Atlanta Braves rebuilding project must include accumulating prospects to trade

Braves' GM John Coppolella has many things to do as he continues the process of rebuilding the team, including one item that many miss - accumulating trade bait.

It’s always easy when you watch the playoffs and see the championship-caliber teams to understand why your team is no longer playing. As we’ve watched the last few weeks, it’s obvious the Braves still have a lot of work to do to get back to October baseball.

But as I watched Monday’s game between the Blue Jays and Royals, something else hit me that is not always on the top of the list of things a team must do in a rebuilding project. The Blue Jays have gotten this far in a large part to the contributions from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher David Price.

They were acquired in a three-day span in late July. ‘Tulo’ became a huge presence in Toronto’s lineup, while Price went 9-1 in his 11-start stretch. It’s almost like those two veterans made the Blue Jays a credible contender in the always-tough American League East.

But the Blue Jays had to have the young talent available to make those trades. The farm system had to have enough players available that other teams would want to get the deals done. And that’s something the Braves must do in the rebuilding project.

They must accumulate trade bait – players that they might not believe in but that other teams will be interested in when trades are being discussed.

John Schuerholz was brilliant at this. The former Atlanta general manager always had prospects in his back pocket to make trades. Think of some of the in-season deals Schuerholz made that helped the Braves get to the postseason – Alejandro Pena in 1991, Fred McGriff in 1993, Mike Devereaux in 1995 and Denny Neagle in 1997.

But if the farm system hadn’t been kept up to a high level, even with the team drafting late in each round year after year, those deals would not have been possible. Sure, the farm system is to mainly develop talent to get directly to the big league team. But producing players for possible trades is almost as important.

So as Atlanta continues to stock the farm system, finding players and building depth is crucial. They’ve already improved the farm system from a bottom-five ranked system to a top-five ranked system. But they can’t stop. Expect more trades that will further build the young talent in the minor leagues.

Pitching has been at the forefront of the process, as they acquired a number of arms in trades and then stressed young pitchers in the draft. There will be another draft next June, when they’ll have the third pick in each round. Expect accumulating pitchers to remain at the forefront of the strategy.

That’s why the old saying “You can never have enough pitching” is often used in baseball. It’s so true, as whether it’s getting arms for your roster or to make them available in deals, it is just so important to get as many options as possible. They will use the pitching depth they have created so far to help get more hitters into the organization, but at some point they’ll need players during the season to help them reach the postseason.

Toronto did it very well this season, and whether or not the Blue Jays reach the World Series or not, the moves helped get them where they haven’t been in over 20 years. It’s just another philosophy the Braves must follow to get where they haven’t been in far too long.

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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