The Way Too Early Atlanta Braves Trade Bait List

At the end of the 2016 MLB season, Atlanta Braves General Manager John Coppolella said the organization was done trading veteran players for prospects. This came as a surprise to many fans and admirers of the Braves well-stocked farm system. It was evident the Braves were not ready to compete. While the 2016 season ended with a 31-25 record over the final two months, it was unclear whether this streak would carry over into the 2017 season. It has not. The Braves acquired a few veteran arms over the offseason. They currently have a few trade bait players that could catch the eyes of competing teams.

The Way Too Early Atlanta Braves Trade Bait List

Coming into the 2017 season the Braves were a team that could either become a sneaky Wild Card competitor or lose the most games in the National League. With the acquisitions of R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia, the Braves rotation was far superior to that of 2016. All they needed to do was swing the bats. Freddie Freeman is off to a legitimate MVP candidacy season slashing a .336 average with 12 home runs only two months into the season. Freeman also currently boasts a 2.1 WAR. By comparison, reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant has only posted a 1.5 WAR. Yet, the Braves are off to an 11-20 start.

While the season is still relatively early, and sure-fire playoff teams like the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays have only won 12 and 13 games respectively, it is not looking good for the Braves. Former number one prospect Dansby Swanson is only hitting .162 and players such as Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis are hitting well below their .300 average capabilities. However, there are a few bright spots not in the long term plans such as Tyler Flowers, Matt Kemp, Brandon Phillips as well as the pitching staff. Here is a list of players that could attract competing teams if the Braves struggles continue.

Tyler Flowers- Catcher

Tyler Flowers by trade is a great defensive catcher. However, there are many great defensive catches in the MLB. Aside from the likes of Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy and possibly Gary Sanchez, catcher is a position that gives teams the least of worries. Flowers has been a surprising bright spot in the Braves batting order, even if he is splitting time with Kurt Suzuki. Flowers, in his limited time, has posted a .361 batting average. While he hasn’t gone yard yet, he has been a clutch performer with nine RBI. Hitting down in the order, with that high of an average means he is seeing the ball well.

While many teams will not look for a catcher before the trade deadline, Flowers could attract some interest. He is 31, and could be looking to land on a playoff team as a backup or a pinch hitting option. Given his age he is probably not in the Braves long term plans, even without a decent catching prospect in the minors. Big name catchers have gone down before, such as Posey in 2011, meaning Flowers could be on the move.

Jim Johnson- Closer

Aside from Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman and perhaps Cody Allen, the closer role has diminished since Mariano Rivera retired. Britton has successfully over 50 saves, but has hardly been able to get off the disabled list this season. Chapman and Allen just recently uncharacteristically blew save opportunities. Teams such as the Washington Nationals, arguably the best team in the MLB, legitimately have no decent closing option. Enter: Jim Johnson.

Johnson came back to the Braves as a washed-up closer. Yet, he finished the 2016 season with a 3.06 ERA and completed 20 saves. He hasn’t gotten off to hot start in 2017, with five saves and two blown. He also doesn’t get much action with Atlanta in the first place. Of course, there are many superior options on the market. For a low price the 33-year-old could be on the move.

Brandon Phillips- Second Base

Back in February, the Braves made a surprising move to bring veteran second baseman Phillips in. It is well known the second base seat is simply waiting for current top prospect Ozzie Albies. Given his injury at the end of last season, he was clearly not ready to start alongside Swanson. Phillips is well known for his defense, but has actually hit .294 this season with two home runs. Albies will inevitably be called up this season, most likely as a September call up, meaning Phillips could be on his way out.

Colon, Dickey and Garcia- Pitchers

Let’s get this straight, these three pitchers are most definitely not in the long term plans for Atlanta. Colon is 43, Dickey is 42 and Garcia is 30. If any of these three pitchers post a decent ERA, control and walk rates they will be gone by the trade deadline. It is unlikely the Braves will unload all three players, or if all three will be viable trade bait but their value should be noted.

So far, Colon has posted an atrocious 7.22 ERA albeit with a decent WHIP of 1.42, but would have been the favorite before the season began. Garcia currently has an ERA of 4.33 with the exact same WHIP as Colon, with five less strikeouts. Dickey, the knuckleballer, has actually been the most consistent of the three. He has posted an ERA of 4.29, but has actually gotten three wins. None of these pitchers to this point would attract much. Even if one of them could pick up their lackluster start they could join a team as a fifth spot rotation guy.

Dickey and Colon both signed one-year contracts this offseason, while Garcia was acquired via trade. With free agency looming, the two older men should be moved before the trade deadline to salvage something out of a poor season. Garcia could stay until next season, given his age and contract.

Moving Forward

The Braves are a streaky team; when they are hot, they are borderline unstoppable, but when they are bad they are awful. This win-a-few, lose-a-bunch trend has resulted in a poor record so far. It is highly unlikely they will turn it around. Nobody quite knows how many prospects will make their debut this year. The aforementioned veterans alongside players such as Kemp and Markakis could be gone in order to create space for the youngsters.

It is still too early to tell, but it would benefit the Braves to trade players who will not be present in the following year. This would in turn, continue to fill their prospect pool, or even gain some extra cash. Not to mention it could result in quite a few September call-ups every fan has been waiting for.