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Evan Gattis Rumors
Once just a fascinating story, Braves catcher Evan Gattis is now unquestionably a legitimate big league piece. He is only just 28, has just two years on his service clock, and is probably one of the ten or so best-hitting catchers in baseball (if not, arguably, somewhat better).
For a Braves team looking to improve but seemingly lacking the present payroll capacity to do it, Gattis seems at first glance to be an obvious keeper. But a look below the surface reveals why recent rumors have labeled him a possible trade chip. Specifically, Atlanta has already groomed (and promoted) an even cheaper, probably more defensively-reliable replacement in 23-year-old Christian Bethancourt.
So, if the Braves choose to shop Gattis, what might he be worth, and what kinds of teams might be interested? The bat certainly has played. Gattis introduced himself to the league with a .243/.291/.480 slash and 21 home runs over 382 plate appearances in 2013, leading some to suggest that he would never make enough contact for his power to be valuable. But Gattis answered with a .263/.317/.493 line and 22 long balls while taking 19 more trips to the plate. His walk and strikeout numbers were similar (5.5% walk rate with a K% in the low-20’s), while his BABIP jumped from .255 to .298.
While there is certainly some risk that Gattis slides back to his rookie numbers, Atlanta would doubtless be loath to deal him were that the complete story. While he is a decent enough baserunner considering his size (he is listed at 6’4/260), Gattis does not enjoy the best defensive reputation and may perhaps not be far off from deteriorating further in the field.
Let’s take a closer look at his defensive work. Gattis threw out just 13 runners while allowing 53 swipes. Though that .197 caught-stealing rate actually rated just ahead of other bat-first catchers like Rosario, Derek Norris, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, it is not good. And Gattis fell well behind Bethancourt and backup Gerald Laird, so perhaps we cannot pin the blame on the Atlanta staff. And Baseball Prospectus figures indicate that Gattis is one of the very worst blockers in the game, costing the Braves about 18 additional wild pitches or passed balls over his 93 games of action behind the plate.
While these aspects of the catcher’s job description are perhaps the most visible, however, they are probably not the most impactful. Indeed, the gap between Gattis and Bethancourt/Laird in gunning down would-be basestealers pales in comparison to the separation observed among that trio in pitch framing. Only here, Gattis comes out ahead, profiling as an average or better strike-winner while Bethancourt (slightly below average) and Laird (well below average) do not. (Stat Corner and Baseball Prospectus concur on this general ordering, though the latter is more bullish on this group as a whole.) Pitch-calling and staff-handling are much more subjective, of course, but I am not aware of any reports painting him as a disaster in those areas.
In the aggregate, BP tabbed Gattis as the league’s 8th most-valuable backstop last year. Despite pinning him with one of the worst overall defensive WAR tabs among his peers (with statistics that do not account for pitch framing), Fangraphs still valued Gattis as the league’s 14th-most productive catcher.
While it is generally assumed that Gattis would hold most of his appeal to an American League club, then, it could be that talk of Gattis’s impending shift from intriguing, power hitting catcher to slightly above-average DH are premature. And that expands his market, because it is at least plausible for acquiring teams to believe that Gattis will provide serviceable-enough innings behind the plate for at least a portion of his control. (All while comfortable in the knowledge that a shift to DH or a non-tender can prevent the kind of long-term burden that a free agent contract could bring.)
It remains somewhat unlikely that another National League team would top the bidding, though it is at least possible to imagine a team like the Pirates having interest. More likely, Gattis would draw the most attention from American League teams that saw the Athletics extract plenty of value from a defensively-deficient group of backstops who were good enough on offense to DH or play elsewhere. The Astros, Orioles, Tigers, White Sox, Blue Jays, and perhaps even the Mariners and Rangers could at least be imagined as landing spots, depending upon how the rest of their offseasons shake out. None of these is a slam dunk, of course, and on the whole Gattis’s market is not terribly clear.
As always, it is hard to forecast a return on a trade. But there is one fairly recent, fairly solid comp: the pre-2013 John Jaso deal. Jaso, a (lefty) bat-first catcher then entering his age-29 season and coming off of a huge campaign, was shipped to the Athletics in a three-team swap that saw Michael Morse go from the Nationals to the Mariners and prospects move back to D.C. from Oakland. While the arms that moved in that trade — A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen, and Ian Krol — have seen their stock rise rather significantly since that deal, at the time it was considered a substantial-but-fair price for the A’s to pay to acquire Jaso. (The Morse element of the deal, of course, has been the subject of plenty of criticism.)
