The Braves have come into the offseason ready to wheel and deal, looking to clear roster space and payroll as they continue to infuse their big league roster with young talent. Atlanta already gave away starter Derek Lowe to Cleveland—eating $10M and saving $5M for their trouble—and made arbitration eligibles Jair Jurrjens and Prado, 28, available in trade.
This is where I start not liking the idea of acquiring Prado. If the Rockies trade for Prado, they will have to pay him nearly $4.5M in arbitration for 2012. This after he just had a brutal year in Atlanta that saw him hit .260 and play only 129 games because of a staff infection. That is simply not a good deal if you're the one paying.
Prado's value lies in his defensive versatility and batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Most teams would want Prado to play either second or third base because those positions are more offensively challenged than corner outfield. However, Prado doesn't carry real value as a defender in the infield, merely deriving value from being passable at positions toward the left side of the spectrum. In other words, Prado absolutely needs to hit to have value, let alone come close to being worth $4.5M.
This is where the case for Prado falls apart. Some may see Prado's career .293 batting average, notice his .260 mark last year and think he's a good buy-low candidate. This is not the case once you put Prado's season and career into context. Prado has never been known to strike out or walk a lot at the plate. His offensive strategy starts with putting the ball in play, which we can see from the fact he's only been retired on strikes or walked in 17.9% of his career appearances. In the two and a half years prior to '11, Prado batted over .300 as his BABIP was always above .331 and his line drive percentage was anywhere from 19.8 to 22.9 (According to FanGraphs).
In '11, he was a different player. Prado failed to make consistent solid contact as his LD% fell all the way to 14%. He also watched his ground ball and fly ball rate creep up while his HR/FB% dissipated and his BABIP crashed back to earth (.335 to .266). That's how you drop 47 points of batting average in a season.
Now, there's no way to know how much Prado's staph infection had to due with his decrease in production, but it's probably fair to say it's not just a coincidence. Still, going back to Prado's second half in 2010, the writing for his offensive decline was on the wall. Since the All-Star break in '10, he is 206-for-778 (.264) with a .308 On-base Percentage.
That's not at all what the Rockies should be looking for in the number two spot in the order, especially from a player who is a finished product and will cost the club not only in arbitration but also in a return player. If Prado was a free agent, it might be a different story, but I don't see how the Rockies can justify the cost in payroll and players to trade for Prado. If they do, they'll be making a huge mistake.