As the rebuild of the Atlanta Braves rolls along, fans are becoming increasingly hopeful that results for the team will soon improve. A number of trades and draft picks over the past few years have brought in talented prospects. Some of those prospects are beginning to filter through to the big leagues and will soon provide an indication of their true MLB potential. While there has been a number of successful Atlanta Braves trades, not every decision has turned up roses.
There have certainly been bad decisions, and there are a number of trades where the ultimate success or failure is still unknown. Let’s break down those trades that were risky at the time and still possess the potential to turn into wins or losses.
Three Atlanta Braves Trades That May Still Prove Successful
Traded SS Andrelton Simmons, C Jose Briceno to Los Angeles Angels for LHP Sean Newcomb, RHP Chris Ellis, SS Erick Aybar
This trade was so risky and mind-boggling that it was nearly included on the list of trades that did not work for Atlanta. The remaining hope for a positive outcome to this trade for the Braves rests on the arm of Newcomb, and that alone is arguably not enough return for the best defensive player in baseball. A lot of trades during Atlanta’s rebuild at least made sense on the surface, but the rationale for trading Simmons and his cost-friendly contract is still something many fans have a hard time understanding.
For the Angels, Simmons has continued to look like the kind of player that wowed fans in Atlanta. He was limited to 124 games in 2016 due to injuries, but he returned to form in 2017 with 158 games. Simmons has accumulated 11.3 WAR over the last two seasons, including a career-high 7.1 in 2017. He also set career numbers in doubles (38), RBI (69), runs (77), and steals (19) last season.
For the Braves, Newcomb is the only player received that remains in the organization. Ellis was used in a trade to acquire Jaime Garcia, a move that should be considered a miss, and Aybar was pretty forgettable during his brief stay in Atlanta. The Braves were somehow able to move Aybar for catching prospect Kade Scivicque, but that is still small consolation after giving up Simmons.
In Newcomb, the Braves have a young, dynamic starter, but he is also a pitcher who struggles to keep his walk rate low. He did go 4-9 with a 4.32 ERA in 19 starts last season while displaying impressive stuff with 108 strikeouts. Newcomb certainly possesses the ability to turn into an MLB-caliber ace, but his 5.1 walks per nine innings rate last season also indicates he has a risky profile. Atlanta will just have to hope he figures it out and makes up for the loss of Simmons in the long run.
Traded C Evan Gattis and RHP James Hoyt to the Houston Astros for RHP Andrew Thurman, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, and 3B Rio Ruiz
As it currently stands, this trade is probably the fairest on this list for both teams involved. Still, there is plenty of potential for this trade to wind up as a failure for Atlanta. Then again, that potential exists in every trade. What we do know is that Atlanta gave up a right-handed power bat in Gattis that had hit 43 home runs and 38 doubles in a two-year span for a power arm and infield prospect.
Since arriving in Houston, Gattis has continued to do what he does best: hit the ball hard. He has 71 home runs, 61 doubles, and an unbelievable 11 triples in an Astros uniform. Gattis may not be a complete offensive player, but he is a legitimate power threat from the right side of the plate. Hoyt, though not spectacular, has also found a role in Houston’s bullpen with 65 appearances and a 4.42 ERA over two seasons.
For Atlanta, Thurman was never able to find success at the Double-A level and is no longer with the organization. Foltynewicz is a player who remains on the MLB roster and contains a lot of potential, but his performances still leave a bit to be desired. He has a 4.85 ERA in 65 starts with the Braves and continues to struggle to find consistency. Hopefully, he can find it as a member of the rotation in 2018. Ruiz is a player that has seen limited MLB experience and still has a ways to go in order to see regular playing time. However, he has yet to turn 24 and still has time to figure things out and become a valuable piece for Atlanta.
Traded OF Justin Upton and RHP Aaron Northcraft to the San Diego Padres for OF Dustin Peterson, OF Mallex Smith, LHP Max Fried, and INF Jace Peterson
In the same way that trading Simmons is bordering on a big loss for Atlanta, this trade borders on being a huge win for the Braves. After all, re-signing the younger Upton brother was never a viable option. And while it is easy to nitpick every detail about a trade in hindsight, the Padres essentially gutted their minor league talent to acquire one year of his services. Upton signed with Detroit the following off-season and Northcraft is no longer in San Diego’s organization.
Two of the players acquired by Atlanta are no longer with the team, but they still served a purpose during their stay. Jace Peterson appeared in 356 games over three seasons with the Braves. While he was never really above replacement level, he did fill a spot for a rebuilding team at a very low cost. Meanwhile, Smith flashed moments of bright potential and was a key piece of the trade that brought in talented pitching prospect Luiz Gohara. Gohara made his MLB debut in 2017 and enters Spring Training with a strong shot to land a spot on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster.
Dustin Peterson and Fried remain in Atlanta’s organization and are ranked as the Braves No. 14 and No. 8 prospects respectively. Both players will also be competing in Spring Training with a chance to make the Opening Day roster. Fried certainly stands a solid shot to land either in the bullpen or in the rotation after debuting and seeing time in both roles in 2017. Peterson has yet to make his MLB debut but has been on a steady rise through the minors over the past two seasons, even being named the Organizational Player of the Year in 2016. With an open spot in LF following the trade of Matt Kemp, Peterson has every chance at impressing coaches and earning a roster spot with a strong spring.
Barring disastrous outcomes from the likes of Gohara, Peterson, and Fried, the trade of Upton should go down as a solid victory for the Braves. Either way, the rationale for and return received in this trade made a lot of sense at the time and should hold up as the organization continues moving forward.
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