Will Braves pull off blockbuster?

July 8, 2014 

Rays Tigers Baseball

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price waits on the throw from catcher Jose Molina during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Sunday, July 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

CARLOS OSORIO — AP

Trades are a huge part of baseball, and if you’re a baseball fan, you probably occasionally like to think of trades you wish your favorite team would try to make.

With just a few weeks to go before the July 31 trade deadline, I’ve had a trade going through my mind for a few days now. It’s just something I’ve made up, but it presents an interesting dilemma that might be in store for Atlanta general manager Frank Wren.

Catcher Evan Gattis is on the disabled list, and young phenom Christian Bethancourt was brought up to take his place. So far, through Monday’s game, Bethancourt was doing well. He gave the Braves the lead against the New York Mets with a hit in game one of the series and has hit .286 in his first seven games.

Bethancourt is more of a defensive whiz, while Gattis is known more for his power. If you put the two together, you’d have Johnny Bench. But there are questions for both players. Will Bethancourt hit enough to complement his outstanding defense? And will Gattis stay at catcher or eventually move to another position, especially considering he turns 28 next month?

Gattis has tremendous power, and there’s little doubt he could be a huge threat in the Atlanta lineup for many years to come. He’s under contract for four seasons after this year, and he’s cheap for another season. But the defensive questions are there, evidenced by Gattis’ issues with some of the Braves’ pitchers the past few weeks. Gattis is learning more about them, but he’s not always on the same page.

Gattis really needs to be a designated hitter one day. Again, he’s almost 28. The Braves wouldn’t give Brian McCann a new contract last winter, mainly because he was turning 30. There are worries once a catcher turns 30 about how long he can continue. Now you can believe that Gattis is a bit younger than 28 as a catcher, considering his story. But will he be behind the plate in three years?

Meanwhile, there is an ace pitcher who might be available that every team in baseball would want. David Price can be a free agent after next season, and Tampa Bay might deal him before he leaves. Price grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, as a Braves fan. His favorite player was former Atlanta outfielder David Justice. Price even has admitted he went to Braves games as a kid.

Price is an outstanding pitcher. He already has won one Cy Young award, and he’ll turn 29 next month. Could you imagine Price teaming with Julio Teheran for a one-two punch? That would be the best duo since the Braves had Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux in the 1990s.

If Tampa Bay puts Price on the market, as expected, teams will line up for a chance at him. The Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays might also be interested.

The Braves might be afraid to trade for Price, since he could leave as a free agent after the 2015 season. But they could afford Price for the long-term. Ervin Santana and his $14 million will be off the books after this season, and if there is a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw a team should invest in, it’s Price.

So what if the Braves decided to make Tampa Bay an offer it could not refuse? What if they put Gattis on the table? What if they decided Bethancourt is their future catcher, not Gattis, and if they could get Price, it would be worth sacrificing Gattis in a trade?

It would take more on the Braves’ side, probably a pitcher or two. The Braves could ask for Ben Zobrist along with Price. Zobrist is a player who has a great bat and can play all over the field. But Price would be the prize. As much as I love Gattis and his power, I can’t get the potential of Teheran and Price out of my mind.

It would rival Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers and the Detroit Tigers’ combo of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. It could make the Braves big favorites in the NL.

But it would be a risk, as is every big trade. What if Price gets hurt? All pitchers like him, who throw hard, seem to get hurt at some point. And what if Gattis went on to hit 250 homers? Would there be regret then?

Again, I’m not advocating trading Gattis for just anything. He has been great for the Braves. But how long can Gattis stay behind the plate? The Braves are not in the AL, and the presence of Bethancourt makes it logical to at least consider putting Gattis on the table for a major pitcher like Price.

Unless Gattis moves to left field one day, the Braves will eventually have a logjam behind the plate. A trade like Gattis-for-Price might be the perfect solution and make the Braves much better for the short-term and especially the long-term. You have to give up talent for talent, and that would be one big blockbuster the Braves would have to consider.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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