So, as mentioned, the Braves prefer to make major player acquisitions through trades. Given that, we need to figure out who the principal trade targets are, and who the Braves are willing to give up.
People talk about the Cardinals trading Colby Rasmus, whom the Braves should have picked instead of Joey Devine, and no, I am not going to stop bringing that up, but Rasmus isn’t going anywhere in my opinion. It was just a flareup, the sort of thing that happens sometimes, and everybody seemed to have gotten over it by the end of the season. Rasmus is one of the 25 most valuable properties in the game, and his price would be very high, as in “start with Julio Teheran“. Teheran is probably the Braves’ one untouchable prospect.
The trade target of the offseason, right now, seems to be Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. I’m convinced that with the Dodgers’ various divorce-related financial woes, they have to trade someone; trading Kemp instead of Andre Ethier or (better) James Loney is questionable to me, even if Kemp had something of a down year. Kemp will be 26, he is under contract for slightly under $7 million in 2011 with an arbitration year in 2012, he plays a key position, center field, every day (if not particularly well), and his two best comps through Age 25 are Carlos Beltran and Andre Dawson. So there’s a lot to like here. On the other hand, he hit .240 this year (while holding on to most of his secondary offense) and got labeled a malcontent. At any event, there will be a lot of teams bidding on Kemp this offseason if, as expected, the Dodgers offer him. Ethier, if the Dodgers shop him as well or instead, would also be a good target.
After picking over the Dodger roster, what other teams are maybe looking to deal an outfielder? There are, roughly speaking, three types of teams that would be looking to deal a veteran: teams that need to cut payroll, teams that are changing their front office and/or philosophy, and teams that just happen to have spare talent. Not all these teams are good targets. The Rays, for example, are likely to cut payroll severely, but to achieve that will probably just let some highly paid veterans leave as free agents. (It’s possible that they’ll shop The Enigmatic B.J. Upton, whose first name has been legally changed to “The Enigmatic”, but that doesn’t seem like a Braves sort of player acquisition.) The Mets might have a major housecleaning, but dealing within the division is always problematical, plus, well, would you take on Jason Bay‘s contract?
The Mariners no doubt would love to part with Chone Figgins, whose career OPS+ is exactly between his seasonal marks in 2009 (110) and 2010 (84). Figgins is a lot better than he looked this year, a lot worse than he looked in 2009, and is more interesting as a regular-at-several-positions than as a starting outfielder. (During the season, I supported maybe trading for him to fill in the left field black hole for the rest of the year, then replacing Chipper Jones at third base after the latter’s expected retirement, but that’s off the table now.) Little else the Mariners would trade is of interest, as you’d expect from a team that often hit Casey Kotchman third.
There are always the teams that are always trading players, but the problem with these teams is that they usually don’t have very many good players to trade. The A’s, for instance, shed salary every year, but their outfield is putrid other than maybe Coco Crisp, who has an option for 2011. As the A’s are regular Braves trading partners and Crisp has been a reported target in the past, that’s a maybe. Speaking of regular trade partners, there are always the the Royals. David DeJesus, coming off a career year, has a similar situation — a reasonable team option for 2011. Getting him, if that seems desirable, would probably be contingent upon Dayton Moore continuing to overvalue Braves prospects even now that few left in the system were his draftees. The Indians are rapidly turning into Royals-Ohio, and might be willing to part with Shin-Soo Choo, but if they were, that would be one heck of a bidding war, especially as Choo has three arb years left. Again, if the Braves got involved, the asking price would begin with Julio Teheran.
This is really just a starting point for discussion. I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of possibilities.