The Braves are looking to upgrade their offense and have let other clubs know that they’re willing to trade from their recently bolstered stable of pitching prospects in order to acquire a bat, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN (via Twitter). According to Stark, Atlanta has asked other clubs about the availability of their young catchers.
It’s just one tweet, but there’s a lot to digest there. For one, it doesn’t seem that the Braves will act as strict sellers, as they did for much of the past offseason. Additionally, the Braves’ desire to add a young catcher is perhaps somewhat telling of the confidence they have in rocket-armed but offensively-challenged (to this point, at least) Christian Bethancourt.
Bethancourt has been tabbed as the Braves’ catcher of the future for quite some time, but he’s batted just .223/.248/.279 in 222 big league plate appearances in his young career. Still just 23 years old, Bethancourt’s been optioned back to Triple-A this season in favor of a more veteran combination of A.J. Pierzynski and Ryan Lavarnway. He’s hit well in he minors since his return, but the fact that the Braves are inquiring about young backstops has to at least call into question whether or not the restructured front office feels that Bethancourt’s bat can catch up to his vaunted arm.
As far as pitching prospects are concerned, the Braves are very suddenly in no short supply. The Braves seem likely to use a combination of Shelby Miller, Alex Wood and Julio Teheran at the front of their rotation for the foreseeable future, and they have a handful of MLB-ready arms to choose from for the remaining two spots. Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler and Manny Banuelos have all made starts for Atlanta this season, and any two of the three could be looked at as a rotation piece going forward. Further down the line are Max Fried and Lucas Sims, each of whom is recovering from injury. The Braves also picked up right-hander Touki Toussaint, the No. 16 overall pick from the 2014 draft, in a recent trade with the Diamondbacks. Fellow Class-A hurler Ricardo Sanchez, a high-ceiling arm in his own right, was acquired from the Angels this offseason.
Suffice it to say, the Braves have gone from an underwhelming farm system to one teeming with pitching prospects after an offseason of trades from new president of baseball operations John Hart. What the team lacks, however, is offense at a number of positions. In addition to the struggles of their catchers — a combined .237/.270/.357 batting line — left field has been an egregiously detriment to the club’s offensive output. Atlanta left fielders have combined to bat just .221/.284/.311 this season.
It seems unlikely that the Braves would move one of their talented young pitchers for a pure rental, so the expectation here is that any bat theoretically acquired by Atlanta would be under control beyond the 2015 season — perhaps beyond the 2016 campaign as well. Previous reports have indicated that the Braves inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy’s availability, though most indications remain that the Brewers are unlikely to move him.