In some ways Gattis is less useful than Jaso, who kills righties and has a clear, if limited role. On the other, he has more potential as an everyday option, as he not only mashes lefties but puts up good numbers against same-handed pitchers and is perhaps a better all-around defender. And Gattis possesses a power-based skillset that many teams still desire, especially as it continues to diminish in availability.
So, can Atlanta improve on the Jaso return — a legitimate outlay of talent, to be sure, but one that had plenty of risk and did not contribute immediately to the MLB roster — or will it face the tough choice of taking a potentially significant hit to its likelihood of contention in the next year or two in exchange for speculative future value? That probably depends on how many teams have interest in Gattis as at least a semi-regular backstop.
MLBTR’s thoughts and best wishes are with Giancarlo Stanton as he recovers from a frightening incident in which he was struck in the face by a fastball from Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers last night. Stanton has been diagnosed with a laceration and facial fractures, and appears to be done for the season, though the Marlins have said that surgery likely won’t be required. The NL MVP candidate tweeted this morning a heartfelt thanks to baseball fans for the support he has received and, more importantly, announced that he is feeling much better. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets, Stanton is still eyeing a comeback this season, which would be a remarkable return.
As we all wish Stanton a speedy recovery, here’s more on the Marlins’ franchise player and the rest of the NL East…
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs examines what a potential Giancarlo Stanton extension would look like for the Marlins, exploring two different options. Firstly, Cameron outlines a shorter extension that buys out his prime years (ages 27-32) but leaves him a chance at one more significant free agent deal. His second hypothesis is for a Joey Votto-style extension that buys out 10 free agent years on top of his remaining two arbitration years (which Cameron pegs at $30-35MM). Based on WAR/$ and factoring in for some slight inflation, Cameron pegs the shorter deal at $240MM over eight years, though he notes that Stanton would likely feel the need to top Miguel Cabrera‘s $248MM guarantee. The 10-year extension could fetch a $270MM guarantee, which, when paired with the remaining $30-35MM would amount to a 12-year deal worth $300MM+, in Cameron’s estimation.
- While he’s tired of hearing that Daniel Murphy is “more valuable to the Mets than to other clubs,” Matthew Cerrone of SNY’s MetsBlog is beginning to believe it’s true after speaking with six talent evaluators from other clubs. Four officials told him that Murphy would likely be viewed as a super-utility option, while one said that he could see a contending team making a push for him, but more as a secondary option than a primary target. Ultimately, with Dilson Herrera still just 20 years old, Cerrone feels that an extension is probably the best course of action for the Mets. I examined a potential Murphy extension earlier this summer, theorizing that a four-year deal in the $45-48MM range might make sense.
- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman has previously examined the possibility of an Evan Gattis trade to clear room for Christian Bethancourt to serve as the team’s everyday catcher, and he recently got the opinion of several Braves players and coaches on the possibility of Bethancourt starting in the future. Gerald Laird called Bethancourt “the catcher of the future” noting that while it’s understandable to want to keep Gattis’ bat in the lineup, “you can’t sit this kid.” Freddie Freeman praised Bethancourt’s improving approach, while hitting coach Greg Walker and manager Fredi Gonzalez both gave him rave reviews as well. Of course, with the lineup struggling to score as it is, the Braves may want to keep Gattis and place him in the outfield rather than dangle him on the trade market.
The Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have been working on “clarification” of the rule preventing collisions at home plate, sources tell ESPN’s Jayson Stark. The two sides hope any uncertainty concerning how catchers can block the plate can be cleared up before any pennant races or postseason games are impacted, though rulings in several games earlier this year have already left many managers and players confused.
Here’s some more from around baseball as we kick off the week…
- The Royals will place right-hander Blake Wood on waivers tomorrow, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (Twitter link). Wood was designated for assignment last week.
- Evan Gattis has been a big part of the Braves‘ lineup, but the catcher’s defensive limitations could see the club trade him to an AL team, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (AJC subscription required). Gattis could be better served by a regular DH role, while the Braves could trade him for a long-term outfield solution given that Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are both only signed through 2015. Gattis played some left field himself in 2013, though he was a defensive liability there as well.
