Is a Tampa Bay Rays-Atlanta Braves Blockbuster Trade Coming?
By Robbie Knopf
The Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves are two teams primed to make major trades this offseason. For the Rays, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce are likely to be dealt and they could also listen on players like Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings. The Braves, meanwhile, have a prime trade asset in Evan Gattis and have been willing to trade away Mike Minor to unload B.J. Upton‘s contract.
Right now, the players we are hearing the most about are Hellickson and Gattis. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that Hellickson could soon be traded to a National League team while Gattis is being inquired about aplenty by American League teams. Could we see the two players traded as part of a bigger deal between the two teams?
The Rays and Braves would never do a straight swap of Jeremy Hellickson for Evan Gattis–Gattis’ trade value is far higher at this point. However, both teams would be interested in some of the others’ trade candidates.
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Evan Gattis has been an excellent hitter the last two years, but his trade value is limited somewhat for a few different reasons. He is a poor defender at catcher and in left field, his lack of plate discipline is concerning, and he also has dealt with injuries each of the last three seasons. Desmond Jennings Jennings isn’t perfect either–it would be nice if he hit better against right-handed pitching and stole more bases–but he has cemented himself as a slightly above-average centerfielder with the upside to be a little more.
Jennings was worth more wins above replacement than Gattis in 2014 according to both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, and Jennings has stayed steady at that level the last three years. While Jennings doesn’t have a tool stand stands out as much as Gattis’ power, his all-around abilities make him more valuable. It seems a little crazy, but if the Braves asked for Jennings in exchange for Gattis, the Rays would ask them to add another player into the deal. The difference between Jennings and Gattis, though, could be mostly offset by the difference between Hellickson and Minor.
If the Rays traded Jeremy Hellickson to the Braves for Mike Minor, it would certainly count as a change-of-scenery type of deal. Hellickson was excellent in his first two big league seasons, but he struggled mightily in 2013 before rebounding only marginally after returning this season. Minor, meanwhile, was mediocre his first two seasons, incredible in 2013, and then had his disastrous year in 2014. The two pitchers’ values can’t be so far off, but Minor gets the edge because he found success more recently and has an additional year of team control remaining. That turns out to be convenient for everyone in this case.
A trade of Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson for Evan Gattis and Mike Minor and a mid-level prospect could make a lot of sense for both sides. The Rays would get an offensive upgrade while the Braves would get a centerfield improvement. The two teams would also be interested to see how Minor and Hellickson respectively would do in their new locales. The fit between the two teams stands out more when we remember what happened at the trade deadline, when teams were exceedingly reluctant to give up prospects. While the Braves would have to give up one decent minor leaguer, the fact that this trade is built around build league pieces works well with the current baseball landscape.
Of course, there are a variety of questions that would would have to be answered before this deal came to fruition. Are the Tampa Bay Rays really willing to deal Jennings? Would they acquire Minor despite their pitching depth? Would the Atlanta Braves be willing to trade Minor without Upton going anywhere? Most importantly, could either team get more value for their trade chips separately than they would get in one big deal like this? At the very least, though, we can say one thing: as we hear the rumors about Jeremy Hellickson Hellickson and Evan Gattis, don’t be surprised if some of them overlap.