Atlanta Braves Rumors

Atlanta Braves trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

NL East Notes: Mejia, Phillies, Span, Braves

The Mets announced today that closer Jenrry Mejia will be placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 5, due to posterior elbow inflammation. Mejia’s injury adds another to a long list of pitching injuries for the Mets early in the season, but his injury does appear to be of the short-term variety. Jeurys Familia will step into Mejia’s spot in the closer’s role in the interim. (Fantasy players looking to stay on top of closer situations can follow MLBTR’s fantasy-focused @closernews handle on Twitter.)

Here’s more from the NL East…

  • Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg explained to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki the team’s thought process in its final roster decisions at the end of Spring Training. Signing right-hander Dustin McGowan upon his release from the Dodgers was a welcome move for Philadelphia, as they’d had interest in him earlier in the offseason before he signed in L.A. Jeff Francoeur was selected for a roster spot despite others performing better in spring because the team wanted a right-handed bat on the bench and felt that Francoeur’s clubhouse presence would benefit the young players on the roster. Cesar Hernandez was outperformed by Cord Phelps, but the Phillies wanted a shortstop on the bench, and Hernandez was out of Minor League options, paving his way to the Opening Day roster.
  • Nationals center fielder Denard Span may be back from core muscle surgery sooner than expected, writes MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. Span has already begun performing hard sprint drills and has played defense in a pair of Minor League games. Span tells Ladson that he he thinks he could potentially return to the lineup before the calendar flips to May, potentially putting him about two weeks ahead of schedule.
  • Freddie Freeman was among the Braves players to speak to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman about the difficulty of losing Craig Kimbrel as a teammate following Kimbrel’s trade to the Padres. “He got sent down from High A to Low A, and then all of the sudden became Craig Kimbrel,” Freeman reminisced. “It’s the craziest thing. When a guy gets traded, you think about all those stories in the Minor Leagues. … It’s definitely tough seeing him go. But I think everybody’s mentality in this clubhouse is to prove everybody wrong.” Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he felt the players handled the news well, and veteran Jonny Gomes worked to make sure that the trade wasn’t something dwelled upon as the team geared up for Opening Day, Bowman adds.

NL Notes: Papelbon, Kimbrel, Padres, Castro

The Padres expressed some mild interest in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon earlier in the offseason, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Obviously, San Diego no longer looks like an even hypothetical landing spot for Papelbon. It seems likely that Papelbon’s greatest appeal will ultimately lie with a club that suffers an injury or wants a chance to add late-inning depth over the summer.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • With the Padres having taken on significant salary commitments and given up young talent to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Braves, reactions to the move have been divided somewhat between front office and uniformed personnel, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link). Atlanta has the backing of most executives, says Olney, while players and coaches have understandably focused on the impact that Kimbrel could have in San Diego.
  • The Padres received immediate trade interest in their bullpen after adding Kimbrel, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. “Within minutes, probably, of the (Kimbrel) deal, four or five teams have checked in,” said GM A.J. Preller. “So that’s part of making the deal. Hopefully, you add depth and it may help us in another area down the road.” Of course, that depth could be put to use either to fill in the pen or to shore up another area of need via trade.
  • The shortstop position is an obvious area to watch for the Cubs, but Olney says (in the above-linked piece) that it may not all be positive. Starlin Castro has proven he can hit, but Olney says there are real concerns about how committed he is to grinding things out on defense. Chicago informed other teams this winter that it was open to trade scenarios involving the 25-year-old.

Athletics Looking At Veteran Outfielders

The Athletics are looking outside the organization for outfield options to fill in while Coco Crisp is down, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Crisp is not expected to be out longer than two months to start the year, making a significant acquisition seem somewhat unlikely. Recent roster casualties may offer some value in the interim at no cost other than a league-minimum roster spot.

Among the possibilities, per Slusser, are Cody Ross, who was just released by the Diamondbacks, and recently-designated Padres-turned-Braves veteran Carlos Quentin. Both of those players would appear to be bat-first options — Ross struggled defensively last year after returning from hip surgery while Quentin has always been regarded as a poor defender — but the club has several good gloves in the mix already.

Of course, Ross and Quentin also face significant questions beyond their limitations in the field (and would not otherwise be freely available). The pair owned matching offensive production last year (75 OPS+) that hardly inspires confidence, though of course their longer-term track records show much greater ability at the plate if their bodies are still willing.



