Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported Thursday that the Braves have told some teams they may be willing to trade right-hander Jair Jurrjens and left fielder Martin Prado.
This is no surprise at all, and from our sources, the Braves are committed to finding an offensive left fielder. The price may include Jurrjens and/or Prado to make a trade happen.
Prado played left field in 2011, and while he did a decent job in the field, his offense suffered. His numbers were not what the Braves needed from a left fielder. He can’t go back to second base, with Dan Uggla now there. So then the Braves have to answer one more question.
Is Prado the replacement for Chipper Jones at third base? I say no. Prado proved last year that while he can play other positions, he is a second baseman. Prado can play third base, but he’ll always be a second baseman playing elsewhere if he remains in Atlanta.
The Braves know they are limited in the positions they can fill. First base, second base, third base, catcher and center field are all pretty much set for 2012. So that leaves left field, right field, and shortstop.
Right field brings up the Jason Heyward dilemma. I do believe the Braves will listen if a team calls about Heyward. It doesn’t mean they will pull the trigger, but they’ll listen.
Shortstop is another issue. Sources say there is a split in the front office on whether or not Tyler Pastornicky is ready to be the everyday shortstop. There is a good debate going on about Pastornicky’s ceiling, with some skeptical that he can be effective as an everyday player.
The Braves might bring in a veteran that could start if needed, but could also move over if Pastornicky proves he can handle the job. It’s a similar situation to the 2000 season, when they believed Rafael Furcal was close, but they kept veteran Walt Weiss around just in case Furcal wasn’t ready.
So that leaves left field, and the Braves believe they could get someone better than Prado to produce serious offensive production. And that’s why Prado may be expendable.
He’s two years away from free agency, and it’s doubtful the Braves would offer a long-term contract. So this would be the perfect offseason to trade Prado to get something of value.
And Prado would still have value. It’s not as great as it might have been last year, but teams that need a second baseman would be (STL, ARZ, LAD, COL, TOR, DET, MIN) idiotic to not look into Prado.
As for Jurrjens, we’ve jokingly called him “trade bait” for about two years. The main reason is we knew the Braves were assembling tremendous pitching depth, and that eventually if they needed a bat they would have to trade a starting pitcher.
Jurrjens is the perfect candidate. Like Prado, Jurrjens is two years away from free agency, so this is the best time to trade him. He’s been hurt, so teams will want some assurances that he’s healthy. But remember when GM Frank Wren made a point after the season to talk about how healthy Jurrjens looked in that Instructional League game he pitched the day after Atlanta’s season ended?
Jurrjens would probably flourish in another atmosphere. He was terrific last year in the first half, but the injuries ruined his second half of the season. Some wonder if he is too injury prone, while others wonder if he would have some of the injuries in a less-pressured environment outside of Atlanta.
Atlanta’s depth allows them to shop Jurrjens. They already have Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado. That’s six pitchers, and even if Hanson is slow to return due to shoulder issues, the Braves still have enough starters even if Jurrjens is dealt. And don’t forget Kris Medlen, who could start if needed.
If there was a team that needed a veteran, but young starting pitcher Jurrjens would be an ideal candidate. That’s why it was no surprise Kansas City was mentioned in Bowman’s report.
The Royals need a veteran arm to compliment the young starting pitchers they have in the rotation. Jurrjens would be a solid addition to join Luke Hochevar, Danny Duffy and others (Mike Montgomery maybe) that could come up from the minor leagues.
Kansas City has a lot of great prospects, and they may be willing to part with a couple to get a pitcher like Jurrjens, who would really fit well there. Bowman mentioned that Atlanta has interest in Wil Myers and Lorenzo Cain, two right-handed hitting outfielders.
Bingo. That’s exactly what the Braves need. They already have left-handed hitters at catcher, first base, center field and right field. Chipper Jones is a switch-hitter, while Dan Uggla is a right-handed hitter. So the Braves could use another right-handed power hitter.
Both Myers and Cain are southern boy, and you have to wonder if they grew up loving the Braves. Myers went to high school in High Point, North Carolina, while Cain is from Valdosta, Georgia near the Florida border.
Myers is considered a power-hitter in the same mold as Eric Hosmer, who had a great rookie season for the Royals. He came up as a catcher, but he’s been moved to left field.
The Braves had interest in Cain last year, when he was still with the Brewers. There even was a Brandon Beachy-for-Cain rumor at the winter meetings in Orlando. The talk was that Braves’ super scout Jim Fregosi loved Cain as a potential leadoff man.
Of course, in the meantime, Atlanta acquired Michael Bourn. But he’s due to become a free agent at the end of 2012. If the Braves got Cain, he could be a potential replacement for Bourn if they decide to let him leave via free agency.
This was the first real rumor of the offseason. If the Braves are, in fact, putting Jurrjens name out there to see what he could fetch, they’ll take their time in weeding through offers. Teams will try and get Jurrjens for $0.80 on the dollar, but if Jurrjens is checked out healthy they will probably be tempted to pull the trigger.
Atlanta should be able to see what kind of hitters they can get if they traded Jurrjens and/or Prado. But either way, they have a serious chance to improve the roster with a trade involving one or both of these two players.
One of the Atlanta columnists this week wondered if the Derek Lowe-to-Cleveland trade would be the only big move of the offseason. Well, that was just wrong. The Braves are being aggressive in finding another significant bat, and left field could be the prime position to find a new bat.
They may pursue a free agent. Michael Cuddyer would actually be a perfect fit. He’s a right-handed hitter with power, and he could also play third base when Chipper needs a rest. There will be a competitive market for Cuddyer, and that might limit the Braves interest.
They could look into Grady Sizemore, and despite what another Atlanta writer suggested, Sizemore would be a very good candidate. He’s had injury issues, and that might prove Sizemore needs to be in left field instead of center field. He would be worth a good gamble, but again like Cuddyer there will be a huge market for Sizemore’s services.
Atlanta will look for a right-handed bat for the outfield, but it might be hard finding a veteran. They could have choices with lefty hitters, like an Andre Ethier possibly. And that’s why they may have to find a young prospect like Myers that could develop into a top player and be cheap for a few years at the same time.
The Braves are going to be aggressive this offseason. Sure, they are limited financially where they can’t get involved in the bigger free agents. But they have the trade chips to be significant on the trade front.
This Kansas City rumor is probably the first of many we’ll hear in the next six weeks. And it also proves that we’re in for an active winter, as Wren tries to get the Braves offense back on track.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.