- Matt Adams is drawing trade interest, which isn’t a surprise given how he has been crushing the ball since joining the Braves. Whether Atlanta looks to move Adams or not will depend on whether Freddie Freeman is capable of playing third base, thus allowing Adams to stay at first base. Moving Adams into a corner outfield spot is problematic since the Braves would then have to deal Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis, not to mention the defensive shortcomings Adams displayed while playing the outfield for the Cardinals earlier this season.
- While his potential shift to third base has drawn all the headlines, it’s also notable that Braves slugger Freddie Freeman has made major strides in the healing process for his broken wrist. As David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Twitter links), Freeman says that doctors have seen dramatic improvement over the last week. While he says he can still feel some pain in the surgically repaired joint, he stressed that “it’s pain, it’s not hurt” at this stage.
- The Braves have already received interest in Jaime Garcia, Brandon Phillips and Jason Motte, Feinsand reports, but the Braves are likely to hold for now as they seek to generate interest from additional clubs. Garcia was hit hard for the second straight start tonight, but he’s been solid for the majority of the season and could step into the back of a contender’s rotation as a reliable source of league-average innings. Phillips, meanwhile, has been quietly productive in his first season with Atlanta, and the Reds are on the hook for nearly all of his salary. And Motte, since inking a minors pact with the Braves, has turned in a 2.14 ERA through 21 innings, albeit with some very unappealing peripherals (5.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, .179 BABIP, 5.89 FIP, 5.09 SIERA).
Braves star Freddie Freeman says that his “mindset is to return as a third baseman,” as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (links to Twitter). With Matt Adams emerging as a productive offensive player at first in his absence, Freeman appears serious about attempting a move across the diamond even while completing his recovery from a wrist fracture.
Freeman played the hot corner in high school, but the eight-year MLB veteran has lined up exclusively at first base as a professional. Needless to say, this apparent attempt to move back to third in the middle of the season represents quite a surprising turn of events. Freeman says he himself proposed the idea to the team, so obviously he’s on board; it remains unknown just what the organization would need to see to allow him to line up there.
When Freeman went down with his wrist injury, it seemed clear he’d leave behind a significant hole in the lineup. After all, he was carrying a .341/.461/.748 batting line that dwarfed even his typically excellent levels of output. But the Braves were able to add Matt Adams for a song, and he has stepped in with a .296/.349/.635 line over his 29 games in Atlanta. (Whether he can maintain anything like that kind of output, of course, is an open question.)
Adams’s success has created a bit of a quandary for the Braves as Freeman moves toward a return. The new addition didn’t fare well in his own brief attempt at a position change (to the corner outfield), but also may not receive huge trade interest at the deadline due to questionable demand for a player of his skillset.
Particularly since Adams comes with one more year of arb control, then, the Braves clearly have some motivation to find a way to field both players. Whether Freeman is able to show enough capacity at the position — presumably, in a minor-league rehab assignment — even to earn the chance to play it in the majors is yet to be seen. That’ll be known soon enough, though, as it now seems he’s on track to return right around the All-Star break.
Matt Adams’ surprisingly dominant performance for the Braves following last month’s trade has the Braves considering multiple scenarios to keep him in the lineup when Freddie Freeman returns, according to a pair of reports from Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Like the Cardinals before them, the Braves are debating the possibility of playing Adams in left field. But more interestingly, Bowman suggests that the Braves will at least discuss the possibility of Freeman playing third base — a position he played throughout high school but hasn’t played since a tiny five-game sample with the Braves’ Rookie-level affiliate back in 2007. While there will obviously be plenty of intrigue around the idea of a position change for Freeman, it’s worth noting that the Braves are very much in the preliminary stages of mapping out a strategy. David O’Brien of the Journal-Constitution tweets that it may only be likely if Freeman volunteers to move across the diamond, though he, too, notes that Atlanta hasn’t firmly ruled the idea out.
- One of the Braves’ top pitching prospects, right-hander Patrick Weigel, is on his way to see Dr. James Andrews to have his elbow examined, O’Brien reports. According to O’Brien, Weigel has a potential tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and will undergo an MRI to definitively make that determination. Weigel, 22, opened the year at Double-A Mississippi and pitched to a 2.89 ERA with 9.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 through 37 1/3 innings before being promoted to Triple-A. Weigel worked to a 3.58 ERA through his first seven Triple-A starts but was shelled for nine runs in 3 1/3 innings in his most recent outing on Sunday.
