Ever since the Braves made a shocking swoop to bring in Alex Anthopoulos as their new General Manager, plenty of observers have made note of the fact that Anthopoulos has a track record for making big, splashy acquisitions. While we did see the Braves get together with the Dodgers for a grand salary dump, that wasn’t really a huge trade that moved the meter for the team as far as 2018 was concerned. With that being said, the current trade rumor surrounding the Braves would definitely count as being a splashy trade.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Braves have been showing interest in trading for J.T. Realmuto and Christian Yelich. Yes, both of them.
Realmuto has spent the past two seasons establishing himself as one of the top young catchers in baseball (as this article from FanGraphs will attest to) and Yelich has been consistently good in the outfield and has proven to be a solid 4 fWAR outfielder for the past few seasons. Yelich is on a contract that is still very team-friendly and Realmuto is still on a base salary, which means that both players would easily fit into the Braves payroll and also still give them a decent amount of financial flexibility to play with heading into 2019.
With that in mind, the price to acquire one of those players via trade would have been steep to begin with. Getting them both in a deal would probably require a major investment from the Braves both in current major league talent and prospects as well. Morosi made sure to make note of the obvious caveat, which is that the Braves definitely have the prospect depth to make a deal happen. I’d imagine that if the Braves did try to swing a trade for both Yelich and Realmuto, their farm system would take a huge hit in the process and go from “elite” to maybe the top of “middle-of-the-road” status.
Still, you never know how prospects will turn out — especially ones who aren’t close to being ready for the bigs. Meanwhile, Realmuto and Yelich are two players who have proven that they can be very good at the major league level and you have to figure that front offices will take the known commodity over the unknown any day of the week, which is why it’s definitely feasible to see Anthopoulos potentially leverage a big chunk of a the farm in order to bring in two young players who could lift the Braves into the Wild Card conversation right now.
Morosi wasn’t done when it came to Braves speculation. He also added that the Braves are also apparently trying to sign a starting pitcher as well. Again, Atlanta’s financial flexibility following this season plays a huge role here, as Morosi noted that the Braves could actually go after one of the high-end starters on the market right now (such as Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) by backloading any contracts that they may decide to hand out.
While the crew here mostly figured that the Braves would stay in-house with their starting rotation options, this definitely adds an interesting wrinkle to whatever plans the team may have for 2018 and beyond. The Braves could have a decent rotation if the young hurlers like Luiz Gohara and Sean Newcomb emerge as legitimate major league talents, but again, if you give most front offices the option of bringing in a talented, established, and productive major leaguer over bedding in a prospect, they’ll probably take the former option.
Morosi did make sure to note that nothing was imminent here, but it’s still fascinating to think about. If the Braves are involved in rumors like this, you have to feel like the new regime believes that the organization is probably ready to enter into the next phase of the rebuild, which is actual contention.
Whether that means that they’re going to give their in-house prospects and players the reigns or if they’re going to go out and bring in some significant talent via trade or free agency, it’s clear that the team is gearing up to take a jump to the next level.