Additional Reactions To The Kimbrel/Upton Trade

Last night’s unexpected blockbuster that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the Padres in exchange for Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin (since designated for assignment), Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck and a Competitive Balance draft pick (No. 41 overall) stunned much of the baseball world. While there’s already been a significant amount of reactions to the move, here are a few more from around the industry…

  • The Braves are “huge winners” in the trade, opines ESPN’s Keith Law. Atlanta was able to move a valueless asset in Upton and a high-risk commodity in Kimbrel in exchange for a valuable but injury-prone center fielder (Maybin), a Major League ready pitching prospect (Wisler), a highly athletic outfield prospect (Paroubeck) and a draft pick that gives them the fourth-highest pool this June, writes Law. Wisler could become a No. 2 starter if any of his secondary pitches develop into plus offerings, in Law’s opinion. While he considers that unlikely, he does note that Wisler can still be a league-average starter that adds value through durability.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it was incredibly difficult to trade Kimbrel, and the front office was prepared for the inevitable fan backlash to trading the wildly popular closer. “Believe me, this wasn’t something that anybody in this organization had any disregard for fans,” Hart explained. “This was a huge part of the discussion as we went through it. … It’s not like you wanted to come in and start looking around and say, look, we’re going to heartlessly trade these guys off. We’re looking to, if you will, do the best thing and the right thing for the organization, and sometimes things like this happen.” Hart also said that Kimbrel handled the news that he’d been traded with the utmost class and spoke exceptionally highly of Kimbrel’s character.
  • MLB.com’s Mark Bowman also has some reactions from Hart, most notably explaining the importance of the financial flexibility attained by his team in this trade. Said Hart: “…[W]e freed up some financial flexibility and I think, again, what we do with that financial flexibility remains to be determined. But I think it’s going to be something where we’ll be aggressive in our approach.”
  • FOX’s Rob Neyer offers his take on the deal, reacting to colleague Ken Rosenthal’s description of the deal as “Craig Kimbrel for $53.35 million, two prospects and the 41st pick of the June draft.” Neyer notes that the cost may be more than $53.35MM, as that doesn’t include the value that Wisler could provide if he’s even a league-average starter for a couple seasons. Neyer argues that the inclusion of Paroubeck and the draft pick could very well be extraneous in nature, as it’s unlikely that either ultimately nets a significant amount of value at the Major League level, but Wisler’s value and the potential negative value of a dead roster spot (Upton) could make the perceived monetary cost of acquiring Kimbrel even steeper.
  • Neither team is a loser in this deal in the opinion of Grantland’s Jonah Keri, who writes that the Padres may now boast a bullpen trio that can rival that of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera in Kansas City. Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit and potentially Kevin Quackenbush (if and when he is recalled from the Minors) will be a dominant triumvirate that will not only excel late in games but will also lighten the workload of injury-prone arms like Andrew Cashner and Brandon Morrow. And while the Braves have parted with their best pitcher, they shed an enormous amount of payroll while adding a near-MLB-ready pitcher and a high pick in this year’s draft, accelerating their rebuild.
  • Quentin didn’t ask for anything in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, tweets Scott Miller of Bleacher Report/FOX Sports San Diego. The lack of incentive is a contrast to many players we’ve seen recently indicate that they’d like options exercised in advance as compensation for waiving their no-trade clause. (Quentin does have a $10MM mutual option for next year.)

Diamondbacks Acquire Victor Reyes From Braves

1:06pm: While separately announced, this trade was part of the deal that sent Trevor Cahill to Atlanta, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. The Braves would not have pulled the trigger on adding Cahill (and taking on a good portion of his salary) without getting the chance to add the pick in the Reyes swap, according to Piecoro’s sources.

12:34pm: The Diamondbacks have acquired outfielder Victor Reyes from the Braves in exchange for the 75th overall pick in this year’s amateur draft, Arizona announced. As a competitive balance draft choice, the selection was tradeable.

Reyes, 20, played at the low-A level last year in the Atlanta organization, slashing .259/.309/.298 in 361 plate appearances. He swiped 12 bases, but was also caught seven times. It seems fair to say that Reyes lacks power, as he has yet to hit a home run in 776 turns at bat as a professional.

Then again, Reyes has a substantial frame and may still have some pop to grow into, as Baseball America explained in ranking him as Atlanta’s 22nd-best prospect coming into the season. BA calls Reyes “lean and lanky,” crediting him with a solid hit tool and promising defensive profile in the corner outfield.

That draft slot was assigned a bonus allocation of just under $760K last year and will increase somewhat for 2015. Losing that amount will drop the D’Backs to just under $13MM in total draft spending capacity, while boosting Atlanta to a shade over $9MM.


Braves Designate Carlos Quentin For Assignment

TODAY: The Braves have designated Quentin as planned, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Atlanta is said to be hoping that an American League team will be willing to take on some of his salary via trade.

YESTERDAY: The Braves plan to designate newly acquired outfielder Carlos Quentin for assignment, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Quentin is owed $8MM for 2015, so as Heyman notes, his presence in today’s Craig Kimbrel trade was merely to help the Padres offset the salary they agreed to take on when they acquired Melvin Upton Jr.

