Maybe you read the particulars of Monday’s trade and thought, “Total dud.” The Atlanta Braves traded a member of their big-league rotation and a catcher who’d played a little in the majors for a prospect not listed among Minnesota’s top 20.
I understand that reaction: Fans like to think their team won a trade, and there’s no way to know if Huascar Ynoa, who’s 19 and who has a 5.26 ERA in rookie ball, will ever do anything of note in Single-A, let alone the bigs.
So why do a deal at all? Because Jaime Garcia will become a free agent at season’s end, meaning the Braves would have gotten nothing if he’d left on his own. Also because they’ve lost six of their past eight games and fallen 9 1/2 games back of the second wild card. Three teams — Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals — stand between them and Wild Card No. 2, meaning the Braves would have to catch four clubs just to reach a postseason that might last only one game.
In sum, there’s every reason to sell. (We might have mentioned this already.) Writing for ESPN Insider, Dan Szymborski goes further. His advice: Sell (almost) everybody. He mentions the Garcia trade and also R.A. Dickey, on a one-year deal with a team option for 2018, and then writes:
“This is a team that needs to do more than that. None of Matt Adams, Brandon Phillips, Tyler Flowers, Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis and Jim Johnson is likely to be part of the core of the next actually good Braves team. Any of these players that receive any kind of interest should be wearing new uniforms.”
I’m reasonably sure the Braves won’t go that far. I doubt Kemp will get traded. I’m almost positive Tyler Flowers won’t. (If he does, the Braves would have to turn around and find another stopgap catcher; there’s none at the ready in the farm system.) But Szymborski’s point is well taken: The Braves aren’t yet good enough not to be in asset-acquisition mode. The 2017 season was meant to be a bridge, not a finished product.
Toward that end, the Braves traded Garcia. They saved $4.7 million — the Twins are paying the remainder of Garcia’s salary — and money is an asset. Given that the Braves have control of Ynoa, he’s an asset. You accumulate assets in the hope they’ll become something more. If not, you flip them for more assets. This is baseball, yes, but it’s also Economics 101.
Every trade can’t be Swanson/Inciarte/Blair-for-Miller. A GM is lucky if he gets one of those a decade. But the idea is to keep adding assets, to keep moving forward. A Coppolella mantra: “We try to get better every day.”
Maybe you thought this apparently minor deal was beneath comment. Keith Law, also of ESPN Insider, did not. He liked what the Twins did — they bolstered a rotation so barren that they turned to Bartolo Colon, who left Monday’s start against the Dodgers having yielded only three earned runs in five innings — but he liked the other side, too. Wrote Law:
“Atlanta gave up two fringe arms (Chris Ellis and John Gant) for Garcia, got a win-plus (WAR-wise) worth of value (from) him and flipped him for a teenage pitching prospect with some upside a few months later. That seems like a win to me.”