Braves Dump Risk, Exchange It for Risk by Jeff Sullivan July 30, 2015 Update: the Braves are reportedly also sending Bronson Arroyo to the Dodgers, which works out to saving about $8 million. So, that’s a small benefit for Atlanta, which isn’t discussed below. — Update No. 2: the Dodgers are taking on some of Arroyo’s money, but not all of it. So the Braves are saving less than that $8 million. Glad we could get this straightened out. — A valuable lesson we all learned yesterday is that a trade isn’t official until it’s officially official. In the case of this trade, it still isn’t totally complete, so, who knows? Something else we’re aware of is that the structure is complicated. As the Braves, Dodgers, and Marlins work through their three-way exchange, this seems like the current picture of the Braves’ side of things: Get: Hector Olivera Paco Rodriguez Zachary Bird Competitive balance draft pick Lose: Alex Wood Jose Peraza Jim Johnson Luis Avilan Because it isn’t official, it could always fall apart. Alternatively, it could always change its form. Beyond that, even if this does go down as understood, there are plenty of moving parts. Real people, having their lives changed in an instant! A draft pick, just after the first round! So what I’m about to do is over-simplify, but what this is really about, from the Braves’ perspective, is swapping Wood and Peraza for Olivera. The rest of it more or less cancels out, given the cost of relievers at the deadline. The Braves, perhaps, weren’t comfortable with the risk of keeping Wood and Peraza around. They’re more comfortable with the risk of Olivera, who they tried hard to sign only a few months back. At first glance, this seems like an insufficient return. Peraza’s young, and he entered the season as a top-50 prospect. Baseball America’s midseason update put him at No. 26. That was a ranking between Raul Mondesi and David Dahl, a few slots ahead of Jeff Hoffman. Wood, meanwhile, is a big-league-proven starting pitcher, who’s had some excellent stretches, and who’s going to be cheap for a while. Olivera is 30, and he still doesn’t have 100 professional trips to the plate. He recently spent time on the disabled list, and health questions have long lingered around. If you don’t like the Braves’ side, this is the whole argument. They gave up too much control for an older player who has yet to prove anything. Certainly, the Dodgers are pleased. But the Braves have their reasons for doing this, and it goes beyond just being fans of Olivera. There’s a sense there was danger in hanging on to Peraza. And the same goes for Wood. If the Braves felt like Peraza and Wood would only diminish in value, then it makes sense to move them now. And if they think Olivera’s about ready, then, sure, he’s 30, but he’s not 35 or 36. It’s not like he’s on the verge of retirement. Peraza is 21 years old. He’s spent the year at Triple-A, and 21-year-olds in Triple-A are either good prospects or emergency call-ups. That’s the starting point. He’s super fast, and that speed’ll be with him for a while. Peraza makes a lot of contact, and he’s made a smooth transition from shortstop to second base. Problems? He’s still short of ten career homers. And he’s drawn 12 unintentional walks all season. Peraza is a ball-in-play sort, not a disciplined sort, and if he has power, he’s just about never shown it. His offensive ceiling, then, is questionable, as high-level competition could exploit his weaknesses. If you want to give him a lot of the benefit of the doubt, maybe his hit tool matures into something like Jose Altuve’s. Maybe he’ll come up and bunt and slap the ball like Dee Gordon. But then he could also become a Tony Womack, a slap-hitting utility player, and that’s hardly a useful player at all. The Braves don’t love Peraza’s offensive skills, and he hasn’t hit well overall this year. He still has that prospect glow, but it doesn’t last forever, when a player isn’t performing. If you think Peraza’s stock is headed downhill, then, going downhill doesn’t go up. This would then be a fine time to deal. Wood is a little bit similar, in that, even though he’s more proven, 2015 has raised a few questions. Because of the way that Wood throws the ball, people have forever been expecting him to blow up, and though that hasn’t happened, there’s some velocity drop, here. More significantly, Wood’s strikeouts are down, as his contact rate has soared north. Generally speaking, we suck at knowing which pitchers are headed for surgery, but even just on a performance basis, Wood might be declining. Throw in the health questions and, again, you can see why maybe the Braves wanted to relieve themselves of this risk. If they think Wood is getting worse or headed for an operation, then, what good would he be to them? Enter Olivera. Yeah, he’s 30. Yeah, he has all of 31 plate appearances in Triple-A. There’s a different sort of risk, here. We still don’t have a great idea of what he’ll be as a major leaguer, and if anything he’s moving away from his physical prime. But, Olivera is a hitter. A hitter with power, unlike Peraza. He’s close to being ready to come up, so he can help in short order, and he fills an organizational need what with the decline of Rio Ruiz. And, from 2016 – 2020, Olivera is signed, for $32.5 million. There’s also a cheap option at the end in case Olivera requires elbow surgery. This is almost a cost-controlled quality hitter. Instead, it’s a cost-controlled potential quality hitter, but if the Braves didn’t believe in him, they wouldn’t have tried so hard to sign him in the first place. We can take nothing for granted, but if Olivera begins as even just a league-average third baseman, then he stands to be a bargain. Average players cost more than $32.5 million over five years. Moving away from 30 would presumably see Olivera decline, but probably not too sharply. And if Olivera were better than average? Then the value skyrockets. The Braves know that. The risk is that Olivera doesn’t stay healthy, or he just can’t adjust to major-league pitching, so this could end up wasted money, but what if Wood falls apart? What if Peraza doesn’t hit? The Braves are trading a 24-year-old and a 21-year-old for a 30-year-old, but there’s reason to believe the younger guys are already declining, while the 30-year-old is about ready to help. Follow that argument, and the Braves are being proactive here, moving assets before they lose their value for a bat that they like. This isn’t to say the Braves are unquestionably doing the right thing. Maybe they’re wrong about Wood. Maybe Peraza develops a better hit tool, and he’s a good cheap player for years. Maybe there was more out there to get than Olivera. But then, we already knew the Braves liked Olivera, so you put your faith in their scouting. You do the same thing with regard to the two players going away. Lots of ways to see this going poorly. But the Braves’ reasons are legitimate and justifiable. And now they have something they didn’t have before.