Bill Shanks

Braves use depth to get another starting pitcher

Jaime Garcia was traded from St. Louis to Atlanta on Thursday.
Jaime Garcia was traded from St. Louis to Atlanta on Thursday. AP

When the Atlanta Braves traded Jason Marquis, Ray King and Adam Wainwright to the St. Louis Cardinals 13 Decembers ago, there was a great chance that trade was going to hurt.

Marquis was a pitcher who had some success in Atlanta, but the pitching coach didn’t like him much and he could never get over the hump with the Braves. King was a successful lefty reliever, while Wainwright was considered the best pitching prospect in Atlanta’s system.

The Braves got J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero for one season and one season only. Marquis would win 110 games after leaving Atlanta, while Wainwright has won 134 games so far and is still going.

Now, the Braves have made another trade with the Cardinals for another one-year rental. Left-handed starter Jaime Garcia is on his way to Atlanta’s rotation for young pitchers John Gant and Chris Ellis and infielder Luke Dykstra.

But neither Gant nor Ellis are Marquis or Wainwright, and Luke isn’t his father.

No offense to these three kids. I hope they do well for the Cardinals. But this trade does not and likely will not hurt the Braves. Every general manager hopes when he makes a trade it won’t hurt, and John Coppolella is feeling no pain tonight.

Ellis was the ‘other’ pitcher who came from the Angels in the Andrelton Simmons trade a year ago. He did really well in Double-A (2.75 ERA) but flopped in Triple-A (6.52) last season.

Gant split the season between Triple-A Gwinnett and Atlanta, but he did nothing to separate himself from the other young pitchers. He had a 4.18 ERA in Gwinnett and a 4.86 ERA in Atlanta.

Dykstra is a fringe prospect. He wouldn’t even be listed as one of Atlanta’s top 30 prospects, regardless of what MLB.com may have on its list.

The pitchers are the ones people will wonder about, but don’t. Just don’t waste your time. Again, let’s hope Ellis and Gant will do well. But facts are facts. The Braves simply have young pitchers who are better and, therefore, that made Ellis and Gant available.

This wasn’t Sean Newcomb who was traded, or Patrick Weigel, or Kolby Allard, or Max Fried, or Mike Soroka or Touki Toussaint. The Braves traded two tradeable pitchers who are not important prospects for a man who can hopefully make 30 starts for them in 2017.

The bridge that R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon and Garcia will build to those young kids just mentioned is what is most important. Newcomb, Weigel and Fried could all knock on the door next season, but they’re just not ready yet. They could be ready soon, but just not yet.

The Braves need those three to eat innings. Then, if one of the young pitchers is ready, they can possibly make room for them by trading one of the veteran pitchers. You can always move pitchers, and you can never have enough.

Neither Ellis nor Gant were going to be in Atlanta’s rotation next season or anytime in the future. Others are just ahead of them on the prospect list and will get a better chance. So, the Braves just used their depth, with two pitchers who aren’t likely to come back and bite them, to get a pitcher who they will count on for at least one season in the starting rotation.

That’s what you do with minor league pitching depth. You use it to improve other areas of the roster. They needed another starter. They got a veteran. They traded two pitchers who are far down the prospect list and an infielder not even on it.

Yep, this one likely won’t hurt.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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