The Braves made the obvious trade last week, moving Jaime Garcia to the Twins, who have since re-gifted him to the Yankees. A market for left-handed starting pitchers, even if they’re rentals and nothing special, always exists. Beyond Garcia, this year’s market failed the Braves.
They got nothing for Bartolo Colon because he was so bad he was already gone. They got nothing for R.A. Dickey because they like him and will make him a part of their 2018 rotation. They got nothing for Brandon Phillips because every good team has a solid second baseman. (Maybe they can do a waiver deal.) They got nothing for Matt Adams because he’s a one-position hitter who’s set to be arbitration-eligible. They got nothing for Jim Johnson because he, as he sometimes does, turned terrible.
We mention those guys because they’re the ones the Braves would have liked most to trade. They’re older guys, some on expiring contracts, others without a clear role in this team’s future. Trouble was, they were also guys nobody else wanted. The Braves most wanted by other teams are the guys the Braves refuse to trade.
The season’s first 90 games were a false clue. Going 45-45 was accomplished with minimal contributions from the prospects the Braves have spent three years amassing. It’s heartening that the Braves could hang around .500 so long with what, with a few exceptions, was a roster made up of place-holders, but this team was constructed to get the Braves a half-season closer to the team that will matter, the team that’s still in the process – that word again – of being built.
That the deadline passed Monday with the Braves doing nothing means next to nothing in the grand scheme. It would have been nice if they could have hooked more prospects for Adams or Phillips or Johnson, but – cue Mick and his merry band – you can’t always get what you want.
As for not landing Sonny Gray: I’m sorry, but that had no chance of happening. Gray was always going to fall to a team willing to sell several of its prospects, and the Yankees wound up being that sell. If we go by MLB Pipeline’s rankings, New York traded the No. 4, 8 and 12 prospects from a very good farm system. If the Braves had traded the No. 4, 8 and 12 prospects from an even better chain, here’s who’d be headed to Oakland:
No. 4 Kyle Wright, whom the Braves just drafted fifth overall and who was considered by many the best pitcher in this class. He’s 21.
No. 8 Luiz Gohara, whom the Braves plucked from Seattle in the Mallex Smith deal and who has risen from High-A to Triple-A in the span of four months. He made his first start for Gwinnett on Friday night in Syracuse. (I was on hand.) He yielded no hits through three innings and ended the third with a strikeout on a 97-mile heater. His slider wasn’t biting, though, and he walked five and left in the fifth having thrown 90 pitches. He’s 21.
No. 12 Christian Pache, an international signing in 2015 who has played 92 games above rookie ball. He has shown no power – he hasn’t hit a professional home run – but he can hit for average and really run. Some envision the burgeoning Ronald Acuna and Pache alongside one another in a big-league outfield. Pache is 19.
Such a trade made sense for the Yankees because they’ve got Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez and, duh, they’re in first place. When the Braves were 45-45, they were six games back of the second wild card with a 4.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. As of Monday morning, those odds, per FanGraphs, were down to 0.2 percent. Reality has descended, as reality will.
Maybe you’re wondering why the Braves wouldn’t give up three young guys who might or might not make it in the majors – the travails of Dansby Swanson have been a sobering reminder that not every career path is a giddy glide – for a guy (Gray) who has made it, at least when healthy. For the same reason they wouldn’t throw Swanson, then their No. 1 prospect, into a trade for Chris Sale. Having a No. 1 starter is never a bad thing, but the Braves don’t have a team to go with such a pitcher. That team is, or will be, these prospects.
Before the 2015 deadline, John Coppolella made a trade – the Hector Olivera one – that really wasn’t there. He was also new to the job. (Officially, he wasn’t yet the general manager.) His post-Garcia choices at this deadline amounted to two: Sacrifice the future by making a deal no rebuilding team should make, or make no deal at all. He chose the latter. Good for him.
Dispatches from the Empire State (not the building):