Quentin, 32, struggled with his hitting and his health last season and is limited defensively. Designating him for assignment could enable him to move to an American League team, where he might be able to help at DH.


Padres Acquire Kimbrel, Melvin Upton From Braves

The Padres are beginning the 2015 season with yet another blockbuster trade, receiving closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. from the Braves for outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck and the 41st overall pick in the June draft.

USATSI_8488950_154513410_lowresKimbrel is obviously the centerpiece of the deal, an elite closer who has posted dominant numbers since arriving in the league in 2010. Kimbrel is signed through 2017 for $33MM plus a $1MM buyout on a $13MM option for 2018. It’s not easy for a reliever to be a bargain at that price, but Kimbrel clearly is. His 2014 season, in which he posted a 1.61 ERA with 13.9 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9, was a fairly typical one. At 26, it’s reasonable to hope he continue producing at a very high level for the next several years if he can remain healthy, even though relievers tend to have shorter shelf lives than other player types. The move will, presumably, bump Joaquin Benoit back into a setup role. Kimbrel’s addition gives the Padres yet another big-name player to go with Justin Upton, James Shields, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks, all of whom they acquired in a transformative offseason.

The presence of the other Major League players in the deal has much to do with their contract statuses. None of them figure to help their new teams much. Melvin Upton is owed $46.35MM over the next three seasons. Even with the departures of Maybin and Quentin, the Padres have a full outfield and have no real use for Upton, who hit .208/.287/.333 in 2014 and also struggled the previous season. But taking on his contract surely helped persuade the Braves to part with a great player in Kimbrel. In San Diego, Upton will reunite with his brother Justin, who the Braves also recently sent west.

Quentin is owed $8MM in 2015. He hit .177/.284/.315 in 2014 and had no obvious role with the Padres. He has a no-trade clause, although it appears he waived it. The Braves plan to designate him for assignment, suggesting he was included in the trade purely to help offset salary. He could wind up with an American League team. Maybin, who will receive $15MM for the next two years plus a $1MM buyout for 2017, would have been an expensive reserve in San Diego. He hit .235/.290/.331 in 2015.

By parting with two players they didn’t figure to use much, the Padres will receive $24MM in salary relief to offset the salary they’re taking on with Upton. That means that they’ll add a total of about $56MM in salary as a result of the deal, continuing to aggressively increase their payroll after taking on big commitments in Kemp and Shields, in particular, this offseason.

Wisler is the most valuable property headed to Atlanta in the deal. Baseball America recently rated him the No. 34 prospect in baseball, with Baseball Prospectus ranking him No. 53 and MLB.com placing him at No. 69. MLB.com ranked him the Padres’ second-best prospect, praising his slider and the movement on his low- to mid-90s fastball. The 22-year-old righty posted a 4.42 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A in 2014, although he had a fine 8.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, and most of his 146 2/3 innings were in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Paroubeck was a second-round pick in the 2013 draft. The switch-hitting 20-year-old hit .286/.346/.457 in rookie ball in 2014, and MLB.com ranked him the Padres’ 19th-best prospect, noting his ability to hit to all fields, along with his good speed and the reasonable likelihood that his power will develop. He and the draft pick give the Braves a bit of extra value in the deal, even though Wisler and the salary relief were likely much more crucial. (The Padres could, of course, trade the draft pick because it’s a Competitive Balance selection, and the current CBA permits teams to trade such picks.)

On the surface, the trade appears to be a risky one for San Diego. Kimbrel is inarguably a great closer, but it remains to be seen whether he will prove to be worth parting with $56MM, a top prospect in Wisler and two additional prospects in Paroubeck and the draft pick. The Padres also had more pressing needs in their infield, and it’s unclear whether Kimbrel is the right player to get them over the hump. As Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan notes, the fact that the Padres optioned solid relievers in Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush today shows how good their bullpen already was. And as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets, perhaps an easier course if the Padres wanted to upgrade the closer role would have been to keep Huston Street, who the team’s previous management traded last year. Still, the deal unquestionably adds another blue-chip player to a team that’s suddenly full of them.

