Braves need to trade Evan Gattis

The Braves will undoubtedly be active this winter. Trading Evan Gattis might be their biggest move.

Evan Gattis is a power hitter. You’ve seen him hit, right? Do I really need to provide any statistics to prove the point, or does his vicious swing show you all you need to know?

Here are some stats, anyway. In his two seasons in the Major Leagues, Gattis has hit 43 home runs in 723 at bats. That’s a home run every 18.2 plate appearance. By comparison, here are the same ratios for other Braves players for their careers: Justin Upton (26.3), Freddie Freeman (30.4), Jason Heyward (33.5) and B.J. Upton (36.6).

Power is down around the big leagues. A study that was posted last month in an article had the current rate of home runs per team per game at 0.88, which is the lowest rate since 1992 (0.72).

So teams are going to look for players that can hit home runs, even with seeing teams in the World Series that don’t really need to hit home runs to win games. If you don’t have a home run hitter, you’re still going to look for one if one is available.

Gattis is 28 years old. Catchers are becoming like running backs. They’re usually done behind the plate when they reach 30 years old. Gattis was never a tremendous defensive catcher anyway, and his body broke down a bit this year when handed the full-time job after Brian McCann left via free agency.

The question the Braves must ask: “How many years does Gattis have left behind the plate?” This would be a relevant question regardless of whether or not there was anyone ready to take Gattis’ place. But there is someone ready to take Gattis’ place, which makes the situation somewhat inevitable.

Christian Bethancourt is ready to be a full-time catcher in the big leagues. He is not perfect, and Bethancourt will need to continue to improve on defense, even with his reputation as one of the best young defensive catchers in the game. But he really doesn’t need more time in Triple-A.

So it’s a pretty easy call, isn’t it? The Braves need help in many areas. They do not have a good farm system at all. There’s a talent void that can really only be helped by making trades. Sure, they need better drafts, but that’s going to take some time to see improvements on the field. There might be a player or two that can help in the next two seasons, but it is going to take longer to see those players get to the show.

This team needs to make trades. The Braves need to shake up this roster, so there will be moves. But the player most teams will want will be Gattis.

He’s under control for four more seasons. He is still inexpensive, as he is still a year away from arbitration. Add all that up and you have the player on the Atlanta roster with perhaps the most value on the trade market.

Teams in the American League will look at Gattis as someone that could possibly get 600 plate appearances or more if he can be the designated hitter for some games. They can still put him behind the plate at times. Gattis can also play first base if needed and even in left field. That is a very valuable commodity.

Sure, it’s valuable for the Braves, too, but Gattis needs to be in the AL. He needs to get a large portion of his plate appearances as a DH. He will put up tremendous numbers and will save his body by not playing 90-plus games behind the plate. Gattis will extend his career if he’s on an American League roster.

Why would the Braves want to trade a true power hitter, when they need more of those type hitters themselves? Well, how did that power-hitting philosophy work for them last year? Perhaps the Braves need some different type of hitters. They need quantity, too, as well as quality. They need to make a trade where they trade one player and get several back.

Add all of this up and you see why the Braves must trade Gattis. The Braves may be tempted to simply trade one or more of their outfielders and put Gattis in left field. But come on. Really? Gattis tried and played hard when he was in left field (48 games) in 2013, but he’s not a left fielder.

So expect Gattis to be traded. Expect the Braves to shop him to the highest bidder. Perhaps Gattis is the player that would have to be packaged to get B.J. Upton out of Atlanta? Perhaps Gattis is the player that can get the Braves a starting pitcher and a future outfielder, since they will need one after Jason Heyward and/or Justin Upton leave via free agency after the 2015 season.

The Braves need talent, and Evan Gattis will get them more talent when he’s traded this offseason. This should be issue one of the offseason agenda for new man-in-charge John Hart.

Gattis is a great young man. He’s got a great story and has had a tremendous run the last two years. But this is a business, and the Braves must take advantage of Gattis’ value and make a major trade this winter.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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