The idea of an untouchable prospect runs rampant throughout sports, baseball included. It is an utterly idiotic belief to succumb to. How can a general manager say he will not trade someone when he doesn't know what the return will be?
For GM Frank Wren and the Atlanta Braves, the approaching trade deadline is an opportunity to fill some holes on the major league roster. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it), there is no one remotely untouchable in the Braves minor league system. Everyone is available and everyone could be dealt.
Usually organizations feel a baseless need to hold onto their top prospects, no matter what could be had in return. Smarter teams are coming back around on this, realizing the prospect love has gone too far. The Oakland Athletics just traded their top prospect for some pieces that will hopefully aid them in their quest to win the 2014 World Series. If teams aren't even willing to part with potential when it could bring them closer to a title, what's the point of playing out the season?
In Atlanta, there are a couple of guys in the minors who have that sky-high potential who fans may be hesitant to part with. Making any of them off-limits would be a mistake.
Infielder Jose Peraza is gaining lots of buzz this month. He is hitting the cover off the ball and running wild on the basepaths. His true position is shortstop. While Andrelton Simmons' offense still has major holes, he is firmly entrenched in Atlanta as the shortstop for years to come. This necessitated a move for Peraza to second base.
Although he could develop into a good second baseman, his upside will be limited by positional importance. Even though Peraza looks like a great piece, the very best time to trade him may be right now while his value is at its highest.
The same could be said for super catcher Christian Bethancourt. Bethancourt has been called the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. His offensive game is a long way off, but more importantly, he has nowhere to play for Atlanta. Evan Gattis has emerged as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. His receiving game has also made strides since last season.
With teams coming around on the value a defensive catcher brings, trading Bethancourt is not only an option, it may be wise to do so to take advantage of the trend.
Unlike other franchises, Atlanta's very best prospect is a long way off from contributing at the highest level. Lucas Sims has struggled for long stretches this season in High-A and is probably at least two or three more years away from the majors. Considering the current young talent already in the Braves' ML rotation, nothing should preclude them from including Sims in a deal this week if the return is right.
Interestingly enough, the highest value of Braves prospects may be in guys already in Atlanta. Reliever Shae Simmons, starter Alex Wood and infielders Tommy La Stella and Philip Gosselin are already on the 25-man roster and producing. Some, like Simmons and Wood, have been outstanding. Of course, even "prospects" like these should never be deemed untouchable.
There is still room to improve the team. If that means dealing Simmons for an equally skilled lefty reliever, the roster will be better for it. If Atlanta has the chance on upgrading Wood's spot in the rotation or second base with an older but more talented player, that should be investigated as well.
The silliest thing a general manger can do is deem a certain player untouchable without knowing what he could get back for him. It's just bad business. No matter how good someone might become, everyone has a set value. The reason Oakland is having so much success is because it has realized the value of even its very best prospect and acted accordingly. Atlanta should follow suit.
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