smug when you think you're pulling the wool over the eyes of people who've already demonstrated that they know talent when they see it.

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

@Curious_George It's possible I suppose, but there's really no downside--at least not for us, the fans.  At worst, we lose Gosselin who we weren't gonna see much of anywho.  The Braves would lose $10 million if he doesn't work out, which is chump change compared the millions wasted by Wren in recent years.  All in all, a really good gamble with very little risk and extreme upside.


And all of this says nothing of the possibility that Arroyo could be a nice player for us as soon as later this season.  Anyone remember Mike Remlinger?  He was an aging, middle-of-the-rotation starter for Reds and we acquired him and made him one of the premier relievers in the game for many seasons.  Arroyo strikes me as a pitcher with that same type of savvy and potential.

mark513
mark513

With Ferry gone let's hope Hart does not read some anonymous scouting report about a prospect or free agent. Hart has made tough decisions and completely torn down the old model of the Braves to bring the team into the post PED era of baseball. For the first time in a long time I actually have been trying to catch some games as it is fun to watch young guys try to make it in the bigs. Yes we may end up a .500 team or worse but at least there is a future where there was none before. I could not imagine how painful it would be to watch last years team one more year. Right now in my mind Hart is the GM of the year over anyone in baseball, we have not seen such a complete overall in an aging, overpaid, underperforming team in this town since, oh yea Danny Ferry!!!!!!!!!

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  1. […] offerings that have major league scouts clamoring at his potential. The Braves continue to stack on up young pitchers, which will ultimately give the team the flexibility it needs to speed up the rebuilding […]

  2. […] to trades. They forced the Padres to take M. Upton’s contract in the Kimbrel deal, and they bought the prospect Touki Toussaint from Arizona for the $10 million it will take to buy out Bronson Arroyo. The Braves are also hot to […]