With the emergence of catcher, Evan Gattis, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Atlanta Braves is what will they do with Brian McCann next season? McCann made his big league debut in 2005, and since then, he's been a lifelong Brave, and has made 6 All-Star appearances. In his 9 year career, he's hit for a solid .280 with 166 homeruns. Since the Braves are competing for first place, trading McCann for high level prospects is not an option, especially with Gattis on the DL. That means they have just two options. Let him walk, or resign him. Even though he's played with the Braves for 9 years, he's still only 30 years old, so he still has a lot left in the tank. Because of this, I think the Braves will resign McCann to a 3 year/$36 million deal. The breakdown of this contract would be very similar to his current one.
If McCann is resigned with the Braves, there would be no plays for Evan Gattis. This could lead to Gattis either being traded for high level prospects, or splitting time behind the dish with Brian McCann, along with some appearances in the outfield. Before straining his oblique, Gattis was having a pretty good rookie season. At .252, his batting average isn't too impressive, but he does have significant power. In just 53 games, he's already hit 14 homeruns, along with 37 RBIs. What's so amazing about Gattis is that even though he has so much power, he always seems to put the ball in play, striking out just 41 times. Although platooning Gattis in the outfield or behind the dish is always an option, for the Braves to get the best value out of him, they should trade him.
If the Rangers haven't traded Jurickson Profar by this offseason, the Braves should aim to acquire him, which would actually benefit both teams. Like McCann, Pierzynski is going to be a free agent this winter, so the Rangers will be in need for a catcher. Also, the Braves could really use an upgrade at second base for the slumping Dan Uggla, which is where Jurickson Profar could play. Since Profar was the number 1 prospect in baseball before being called up to the Rangers, just Evan Gattis won't be enough to acquire Profar. For this trade to happen, the Braves also probably have to give up a relief pitcher, along with a starting pitcher.
For a relief pitcher, the Rangers would obviously want closer, Craig Kimbrel, but there's no way the Braves would ever consider trading him. Jordan Walden, however, would make a great trade candidate. He's not a free agent until 2017, and with pitchers like Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty expected to return from Tommy John surgery next season, the Braves will still have an abundance of relief pitchers.
Since Jordan Walden doesn't even compare with Craig Kimbrel, the Braves would need to give up a really good starting pitcher in order to finalize the trade. I think Brandon Beachy is the perfect trade candidate. The Braves organization would be very skeptical about trading away one of their best pitchers, but since they're in first place without him, they know that they can still having a great season without Beachy at the top of their rotation.
The one problem with trading Beachy is that Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson are both going to be a free agents at the end of the season. This means that even if they don't trade Beachy, there is going to be a huge hole to fill in the starting rotation. While Maholm is likely to sign with a different team, I'd be shocked if Tim Hudson, who's been with the Braves since 2005, didn't resign with the Braves. Assuming Hudson resigns and Maholm doesn't, trading Beachy would leave just one starting spot to fill.
Instead of trading for another starting pitcher, their best bet would be to move Alex Wood to the starting rotation. Wood was drafted in the second round of last years draft, and like many other players on the Braves, Wood has undergone Tommy John surgery. However, if anything, the surgery has only helped him. In 10 starts in the minors before being called-up, Wood went 4-2 with an outstanding 1.26 ERA. Also, he averaged 1 strikeout per inning and held is opposition to just a .195 batting average. Since being called up to pitch from the bullpen, Alex Wood has been pitching great. In 18.1 major league innings pitched, this 22 year old has yet to give up a homerun, and has struck out 23 batters, while walking just 7. Also, his opposition is hitting just .227 off of him. Moving him to the starting rotation next year would be risky, but considering his experience with that role in the minors, I'm sure he would do great!
Braves acquire Jurickson Profar
Rangers acquire Brandon Beachy, Evan Gattis, and Jordan Walden
Although it seems like the Braves would be giving up so much to acquire Jurickson Profar, the wouldn't really be losing that much. Evan Gattis would be replaced by Brian McCann, Brandon Beachy would be replaced with Alex Wood, and Jordan Walden would be replaced with Jonny Venters, along with several other relief pitchers coming off the DL. The only aspect of the Braves team that might suffer from this trade is their starting pitching, but if Alex Wood pitches like he's been pitching in the minors, the Braves will be just fine.
Braves' 2014 Projected Batting Order
1. 2B Jurickson Profar
2. RF Jason Heyward
3. LF Justin Upton
4. 1B Freddie Freeman
5. SS Andrelton Simmons
6. C Brian McCann
7. CF B.J. Upton
8. 3B Chris Johnson
9. P Tim Hudson