Case of the Mondays: Kimbrel, Hart, and Atlanta’s 50-win Season

So, it happened. John Hart in his infinite wisdom traded Craig Kimbrel to the Dads of San Diego in what appears solely motivated by Upton’s lousy contract–thanks, Frank Wren. Sure, the Padres sent over two outfielders, two minor leaguers and a draft pick, but what did they really lose? Probably nothing. Let’s explore!

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Kimbrel. San Diego gets the best closer in baseball who has a historical ERA going into the swap of 1.43–a number not shared or surpassed by anyone in baseball. That’s to say nothing about Kimbrel’s stuff. His fastball is a missile, and his breaking stuff–when he can work it over for strikes–just isn’t fair. Kimbrel has a WHIP of less than one. Since Kimbrel pitches in one-inning outings, this means that most of the time he does not allow a runner, which is a key quality of a closer. He averages one hit in about half of his outings and one walk in about one third. So, let’s sum up: he doesn’t allow hits, walks, and forget about homeruns. He strikes out batters more than four times as often as he walks them. He’s 26, and may be the best closer of a generation. And the Braves traded him for two middling position players, a couple of prospects, and a draft pick.

Sounds like a pretty good trade when you consider the Braves unloaded a ghastly Frank Wren monstrosity of a contract with the departure of Upton. But, is it? 

The draft pick is a high second round pick, and the talent funneling into baseball is staggering. I have no doubt the Braves can land a strong prospect with the pick. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. Let’s look at the rest of the trade. 

Carlos Quentin is the bigger name in the deal, I guess. He’s 32 (read old), he’s played over 100 games in only three of his nine seasons. He’s played in below 90 games in five of his nine seasons, with three of those coming in the last three seasons. He’s hurt ALL the time. And the Braves are very thin at outfield after shopping Heyward and both Uptons. As for batting, Quentin is good for one in about every four or five, unless his last season woes continue, then he’d be below the Mendoza line. So, Quentin is a guy who may play every now and then and can’t hit more than an average player. Solid. 

What about Cameron Maybin? He’s worse–seven seasons, over 100 games played twice in that span. Missed 2013 with a season ending injury and hits the ball a quarter of the time. So, the Braves needed offense, they got mediocre plate performers who are injury-prone. Outstanding work, Mr. Hart. 

Now, hold on! Let’s say the pros were just sweeteners to plug holes until the young talent develops. 

Matt Wisler is the best pitching prospect in the Padres farm system by many accounts. Looking over his stats–admittedly inconclusive for a minor leaguer–he seems capable of quality pitching after settling in. His stint in AAA last season ballooned his ERA over 5.00 for 2014, but he went 9-5, and that’s not half bad. Here’s the problem: Atlanta does not really have the time or patience to let this kid develop, so he will likely be thrust into the Majors as a mid-reliever to cut his teeth while we hope for the best. I’m excited about this kid’s prospect, but underwhelmed by Atlanta’s ability to develop talent in recent seasons. It seems that languishing in the minors is a standard developmental milestone for Braves prospects, and that’s not good. 

Jordan Paroubeck is the other prospect you’ve never heard of–primarily because he played rookie ball last year and did alright batting .286. He’s also 19 and rookie ball is like the Senior Bowl for for baseball. It’s not indicative of any kind of baseball reality. Paroubeck will likely be slotted with the Mississippi Braves–or lower-to develop. He seems to be able to hit, but as the pitching increments we can certainly expect his hitting numbers to flag. And .286 already isn’t turning any heads, he can’t afford to have it fall much further. We will see, but you have to be hopeful about prospects–that’s the whole idea. 

But, again, this kid is only just getting into the Minors. It’s on the Braves talent development department to get him ready for the Majors. 

And, that, sports fans, is the scariest prospect of all. 

I can’t help but wonder what the true motivation for this trade was. The Braves are not going to compete for anything this year. Incrementing up slightly at the cost of the best closer in baseball seems foolish. I wonder if Hart is just unloading Wren’s deals to pave the way for his legacy as Atlanta’s PBO. 

One last thing: can I change my pick for the NL West champion?

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