- It doesn’t seem likely that the 2015 Cubs rotation will feature both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers writes. The Cubs may be stuck with Jackson due to his contract, though Wood is only on a one-year, $3.9MM deal (with two years of arbitration eligibility left). Wood has a 5.15 ERA in 162 2/3 IP this season and could be a non-tender candidate, though he still has some value as an innings-eater.
- The White Sox have some holes to fill in the rotation, bullpen and lineup, yet Grantland’s Jonah Keri sees them as a possible sleeper team for 2015. The Sox have lots of payroll space to address those issues and build around their core of Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton.
- A veteran player suggests to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) that players who fail two PED tests should be limited to one-year contracts for the remainder of their career. This would be a deterrent against players with one suspension on their record potentially using PEDs again in the hopes of scoring a big multiyear deal. As the veteran put it, “If I was someone who had been suspended before, why wouldn’t I use again? If you’ve robbed a bank before and you see that you could again and still walk away with millions, why wouldn’t you?“
- Also from Olney, he feels the Rockies have “an easy decision” to decline Brett Anderson‘s $12MM option for 2015, as the team can’t afford to commit that much payroll space to a pitcher with Anderson’s injury history. This would likely end Anderson’s tenure in Colorado, as Olney notes he wouldn’t accept a cheaper one-year deal from the Rockies when he could rebuild his value elsewhere in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.
- Several key members of the Giants and Tigers hail from Venezuela, and FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi looks at how both teams approach scouting and development in the country.
Talks of a rumored deal that would have sent B.J. Upton to the Cubs (perhaps along with a pitcher or cash) in exchange for Edwin Jackson have been circulating over the past couple weeks, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it could be because the Braves would like to rekindle those talks in the offseason.
It won’t be easy to trade Upton and the remaining $47MM on his contract, of course, but the Braves could be willing to sweeten the deal by including three years of Mike Minor or by including a significant amount of cash to help offset Upton’s salary. The Braves are not, however, interested in including both Minor and cash in order to facilitate a trade. Regardless of how the ties are severed, O’Brien feels that it is a fait accompli that the elder Upton is dealt by next Spring Training. (Of course, many people felt the same about Dan Uggla, who lingered on Atlanta’s roster well into the summer.)
Minor has struggled for much of the season after opening the year on the disabled list, pitching to a 4.90 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 39.3 percent ground-ball rate. Minor’s main problem has been an increased home run rate which, paired with an uptick in his walks, has led to a HR/9 rate of 1.51 — fifth-worst among pitchers with at least 110 innings thrown in 2014. Nonetheless, three years of a pitcher who posted a 3.72 ERA in 466 2/3 innings from 2011-13 (including a stellar 3.21 mark in 204 2/3 innings last year) would have value to pitching-hungry teams.
Perhaps more interesting is the fact that O’Brien also feels there’s “at least a pretty good chance” that Gattis could be traded in the coming offseason. While Atlanta loves Gattis’ bat, it is less enamored with his defensive prowess and isn’t certain how long his 250-pound frame can hold up at the position. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is top prospect Christian Bethancourt, who is known for his strong arm and receiving skills.
As O’Brien points out, Gattis would make for a nice trade target for an American League club, given the fact that he could split time between DH and catcher (and perhaps the outfield on occasion). The 28-year-old is hitting a hefty .276/.331/.520 with 20 homers in 353 plate appearances this season, quieting some skeptics (myself included) who felt that his hot start in 2013 may not have been sustainable.
Gattis will finish the season with exactly two years of Major League service, meaning that a club could potentially gain four years of team control over a 20-30 homer bat, and that would certainly have value on the trade market, especially given the dearth of starting-caliber catchers on the free agent market. Beyond Russell Martin, teams looking for catching help will be left looking at A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto in the second tier of free agent backstops.
Here's the latest on the Braves from David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution…
- The Braves could move Dan Uggla if they can find a team willing to pay roughly a quarter of the $26MM remaining owed to the second baseman over the next two seasons Tyler Pastornicky, Tommy La Stella and Ramiro Pena would all compete for the 2B job in Spring Training, though I'd guess the Braves would want to bring in a more established second baseman.
- The Braves offered Tim Hudson a one-year deal that, even with incentives, was worth less than the $9MM than he earned in each of the previous four seasons. They never considered making Hudson a qualifying offer since the $14.1MM price was too rich for a 38-year-old coming off a severely broken ankle. While the Braves want Hudson back, they're just one of at least nine teams interested in the veteran righty and the healthy market could net Hudson a two-year, $24MM deal.