The Braves, meanwhile, continued their rebuild, subtracting salary while adding additional upside, including a starting pitcher in Wisler who should be able to help this year. Kimbrel’s departure will surely be painful for Braves fans, particularly given the Alabama-born Kimbrel’s Southern roots, but it might have only been a matter of time, since an elite closer is more valuable to a contender than to a rebuilding team. With Kimbrel gone, one of Jason Grilli or Jim Johnson, both of whom have closing experience, could take over ninth-inning duties in Atlanta.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to note that a trade was complete, and he also tweeted that the Braves would acquire Maybin, Quentin and the draft pick. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweeted that the Padres would receive Kimbrel and Upton, and that the Braves would receive Paroubeck. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted that Wisler was involved.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Reactions To And Fallout From The Kimbrel Trade

Here’s the latest on today’s trade of Craig Kimbrel to the Padres:

  • Padres GM A.J. Preller says he tried negotiating a variety of possible trades to bring Kimbrel to San Diego, but the only way he could do it was to also take on Melvin Upton Jr.‘s contract, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.
  • Upton (foot) likely won’t be available until May, and he will not challenge Wil Myers for the starting center field job, Preller says (via Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller on Twitter).
  • This was a difficult trade to make from a personal standpoint,” says Braves GM John Hart, via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter links). “From a professional standpoint, we continue to be consistent in our plan, where we’re gong and what we needed to do to get there.”
  • Braves icon Chipper Jones took to Twitter (1 2 3 4) to defend the trade from Atlanta’s perspective. “I know it sucks, Braves Country, but once you decide to rebuild, you better go all the way,” he wrote. “You now have a ton of minor league talent that is on the verge of being Major League talent. You now have four picks in the top 54 picks in this year’s draft. And you now have flexibility in your payroll to be able to compete on the free agent market if you so desire.”
  • The deal is a risky one for the Padres, who now have over $68MM on the books for Kimbrel, Upton, Matt Kemp and James Shields in 2017, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. If the Padres don’t win with their current team, Preller could quickly have to pivot into rebuild mode. Meanwhile, the Braves’ signing of Nick Markakis to a $44MM deal this offseason now looks “preposterous” now that they’re shedding salary.
  • The Padres improved what was already a team strength with the trade, and now they have the best bullpen in baseball, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. Nonetheless, the deal was a risky one from the Padres’ perspective, given the amount of money involved and how unpredictable relievers can be.
  • Both the Padres and Braves doubled down on their current strategies with the trade, Sherman writes. The Padres continued buying talented but expensive veterans, while the Braves continued a rebuild that they had already begun.
  • The Dodgers were, at one point, in discussions with the Braves for Kimbrel, but they were unable to strike a deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.

Added To The 40-Man Roster: Sunday

The rosters for Opening Day have been officially submitted this afternoon. Several minor league signees have won jobs with their clubs and earned 40-man roster spots. Here are today’s additions:

  • The Orioles will purchase catcher Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The 25-man roster that the Orioles announced today included Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger at catcher, but not Lavarnway, who they had reassigned to the minors.
  • The Padres have announced that they’ve purchased the contract of catcher Wil Nieves. With Tim Federowicz out with a knee injury, Nieves will back up Derek Norris. As we noted when Nieves signed, his big-league salary will be $850K.
  • Ryan Madson has made the Royals‘ Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Madson caps his comeback from multiple elbow injuries and his first appearance for Kansas City will be his first in the Majors since 2011.
  • The Nationals have announced on Twitter that second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Reed Johnson have made their Opening Day roster.
  • The Braves announced they have officially purchased the contracts of outfielders Eric Young, Jr. and Kelly Johnson, left-hander Eric Stults, and right-hander Cody Martin. The Braves cleared space on their 40-man roster by placing right-hander Arodys Vizcaino and outfielder Dian Toscano on the restricted list.
  • One name missing from the Braves‘ roster is Pedro Ciriaco, who was reported yesterday to have made the club. This is likely a procedural move, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (Twitter links), because the Braves placed Josh Outman on the 25-man roster instead of releasing him after the left-hander complained of shoulder tenderness. The move will also buy the Braves some time to look for an upgrade over Ciriaco, tweets Bowman.
  • The Phillies have announced outfielder Jeff Francoeur and infielder Andres Blanco have made the team. Francoeur is just one of four outfielders on Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster, so he could see time as Grady Sizemore‘s platoon partner in right field. The Phillies are now at their 40-man limit.
  • The Marlins have selected the contract of utility player Don Kelly, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Kelly earned his spot with solid Spring Training line of .270/.357/.324 in 42 plate appearances. Frisaro reports the 35-year-old will backup both the corner infield and outfield spots, as well as serving as the team’s emergency third catcher.

NL Notes: Duda, Cueto, Tomas, Braves, Diamondbacks

The Mets and Lucas Duda have failed to reach an extension prior to the first baseman’s Opening Day deadline and have shelved negotiations, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. “No agreement was reached, so talks have concluded and Lucas will focus on the upcoming season,” agent Dan Horwits told Rubin. Duda will make $4.2MM in 2015 and will be eligible for arbitration two more times before becoming a free agent following the 2017 season.

In other National League news and notes: