The Atlanta Braves have been one of the major surprises in Major League Baseball this year and hold a 3 1/12 game lead in the NL East entering Thursday's games. With the league’s trade deadline now about a month away, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos explained how the team will approach potential deals.
Anthopoulos appeared on AJC Braves beat writer David O’Brien’s podcast and discussed his vision for handling the MLB trade deadline on July 31. Anthopoulos explained to O’Brien that the perceived issue of money won’t be the biggest factor in whether the Braves make a deal; instead, it’s the fact the organization wants to hold onto many of their prized prospects.
In March, MLB.com named the Braves’ farm system the second best in baseball, with eight players in the top 100. In Anthopoulos’ opinion, there’s no need to deplete that system this summer.
“I think the biggest challenge for us is the prospect capital we would have to surrender,” Anthopoulos told O’Brien. “Prior to me stepping foot here, there’s a lot of pain that people went through to put this thing together to have some of these great, young players, and we’re very mindful of not depleting that. If you want to go out and get three, four, five spots, you’re rarely trading a one-for-one, so now you’re talking three-for-ones or four-one-ones.
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“You do that three or four times, and that’s 12 guys. That can really take a hit. For the most part, those are guys you keep for two months. If it’s guys with some [contractual] control, that’s fine.”
Teams have already started making trades this season, most notably NL East foe Washington trading with Kansas City for reliever Kelvin Herrera, a player some thought the Braves would pursue. Although Anthopoulos did not name Herrera specifically, he intimated such a deal would have cost the Braves too much.
“People that have been traded, we’re aware of what it would have cost the Braves to go out and do it,” Anthopoulos said. “We elected not to pursue — maybe pursue is a strong word — we clearly elected not to make any deals right now. I can tell you that the stumbling block for us has not been money, though it’s certainly part of it. More so than anything else, it’s the players that we would have to surrender and the number of players we would have to surrender.”
To illustrate the importance of prospects, Anthopoulos brought up a situation he faced as Toronto Blue Jays general manager in 2014.
With third baseman Brett Lawrie hurt, the Blue Jays eyed San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley to fill the void and help the team stay in contention. San Diego, however, asked for second-year center fielder Kevin Pillar as well as minor-league pitcher Sean Nolin in return.
Toronto ultimately passed on the deal. Pillar remains the Blue Jays’ starting center fielder and helped the team win the AL East in 2015. Nolin was later dealt with Lawrie and two other players to the Oakland Athletics for Josh Donaldson.
“If we made that move [for Headley], on the surface it may have been fine, but from the prospect capital we would have had to dip into it and potentially use some other guys in a Donaldson deal,” Anthopoulos said. “Maybe Daniel Norris would have been the guy going in the Donaldson deal, and now we can’t use Norris in the [David] Price deal. That’s more of a stumbling block for us — the number of prospects that you have to give up.
“Depth is going to be important for us. We have to be careful with how many of these guys we trade, so we better be sure that we’re addressing the right area.”