When the sun came up Tuesday, the rumors started. One national baseball reporter tweeted that Arizona hoped to land Atlanta pitcher Shelby Miller before the day was over. Then in mid-morning, another scribe went on TV and had the Diamondbacks out of the running.
So when word broke Tuesday night just after 8:00 pm ET that the Braves had, in fact, traded Miller to Arizona, we all waited to find out who was coming back to Atlanta. The first word from reporters was that A.J. Pollock, an outfielder the Braves wanted, was not in the deal.
Then the second news to leak was that Ender Inciarte, a 25-year-old who was Arizona’s primary center fielder last season, was in the trade. Okay, so they had to accept Inciarte instead of Pollock. That had to mean an infielder was coming back to the Braves.
I had a feeling Aaron Blair would be in the trade. If they were trading Miller, you just knew the Braves would want a young pitcher in return. That’s what they’ve done the last 13 months during this rebuild – accumulate pitchers. Blair may be a Miller clone; he’s a tall right-hander with good stuff.
But the intrigue turned into who the infielder might be headed to Atlanta. Maybe third baseman Jake Lamb? Maybe former Braves prospect Brandon Drury? Maybe Lamb and Drury? Perhaps Pete O’Brien, a hitter who has struggled defensively.
A combination of those hitters, even though they are young and unproven, would have worked. I think Inciarte, Blair and one of those hitters would have been okay. It might not have been great, but okay.
Then I got a text from a friend. “Swanson!!!!!!”
I had just started to drive off from the restaurant I was at when the news broke. I almost wrecked. The response will have to be omitted from this story. Let’s just say it’s something said by many when shock has set in.
The Braves actually got the Diamondbacks to put Dansby Swanson in this trade. Dansby Swanson, last June’s number one pick in the draft. He was 1/1, as that player is called. Only 183 days ago, Swanson was the first name called by Commission Rob Manfred as the number one player in the MLB amateur draft.
And he was coming home, to Atlanta.
Wow. What a trade. What a haul. The Braves rebuilding project just took another step in the right direction. They wanted to spin Miller into a significant bat. They not only got that, but as MLB.com’s Jim Callis put it Tuesday night, Dansby is going to be “the face of the franchise.”
That’s exactly what the Braves need. And ironically, the player traded for Swanson is the player acquired for someone who six years ago – also a hometown kid – was considered the face of the franchise. Jason Heyward was traded a year ago, as the Braves knew he’d be too expensive to keep around. And look what they’ve gotten in return.
Now we can say that Heyward was traded to St. Louis with reliever Jordan Walden for pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins (from the Cardinals) and now the players acquired for Miller (along with relief prospect Gabe Speier): Dansby, Inciarte and Blair.
So for Heyward, who was unlikely to ever re-sign with Atlanta, the Braves got their future shortstop – just a month after trading their shortstop to the Angels for two really good pitching prospects, two starting pitching prospects and a potential starting center fielder who still has five years remaining before free agency.
Yeah, that’ll work.
First, it was Jeff Francoeur, and then Heyward. Now Dansby is the latest hometown player to be considered a potential face of the Braves franchise. In this entire rebuilding project, this is what was missing. The position player prospects were just not as impressive as the pitching prospects, at least until now.
The Braves now have that signature player, one that can be on the media guide, one that can be plastered all over Sun Trust Park. Swanson, by all accounts, is charismatic and energetic and has off the charts makeup. And, he’s talented, really talented.
With top shortstop prospect Ozzie Albies, who will now likely move to second base, the Braves have two significant pieces for the future in the middle of the diamond. They know Freddie Freeman is locked up at first base for six more years. They feel like they have a future star in Austin Riley, who will probably play third base in Rome in 2016.
Then there’s this: the Braves have been linked by reporters with shortstop Kevin Maitan, the potential top international player on the market for July 2, 2016. Some believe Maitan is the best international prospect since Miguel Cabrera. A year from now, Maitan could be one of Atlanta’s top prospects.
That would make Atlanta’s position player situation a lot better heading into 2017, and remember, that’s the signature date everyone is concerned about. Sure, they want to be better in 2016 than they were last season, but the goal is to be truly competitive in 2017 when the new park opens and perhaps be a serious contender in 2018.
This trade helps that process. It is a process, and we must remember that. There are more moves, more additions to be made. But the Braves got their future star Tuesday night, and if it works out we might be shaking our heads for a long time wondering just how they pulled this off.
They did it to Arizona back in June, when for some reason the Diamondbacks traded their first round pick from 2014 – young right-handed pitcher Touki Toussaint – to the Braves for Phil Gosselin. Atlanta also picked up Bronson Arroyo’s contract, saving Arizona $10 million dollars. The Braves saved some of that when they traded Arroyo five weeks later to the Dodgers in the Hector Olivera deal.
But that deal, which was basically purchasing Toussaint for $10 million, was lauded as a steal for the Braves. No one could understand why the Diamondbacks would sell Toussaint to the Braves. Now, many are going to wonder about this trade, as well. Why would Arizona do this? Well, they want to win, and they obviously don’t value draft picks like the Braves do.
There was anger about the Andrelton Simmons deal last month, but that should subside now. The Braves have found his replacement. Just think of it that way – like we broke down the Heyward trade… think about this.
FROM ATLANTA: Andrelton Simmons, Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier
TO ATLANTA: Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, Erick Aybar, Aaron Blair, Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte
So for Simmons and Miller, the Braves saved significant money. They got a shortstop for this year (Aybar) and his replacement for 2017 (Swanson), an outfielder who can step right in and start (Inciarte) and three young pitching prospects (Newcomb, Ellis and Blair – with Newcomb (19) and Blair (61) ranked in MLB’s Top 100 prospect list) to replace Miller.
Yeah, that’ll work.
This was yet another great trade for the Braves. Patience is still needed, but with this deal more people can see what the Braves are trying to do. And they’ll likely one day wonder how in the world they got the Diamondbacks to give up the top pick in the draft from just five-plus months ago.
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 email@example.com.