Projecting the Prospects in the Brian Matusz Trade

Last night, the Baltimore Orioles dealt Brian Matusz and the 76th overall pick in the draft to Atlanta for minor-league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. As lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen noted on Twitter, the $838,900 in bonus money tied to that pick bumps the Braves’ draft and international bonus pool up to $13.2 million, which gives them the third-largest pool in baseball. Only the Reds and Phillies have more.

Neither of the two pitchers involved cracked Baseball America’s top-30 prospect list for Atlanta heading into the year, which tells you just about everything you need to know about them: they’re fringy. Barker did earn a mention on our Braves list, but was relegated to the “Quick Hits” section.

Brandon Barker is a 23-year-old righty who’s had a moderate amount of success in a starting capacity. He spun a 3.25 ERA and 3.49 FIP in 147 innings last year, but did so with an unremarkable 18% strikeout rate. The Braves bumped him up to Double-A this year, where he’s had a good deal of success. His strikeout rate has ticked up over 22%, resulting in a 2.00 ERA and 3.46 FIP. KATOH pegs him 0.9 WAR over his first six years in the majors.

Trevor Belicek was drafted as a starter in the 16th round of last year’s amateur draft, but has worked exclusively out of the bullpen this year. He seems to have taken well to his new role. In 28 innings pitched, the southpaw has spun a 2.50 FIP with a 28% strikeout rate. However, he’s made just one appearance above Low-A, so he’s completely untested against polished hitters. The outlook for 23-year-old Low-A relievers isn’t great, so KATOH pegs him for 0.3 WAR over his first six years in the majors.

The two minor-league arms headed to Baltimore have pitched well in the minors this year, but since they’re both 23 and don’t have much of a track record, they aren’t really prospects. It’s unlikely they’ll make any sort of noticeable impact at the big-league level. Matusz was once a top prospect, but he’s an unremarkable lefty reliever these days. He’s been all sorts of terrible this year, and the Braves have already designated him for assignment. The real asset trading hands here is the bonus-pool money. The Braves are essentially agreeing to take on the remainder of Matusz’s one-year, $3.9 million contract in exchange for more spending power in the draft.

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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7 years ago

How much negative value does this deal have to assume for Matusz? I can’t imagine that they’d trade the pick for those two non-prospects without including him.