At first glance, Atlanta’s trade with San Diego on Friday was not what the Braves needed. They did not receive one of San Diego’s top three prospects in return for outfielder Justin Upton.
Some believe that was a mistake. If you’re going to trade a premium bat, even if he is under contract for only one more season, certainly there was enough value to demand one of San Diego’s top three prospects.
While it would have been good for the Braves to get pitching prospect Matt Wisler or outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe (two of the Padres’ top prospects), the fact is the Braves did exactly what they needed to do.
They got quantity in the deal, along with quality prospects.
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The Braves needed a two players-for-four player trade. They needed to stock up the depleted farm system, which is in the worst shape it has been in decades. They needed some help at multiple positions, not just one top prospect at one position.
What if Wisler was another Kyle Davies, a top pitching prospect for the Braves once upon a time? What if Hunter Renfroe was another Brad Komminsk, a player supposed to be the next Dale Murphy who instead was a flop?
Atlanta had to trade Upton, who was not going to return after his contract is up next season. They had to get value for him, just like they did with Jason Heyward, who is in the same position as a pending free agent. The Braves got a pitcher who can step into the rotation and a top pitching prospect for Heyward, which was great. But they found it more difficult to do the same with Upton.
So they got quantity along with quality. For a farm system desperate for prospects, that will definitely work.
Max Fried is the centerpiece of the deal. He was a top lefty prospect in the game before he hurt his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in August. Even though Fried will miss the entire 2015 season recovering, he is immediately the Braves’ top pitching prospect. Does that tell you how bad Atlanta’s farm system is right now?
Before his injury, Fried had more upside than Wisler. Fried likely will be in High-A or Double-A to start 2016, and he’ll only be 22 years old. If he has a good season then and is healthy, Fried could be ready sometime in 2017.
Do not discount the importance of the international slot the Braves got back in this trade. They can take the almost $200,000 and sign three players to add to the farm system. That could be significant if one of those players becomes a serious prospect.
Dustin Peterson, another player in the trade, immediately became one of the Braves’ top hitting prospects, while Mallex Smith is a speedster who will be fun to watch develop. Jace Peterson is the only player who could contribute in Atlanta next season. This trade is about the players who could be ready in a few years.
Ah, 2017. That is what this is all about. The Braves are broken, and they want to have things fixed by 2017 when they move into SunTrust Park. It will take that long to clean up this mess, which wasn’t torn down overnight and can’t be put back together that quickly, either.
The Braves want to compete next season, which is why they don’t trade Craig Kimbrel. If it was a total rebuild, they’d trade him now. And it’s still possible they’ll be tempted at some point to get a lot of talent in return for the best closer in baseball. But right now, to keep the ticket sales going, Kimbrel is staying.
The 2015 and 2016 seasons will be challenging, but can they really be any worse than last season? Last year was horrible, the worst I can ever remember in more than 35 years of watching this team. Even the teams of the late 1980s that were awful were more fun to watch than last year’s bunch.
But if there is hope, if there is a plan in place and are signs of progress, the Braves won’t be as hard to watch. Fans will just have to be patient, very patient, and realize this is a process to make this organization better.
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 www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.