- Mark Bradley of the Journal-Constitution opines that the likeliest outcome for Adams and fellow trade acquisition Brandon Phillips is that both will be traded prior to the non-waiver deadline. Adams’ work in the outfield was unsightly enough that the Cardinals traded him the Braves in the first place, Bradley points out, and the Braves don’t necessarily need another left-handed-hitting first baseman. Phillips’ age makes him unlikely to be any kind of long-term option in Atlanta, and the Braves could use August and September to get their first big league look at Ozzie Albies, Bradley continues. From my perspective, Adams would represent a fine bench option for the Braves, though he could be a relatively pricey part-time player next year depending on how great a raise he receives upon this year’s $2.8MM salary in arbitration this winter.
Entering today’s action, the Braves sat in a tie for the second spot in the National League East. Had they been asked before the season, the organization would’ve been thrilled to learn that fate. But the sheen is decidedly lessened by the context: Atlanta still sits six games under .500 and is more than ten games out of a postseason spot of any kind.
Despite the placement in the standings, then, the Braves are highly likely to be in a position to sell at the trade deadline. That doesn’t mean, though, that the club will be terribly willing to consider dealing its more controllable players. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that certain veterans will be sold off for a reasonable return. And it’s still possible that Atlanta will at least look into dealing away some prospects to acquire an established starter with long-term control. With the organization determined to embark upon real contention in 2018, and to leave a good impression on fans even as the excitement of a new ballpark begins to wear off, a major tear-down isn’t likely.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible trade assets on the MLB roster:
Jaime Garcia, SP | Salary: $12MM
Garcia looks to be the class of the Atlanta rental crop. He’s through 82 2/3 innings with a 3.59 ERA, so he has been both healthy and effective. While the southpaw is producing less strikeouts (6.5 per nine) and more walks (3.4 per nine), he’s running a 56.5% groundball mate that’s an exact match for his career mark. It’s unlikely Garcia will be viewed as a mid-3.00 pitcher at the deadline, and he’s likely due for a bit of regression before that point, but he ought to hold real appeal.
Bartolo Colon, SP | Salary: $12.5MM
Colon’s pinpoint command just hasn’t been there in his age-44 season. He’s working at nearly double the average walk rate he carried over the prior five seasons and has been in the zone just 43.5% of the time (against a 52.4% career average). That is perhaps showing up in other ways, too, as Colon hasn’t allowed this frequency of long balls since he was pitching for the Angels. There’s likely also some poor fortune baked in the hefty .353 BABIP opposing hitters are carrying against Colon, as well as his meager 48.5% strand rate, but at this point he has minimal trade value after 59 innings of 7.78 ERA ball.
Brandon Phillips, 2B | Salary: $1MM (remainder of $14MM salary paid by Reds)
Phillips carries an attractive .306/.351/.431 batting line, but that’ll drift back as his .342 BABIP faded. Since he’s no longer an elite defender, Phillips just doesn’t profile as a first-division regular. That said, he’s cheap and comes with plenty of experience, so it’s easy to imagine interest — though it’s anybody’s guess whether he’d be happy playing in a bench role.
Kurt Suzuki, C | Salary: $1.5MM
The veteran receiver has been dealt twice at the deadline before (and probably should have been a third time). He’s swinging a pretty good stick for a catcher — .227/.342/.402 through 118 plate appearances — and could fill a gap for an organization that ends up thin at the position.
Jason Motte, RP | Salary: $535K (remainder of $5MM salary paid by Rockies)
As his 35th birthday approaches, Motte owns a seemingly resurgent 1.86 ERA. But even a quick glance behind the results shows that it’s likely a mirage. He is averaging less than six strikeouts per nine with 3.7 BB/9 while benefiting from a very low BABIP (.192) and 100% strand rate. It’s still imaginable another club will like how he’s throwing the ball, but the offers may not be significant enough to make it worth it for the Braves to make a move.
Controlled Through 2018
Jim Johnson, RP | Salary: $5MM in 2017; $5MM in 2018
Atlanta could have a somewhat difficult decision to make on Johnson, who is pitching quite well but might also help solidify the back of the bullpen next year. He’s generating a 9.7% swinging-strike rate — best of his career — to complement his typically excellent groundball induction efforts (56.0% groundball rate, currently). Johnson profiles as a setup man on a contending team, which could have a fair bit of value.
