The Braves have made some confusing moves this offseason, but acquiring Manny Banuelos from the Yankees for David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve makes a lot of sense, and it fits in with a recent trend of acquiring once-elite prospects who battled some issues in the past couple years.
Banuelos, 23 and a left-handed pitcher, has seemingly been around baseball forever, making multiple appearances in top-100 prospect lists. He was rated as the 12th best prospect in the game by Keith Law in 2011 and came in at No. 23 the following year. He hasn't lived up to that billing as of yet because of Tommy John Surgery that required him to miss the entire 2013 season, and a handful of writers have mentioned he didn't look like his normal self in 2014 as he shook off the rust from surgery.
From a recent ESPN New York article:
It would be easy to trace Banuelos' problems to the Tommy John surgery, but an organizational source refused to give Banuelos that out when I spoke with him Thursday night. "Last year, his stuff just wasn't as good," the source said. "He's had control problems and he's only been able to throw 100 innings in the past three years."
Needless to say, 2015 is a big year for the former top-prospect. And that's why the trade makes sense for the rebuilding (reloading? rethinking?) Braves.
Two years ago, the Yankees would've laughed if a team offered two relief pitchers for Banuelos. The last 24 months have diminished his value substantially, but that hardly means Banuelos can't be a big league starter down the road. His upside is likely that of a No. 3 starter, and considering the current state of Atlanta's roster, this is a gamble worth taking.
Carpenter will be missed in the late innings, but his price will start going up as he hits arbitration next winter. The club's recent signings of Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli made him a bit redundant in the bullpen. Johnson and Grilli may struggle in 2015 after rough 2014 campaigns, but the Braves, currently projected for about 72 wins, have bigger issues than who will pitch the seventh inning.
Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweeted this on Thursday:
@scottcoleman55 So yeah, you always jump at the chance to strengthen the future by trading a reliever for an upside starter— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) January 2, 2015
The front office has loaded up on former top prospects this offseason, from Arodys Vizcaino to Tyrell Jenkins to Max Fried. Banuelos fits that criteria as well, and the Braves will now hope Roger McDowell can rediscover some of the stuff that once made him a top-50 prospect prior to surgery. It sounds like Banuelos will be given every opportunity to win the fifth spot in the rotation in the spring.
For the cost of two relievers without much of a future in Atlanta beyond 2015, this move could be a real bright spot for John Hart and John Coppolella when we look back on it down the road. It's a low-risk trade with plenty of upside – these are the kinds of deals the Braves need to be making in order to get back to the top of the division.