- O'Brien would "be shocked" if Brian McCann received a $100MM contract and thinks the catcher will receive something akin to a five-year, $75MM deal. Given the big-market clubs interested in McCann's services, there have been rumors that he would indeed fetch such a nine-figure contract.
- The Braves' payroll is expected to rise from $90MM to around $100MM, which isn't enough for the club to obtain a top-tier ace in free agency. To add a veteran to their young staff, O'Brien wonders if Atlanta could take a chance on a former ace like Roy Halladay if Hudson leaves.
- The team has been hesitant to trade top prospects in recent years and O'Brien doesn't see that changing, so the likes of Christian Bethancourt or Lucas Sims wouldn't be moved in a potential deal for David Price or Max Scherzer.
- There isn't any talk in the Braves organization of exploring trades involving Evan Gattis.
Carlos Gomez has emerged as the top player from the Johan Santana trade between the Mets and the Twins, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. Santana himself had season-ending shoulder surgery in early April, and the other players the Twins received along with Gomez (Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra) haven't panned out. Meanwhile, Gomez, who the Twins shipped to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy, is off to a .368/.417/.642 start while playing great defense in center field. Sherman doesn't really blame the Mets for dealing Gomez, however. "Would this franchise and this city really have had the patience to wait six years for a blossoming — if it ever would have happened here?" he says. Here are more notes from the NL.
- In a blog entry, Sherman compares Gomez to former Yankees star Bernie Williams, in that both players needed more time than usual to turn their considerable tools into skills. Williams entered the Majors in his age-22 season in 1991, but didn't post an OBP higher than .354 until age 25 and didn't hit 20 homers in a season until age 27. Doug Melvin, now the Brewers' GM, was the Yankees' scouting director when New York signed Williams.
- Paul Maholm and the Braves have not had discussions regarding the possibility of a contract extension, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports (Insider-only). The Braves exercised their 2013 option on Maholm, guaranteeing him $6.5MM. But he is a free agent in the coming offseason, and with a good 2012 season and a strong start in 2013 (3.09 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9), Maholm could be rewarded with a much bigger payday.
- The timing of Brian McCann's free agency is inconvenient for him, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. McCann returned from shoulder surgery to make his season debut Monday, going 0-for-4 with a walk. He'll be a free agent after the season just as he's entering his 30s, and his injuries and declining play will likely limit the market for him (depending on how he does this season, of course). Also, the emergence of Evan Gattis — who has a meager .305 OBP this season, but a .563 slugging percentage — gives the Braves a reasonable alternative to McCann at catcher. Still, Martino suggests that there will likely still be strong interest in McCann, perhaps from teams like the Yankees in need of catching help. McCann has a strong reputation within the game, and finding a catcher who can hit isn't easy.
The emergence of Evan Gattis as a power threat could soon create a logjam at catcher for the Braves, MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes. Brian McCann is nearly set to return from the disabled list, but the Braves don't want to demote Gattis (who has six home runs), and it's too early to get rid of Gerald Laird, in part because the Braves signed him to a two-year contract over the winter. (Laird has also hit well in limited time so far.) Jason Heyward's recent appendix surgery could create a temporary opportunity for Gattis in the outfield, but as the season progresses, it could be interesting to watch Atlanta's catching situation. McCann is a free agent after the season, and as Jeff Todd noted last week, Gattis' emergence, if it continues, could make the Braves feel better about McCann's likely departure. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Phillies recently designated catcher Humberto Quintero for assignment, but they want him to clear waivers, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Now that Carlos Ruiz is returning from his suspension, the Phillies have settled on Erik Kratz to be his backup. But they want more veteran catching depth in their organization, and they value Quintero's big-league experience. "There's a chance he could still be with us, and selfishly, we hope he is," says assistant GM Scott Proefrock.
- The Rockies are waiting to see what happens to infielder Chris Nelson, who they designated for assignment on Sunday, according to MLB.com's Thomas Harding. Nelson was the Rockies' first-round pick in the 2004 Draft. "It's important to honor Nellie and what he's meant to this organization," says Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "Personally, my relationship goes beyond player-manager. They brought him in and worked him out before the Draft, and I was out there taking ground balls with him in front of our entire scouting department, and I was with him in our Minor League system."