Braves need to trade Gattis now

Will Evan Gattis really be in LF next season, or is that just posturing for a trade?

John Hart has tried to downplay the availability of Evan Gattis. It’s pretty obvious Justin Upton is up for trade, but Hart has talked more about Gattis playing left field in Atlanta next year than having him on the trade block.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, Hart is trying to protect Gattis’ value. It would lessen his trade stock if Hart just talked all day about how he wants to trade Gattis. Second, with all the rumors out there, if the Braves don’t trade Gattis they don’t want him to return with a sour attitude thinking the team tried to trade him all offseason.

Fredi Gonzalez told reporters Tuesday it’s possible for Gattis to catch a couple of times a week next season. Christian Bethancourt is expected to be the primary catcher. But again, if Gattis is still on the roster, the Braves have to set the stage for what his role will be in 2015.

But I’m not buying any of it. Frankly, I think the Braves want to trade Gattis. They have to be worried about Gattis breaking down physically. He only played in 96 games last season. Gattis started 89 games behind the plate, so that’s just over half of the season. He did get hurt, and that was with manager Fredi Gonzalez treated him carefully giving Gattis frequent days off.

If the Braves play Gattis in left field more regularly, there will already be concerns about his defense. But can a player Gattis’ size keep up physically playing in the outfield?

It’s doubtful. Look, this big kid is a good athlete. But Gattis will be 29 next summer, so he’s already a bit older. And there are concerns about Gattis’ body. There are concerns that if he was the starting left fielder, for example, that Gattis could not start more than 100 games.

That’s why the Braves need to trade Gattis. He is a designated hitter. The guy needs to hit and not worry about having a glove in his hand to play the field. I know he would probably prefer to catch or to play left field. Gattis has a lot of pride and enjoys being more of a complete player. But if he was a full-time designated hitter, Gattis would be the best one in the American League.

It’s not that he’s horrific in the field. But Gattis can hit so well that he needs to protect his body by simply walking up to the plate and swinging the bat. That’s how Gattis can make a fortune and become a super star.

Gattis has four years remaining under control, so that should carry significant value. Teams should be knocking down the Braves door to get this guy. And if the Braves are trying to package B.J. Upton or Chris Johnson with Gattis, they’re making a big mistake.

The Braves need to get maximum value for Gattis. They need to get a really good pitching prospect (or two) along with maybe someone who can help immediately in 2015. This organization needs talent, and it needs a lot of it. They need to get several players for Gattis, and they would only minimalize his value if they forced a team to take another unwanted player in a trade.

Gattis does not need to be in left field. The Braves are not sure if they’ll have B.J. Upton in center field or not, but they would need Andruw Jones in his prime to cover the outfield adequately with Gattis in left. Could he hit enough to justify his mediocre defense in left field? Perhaps, but don’t believe the pitchers wearing an Atlanta uniform are going to love having Gattis out there in left field.

But I believe Gattis will be traded. I think the Braves recognize his value may never be higher. If something happens and his body breaks down, they may lose that value that he has right now. So at some point this winter, Gattis will likely be dealt in a deal that should net Atlanta a significant amount of talent in return.

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 email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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