Nick Markakis, OF | Salary: $11MM in 2017; $11MM in 2018
The veteran keeps on posting roughly league average offensive seasons, so you generally know what you’re going to get. Currently, he’s getting on base at a nice clip (.371) but showing a total lack of power (.092 isolated slugging). Unless the Braves are willing to pay down quite a bit of money, it’s hard to see rival organizations getting too excited at that profile from an older corner outfielder.
R.A. Dickey, SP | Salary: $8MM in 2017; $8MM club option ($500K buyout) in 2018
Dickey is outperforming Colon, but that’s about where the plaudits end. He owns a 5.35 ERA through 77 1/3 innings, with his strikeout and walk rates each heading in the wrong direction. Dickey’s 7.6% swinging-strike rate is the lowest he has carried since his Cy Young campaign. All said, it’s hard to see where the interest would come from, and the Braves might hold in case a second-half turnaround makes the option appealing.
Tyler Flowers, C | Salary: $3MM in 2017; $4MM club option ($300K buyout) in 2018
After a strong offensive season in 2016, Flowers has opened the current year with a blistering .333/.435/.473 slash. There are lots of reasons to think that won’t last, but the 31-year-old doesn’t need to hit at that pace to be a significant offensive threat for a catcher. He’ll likely draw some interest, but Atlanta needs a catcher for 2018 and seems likely to hold.
Matt Adams, 1B | Salary: $2.8MM; arb-eligible in 2018
The 28-year-old has thrived since finding a second chance in Atlanta, though his overall profile as a hitter hasn’t changed much. It’s not clear there’ll be a ton of demand, though it’s also not clear what the Braves will do with Adams once Freddie Freeman returns.
Plenty of sub-.500 teams have interesting calls to make on controllable veterans, but it’s not clear that holds true for Atlanta. Freeman is hurt and wouldn’t be dealt anyway. (Neither will Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson.) Teheran is back on the downturn after a strong 2016 and is needed for the future anyway with multiple rotation spots unaccounted for past this season. Though Kemp is mashing, he has had some injury troubles and still looks like a defensive liability; plus, the Braves don’t have replacements lined up and surely like the idea of carrying him as a middle-of-the-order star heading into 2018.
And then there’s Vizcaino, who may be the most likely of this group to be traded at the deadline. He’s throwing well again, with a 1.93 ERA and 10.6 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 through 28 frames, and the Braves control him for only two more years. There’s surely no need for Atlanta to push the flamethrower out the door, but it may be worth cashing in on a somewhat volatile asset if there’s a good enough offer on the table.
- The Braves will go to a six-man rotation when Bartolo Colon returns from the disabled list next week, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. The Braves want a longer look at rookie Sean Newcomb while they’re also not ready to release the struggling Colon, who is owed a little over $7MM for the rest of the season. It remains to be seen how long Atlanta will deploy the six-man rotation, though things could return to normal if a starter (such as Jaime Garcia) is dealt at the trade deadline.
- Matt Adams has done nothing but mash since joining the Braves, though the first baseman knows he could be on the move again once Freddie Freeman returns from the DL, Adams tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While he enjoys playing in Atlanta, “whenever Freddie comes back, wherever the next spot may be…I either finish out the season with Atlanta or go somewhere else,” Adams said. “I’m open to anything right now. I’m taking it day by day.” The interview is well worth a full read, as Adams discusses his time with the Cardinals and his reaction to being dealt last month. Adams has a whopping 1.013 OPS and nine homers over just 114 plate appearances in a Braves uniform, making him a very attractive potential trade chip if Atlanta indeed does look to swap him again at the deadline.
- The Braves have announced that they’ve signed their second-round pick, Georgia high school outfielder Drew Waters. Waters will receive a bonus of $1.5MM, saving the Braves about $175K against the $1,674,600 slot value of the No. 41 pick, as Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America tweets. Waters ranked as MLB.com’s No. 42 talent in the draft, praising his speed and the hard contact he makes at the plate. Baseball America was even higher on him, ranking him No. 23 and praising the switch-hitter’s power as both a lefty and righty. He was committed to the University of Georgia.
7:45am: The Braves have reached an agreement with No. 5 overall pick Kyle Wright, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The Vanderbilt right-hander will receive a bonus worth a bit more than $7MM, placing him well above the $5,707,300 value of his draft slot. FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the two sides were discussing a deal worth close to $7MM. Wright is represented by CAA.
Wright, at one point, was considered to be the likely first overall pick, but draft-day rumors suggested that the Twins had narrowed their choices to Royce Lewis and Brendan McKay, with Lewis ultimately going first. That allowed Wright to drop to the Braves with the fifth overall selection, giving Atlanta the opportunity to pick the player that they had ranked No. 1 on their board, according to scouting director Brian Bridges.
