And away we go. Per multiple reports, the Atlanta Braves have traded Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to the New York Mets for John Gant and Rob Whalen, and if you have to ask, “What position do the new guys play?”, you haven’t been paying attention.
They’re both pitchers, right-handed pitchers, minor-league pitchers. Neither was ranked among the Mets’ 10 best prospects by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com or ESPN Insider’s Keith Law before the season.
This trade isn’t to be confused with those that yielded Matt Wisler (for Craig Kimbrel) or Max Fried (for Justin Upton) or Mike Foltynewicz (for Evan Gattis) or Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins (for Jason Heyward) or Manny Banuelos (for David Carpenter) or Touki Toussaint (for Phil Gosselin). This is the Braves getting more of what they already have — young pitching.
A month ago, John Hart called young pitching “currency.” The Braves keep adding to their stack. Gant, who’s 22, was bumped to Class AA earlier this season and is 4-5 with a 4.70 ERA for Binghamton. Whalen, who’s 21, is at Port St. Lucie — that’s a high-A affiliate — and is 4-5 with a 3.36 ERA.
Even among minor-leaguers, these aren’t big names. They’re currency of a middling denomination. Maybe one of them will become a long reliever for the Braves. More likely, they’ll be packaged in trades for what the Braves lack, which is everything except young pitching. (OK, so they’ve got some middle infielders in the chain.)
I know fans of the current team will hate this latest move — it’s essentially the Braves’ concession speech for the 2015 season — but this season wasn’t intended be anything but a vehicle for making the club better in 2016 and way better come 2017 and Cobb County. Hart and John Coppolella weren’t about to do anything, trade-wise, if they felt all it would mean was a bump from 79 wins to 83. Viewed through the telescope of long-range planning, do you really disagree?
As for K. Johnson and Uribe: You could see this coming. They were veterans who’ll be free agents at season’s end. They helped the Braves some, but their chief value was that they could be used to buy more young pitching, and so they have. This was the first of the Braves’ 2015 deadline deals; it won’t be the last.