In the wake of a thumb injury that could cost Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta up to three months, Erick Aybar’s name quickly surfaced as a speculative trade target to replace Peralta in the short-term. Aybar is, after all, an affordable veteran that is one season away from free agency and is playing on a rebuilding Braves club. However, Atlanta GM John Coppolella tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the club isn’t keen on trading Aybar.
“Erick Aybar was a big part of the Andrelton Simmons trade,” said Coppolella of the trade in which the Braves landed Aybar, lefty Sean Newcomb and right-hander Chris Ellis in exchange for their franchise shortstop. “We don’t want to trade Erick Aybar; he’s a great, winning player. We need to win more games this year, and he’s going to be a big part of that. So we’re very happy to hold onto Erick Aybar.”
Of course, none of that is a firm statement expressing that Aybar will not be traded; the Braves, after all, offered similar sentiments about Craig Kimbrel last offseason but still traded him to the Padres in a blockbuster deal on the eve of Opening Day. The comments about Aybar, while indicating that the club does indeed value him highly, also are not quite as firm as the adamant stance that Coppolella took against trading first baseman Freddie Freeman. With Freeman’s name swirling in rumors, Coppolella took to the media to publicly state: “I’d give my right arm before we trade Freddie Freeman. It is not happening.”
On paper, Aybar would seem to be a prime trade candidate for the Braves. He’s earning $8.5MM this season in the final year of his contract, and the Braves don’t expect to contend this season, as the bulk of the highly touted minor leaguers they’ve acquired recently won’t be ready for the big leagues until 2017 or, at the earliest, mid-to-late 2016. Then again, Aybar is coming off something of a down season, having followed up a solid four-year stretch from 2011-14 that saw him bat .279/.317/.399 with a meek .270/.301/.338 slash in his age-31 season. O’Brien notes that it’s possible that the Braves could net more for Aybar in a summer trade, and that’s certainly true if he gets off to a good start to the season. In addition to being able to rebuild some of his stock over the season’s first three months, it stands to reason that there will be a greater number of potential suitors looking for a shortstop upgrade.
As O’Brien writes, Coppolella and the Braves feel that the trade in which the club landed Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair in exchange for Shelby Miller accelerated the club’s timeline to contend, thereby shifting their focus to trades that will help them improve in both the immediate future and in the long term. If that is indeed the case, then it does seem unlikely that Atlanta would be able to receive immediate benefit from moving Aybar. Both Swanson and top prospect Ozhaino Albies are a ways from the Majors, and even a mid-2016 projection for either would be an aggressive timeline in forecasting their arrival in the Major Leagues.