“It’s far-fetched when you get the guy who is still on the board who shouldn’t still be on the board who is advanced for his age,” Bridges said to Bowman. “He brings everything we want to see. He was definitely No. 1 on our board, so we feel really good about where we are.”
Wright was a consensus top five talent, per the pre-draft rankings of Baseball America, ESPN, MLB.com and Fangraphs. The 6’4″, 220-pound righty has drawn praise for a mid-90s fastball that he can run up to 97 mph — the best of his four-pitch mix. Wright is also said to have a curveball that ranges from above-average to plus as well as a slider and a changeup, both of which can be average or better big league offerings. He still has some work to do when it comes to consistently locating his pitches, but most scouting reports on him feel that he’ll ultimately have average or better command in the Majors as well.
Wright joins high school right-hander Shane Baz among first-round picks to reach agreements with their teams already just days after the draft. (Baz agreed to a deal with the Pirates yesterday.) The Braves will spend “approximately $8.7MM” between Wright and their second-round pick, Drew Waters, according to Bowman, which should mean that Waters will agree to a deal in the general vicinity of his $1.675MM slot value.
No. 1 overall draft pick Royce Lewis will take his physical with the Twins soon, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. There aren’t expected to be any hangups in negotiations, per Berardino, who notes that the industry expectation is for Lewis to receive a bonus north of Dansby Swanson’s $6.5MM bonus from the 2015 draft. The top pick in the draft came with a slot value of $7.7MM, and MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger wrote this week that Lewis could sign for around $1MM less than that sum. That’d put his bonus in the $6.5MM to $6.7MM range, saving the Twins anywhere from $1MM to $1.2MM from the slot value. FanRag’s Jon Heyman pegs the expected value at “just a tick over” $6.7MM. Rays top pick Brendan McKay, meanwhile, is expected to sign for somewhere between $7MM and $7.2MM, according to Berardino. That’d be the largest bonus ever given to a college player under the current draft structure, surpassing Kris Bryant’s $6.7MM sum.
More notes on the draft…
- The Twins “crushed” Day 2 of the draft, MLB.com’s Jim Callis opines. Adding high school right-hander Blayne Enlow, a potential first-round talent that dropped due to a strong commitment to LSU, kicked off a day in which Minnesota selected five players that ranked inside MLB.com’s top 200 draft prospects. Enlow, Callis writes, has the best curveball in the draft as well as a fastball that has touched 94 mph and has room to grow as his projectable frame grows. Callis also lauds the White Sox, Dodgers, Red Sox and Brewers for the talent they secured in rounds three through 10. ESPN’s Keith Law agrees that the Twins did quite well to land Enlow with the No. 76 pick and also gives quite a bit of praise to the Athletics, who landed a first-round talent (in his estimation) with the 81st pick by taking shortstop Nick Allen. Law opines that the undersized Allen, who is listed at 5’8″, would’ve been a top 10 pick if he were three inches taller.
- FanRag’s Jon Heyman provides some insight into the progress being made with the top five picks in the draft. The Padres, according to Heyman, are expected to sign No. 3 overall pick MacKenzie Gore, a high school left-hander, for the full slot value of $6,668,100. Reds top pick Hunter Greene, meanwhile, is expected to sign for a deal “close” to the $7,193,200 slot value of his No. 2 overall selection, per Heyman. (Also of note for Reds fans: Heyman spoke to a rival exec who heaped praise on the Reds’ draft, opining that they “won the draft by far.”) And the Braves look to be going well over slot to sign Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, as Heyman reports that they’re discussing a deal worth close to $7MM, while the No. 5 slot carries a value of $5,707,300. Of course, Wright was long rumored to be a potential No. 1 overall pick, so it stands to reason that he’d come with a fairly sizable price tag.
- Baseball America’s John Manuel reported yesterday that Stanford right-hander Tristan Beck, a potential first-round talent that missed the 2017 season due to a stress fracture in his lower back, will not sign and plans to head back to Stanford (Twitter link). That didn’t stop the Yankees from drafting him late (29th round), though New York would obviously need to give him a massive bonus in order to convince him to forgo a return to college, as a healthy Beck would do quite well in next year’s draft. The Yankees may not have the leftover money even to make a legitimate effort to sign Beck, though he makes for a nice contingency plan if the team unexpectedly finds itself with some extra pool money to play with.