The Braves’ trades continue to get stranger

Published 6:18 pm Friday, January 16, 2015

What are you thinking?
That was my initial reaction Thursday when I heard about the Atlanta Braves trade of hard-hitting catcher Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros for three minor league prospects.
It was just the most recent of a number of offseason trades the Braves have made which I don’t really understand. Earlier they traded hard-hitting left fielder Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals, and hard-hitting right fielder Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres.
The trades of Heyward and Upton make a little more sense to me than the trade of Gattis. Heyward and Upton both would have been eligible for free agency after the coming season but Gattis would have been under contract for four more years. Why trade a guy that you could still have under contract for that long.
The three minor leaguers the Braves received from the Astros in the Gattis trade were supposedly three of their top prospects. We will just have to wait and see how they pan out.
Two of those prospects were right-handed pitcher Mike Foltynewicz and third baseman Rio Ruiz. Foltynewicz was a first round draft choice of the Astros in 2010. He is a hard throwing right-hander who made his major league debut in 2014, posting a 5.30 earned run average in 15 relief appearances. He had a 3.98 earned run average with 478 strikeouts in 562 2/3 innings in five minor league seasons.
Ruiz, a fourth round draft choice of the Astros in 2012, hit .293 with a .387 on base percentage with 58 base hits, 11 home runs and 77 RBIs in a high Class A league last season.
Right-handed relief pitcher Andrew Thurman, the third prospect the Braves received from the Astros in the Gattis deal, while not as highly rated as Foltynewicz and Ruiz, did have some solid minor league numbers. He was a second round draft choice of the Astros in 2013. He had a 7-9 record and a 5.38 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 20 starts and six relief appearances with a Class A team last season.
While all three prospects the Braves received from the Astros may be major contributors down the road, I don’t really look for any of them to make a major contribution next season. The Braves cut pay roll and improved their minor league system as they look forward to moving into their new ballpark in 2017. By cutting payroll they seemed to be freeing up money that will allow them to sign some top prospects prior to 2017, when they move into their new stadium. But the 2015 and 2016 seasons could be a real struggle for them. We will just have to wait and see.
While all that is true, the Braves will be solid in a few areas next season. First baseman Freddie Freeman, who is one of the best at his position in the game, has been signed long term, and shortstop Andrelton Simmons is as good a defensive and clutch hitting shortstop as there is in the game. Also, hard-throwing Craig Kimbrel is as good a closer as there is in the game.

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