In these early stages of the offseason, many on Athletics Nation have looked toward the Atlanta Braves as a potential trade partner. That’s primarily because the Oakland A’s need outfielders, especially a center fielder who can play defense, and the rebuilding Braves have both Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith to fit the bill.
Many of these trade hopes involved the A’s parting with either Sonny Gray or Stephen Vogt. The hope was that the Braves would be looking for a top young starter to have in place before their horde of elite young talent breaks out, and/or that they’d be interested in a popular veteran catcher to help lead the youthful roster and upcoming rookie arms.
However, various reports from around the league make these trade scenarios seem unlikely at the moment.
While the Braves are indeed looking for a catcher, their focus is on defense, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Vogt, on the other hand, gets most of his value from his bat. He’s an inexpensive and beloved All-Star with a decent (if imperfect) fit on Oakland’s roster, so there’s no immediate need for a trade. If the A’s do part with him then they should be doing so because they’re getting a lot in return, and it doesn’t sound like they’ll find that in Atlanta.
As for Sonny, it’s still difficult to gauge the chance that he’s traded at all. Joe Stiglich of CSN recently had Ken Rosenthal on his podcast, and Rosenthal offered the following opinion (transcribed by MLB Trade Rumors):
“I’m not so sure this is the right time to trade him because obviously if he puts together a good first half you’ve got the best guy at the deadline,” Rosenthal said. “At the same time, there’s always the risk he gets hurt again. Maybe he doesn’t bounce back, maybe you lose value.”
That sums up the range of viewpoints here on AN as well, with some wanting to wait for Sonny to bounce back (either for increased trade value, or to be the ace of Oakland’s staff again) and others wanting to sell now before his decline potentially extends or worsens. But when you have a cheap young star player who will hopefully only be dealt for a “Holy Toledo!” package, and folks can’t even agree on if this is a good time to trade him, then that would seem to at least reduce the odds of it happening — especially when there are other similar options on the market, like Chris Sale and Chris Archer.
Indeed, Braves beat writer Mark Bowman reports that Atlanta has interest in all three hurlers, though his writeup focuses on Sale. However, Bowman also notes that the Braves might be wary of giving up the kind of return it might take to secure one — that is, the kind of return they themselves milked out of Arizona for Shelby Miller, and the kind many of us hope the A’s would require for their own star. He also says they’re “reluctant to trade Inciarte,” who is the headliner in many of our trade scenarios here on AN.
None of this rules out a Sonny trade to Atlanta, nor to any other potential suitor. It’s just a reminder that everyone else has the same questions about him that we do, and that despite the thin overall market there is in fact competition for pitchers of his profile. All of that means it’ll be difficult to find the kind of return that would satisfy many of us.
Question for the comments: If you had to design a package around Mallex Smith instead of Inciarte, which pitching prospects would you want from Atlanta in a Sonny trade? Or would you only part with him if Inciarte is included? Or not at all this winter, no matter what?