As luck would have it, there may be one such player available on the trade market this winter; Martin Prado.
Now, the key words there are “may be available”. The Braves and Prado, a .295 career hitter with a lifetime OPS of .780, have been said to be working on an extension, as Atlanta sees Prado sliding in to third base, taking the place of the now retired and future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. However, Prado is said to be looking for a deal similar or greater than the 4-year, $37.5 million extension that the Royals and Alex Gordon worked out this past season.
Should they not be able to come to an agreement, Prado is in his final season of arbitration eligibility, with MLBTR forecasting that Prado could see a raise from $4.75 million to $7.7 million in 2013. He would then become a free agent at the end of the 2013 season, joining decidedly better free agent market than the 2013 version.
Prado’s availability could hinge on another decision the Atlanta Braves have to make this offseason. The Braves have a $12 million team option on catcher Brian McCann that they must choose to exercise by the end of the week or non-tender him. McCann is likely out for the beginning of the season after having offseason surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder. However, he has been one of the most consistent offensive catchers over the last decade despite a decidedly down season in 2012.
Should the Braves decline their option on McCann, they could be in the market for catching help. The Toronto Blue Jays just happen to have a plethora of catchers on their roster and it is possible that a deal could be made between the two teams, one involving Prado coming to Toronto.
Toronto currently has JP Arencibia, Jeff Mathis, Bobby Wilson, and top prospect Travis d’Arnaud on their 40-man roster.
Neither Mathis or Wilson hold any trade value whatsoever, especially to a team like Atlanta who would be looking to replace McCann. That means that Atlanta would likely target either Arencibia or d’Arnaud.
Arencibia could become expendable if the Blue Jays determine d’Arnaud is healthy and ready to take on the full-time job. J.P. could replace McCann’s power, although he would have to improve his patience and his ability to make contact in order to fully replace McCann. That said, a one-for-one swap of Arencibia for Prado is not likely, especially if Toronto is not convinced that d’Arnaud will be healthy enough to start the season, leaving them with a catching tandem of Mathis, Wilson, and their offensive prowess.
A far more likely scenario could involve the Braves asking for d’Arnaud. However, for Toronto to move d’Arnaud in a deal for Prado, Atlanta would have to sweeten the pot. Luckily, the Braves have something else that fills a need for the Blue Jays; pitching. Mike Minor and Kris Medlen are two young pitchers in the current rotation, when combined with Prado, could pry d’Arnaud from Anthopoulos’s grasp. However, with Brandon Beachy likely out until after the All-Star break, the Braves will be reluctant to move either.
The Blue Jays may also be reluctant to make such a deal, as d’Arnaud is a tremendous talent and would be far more valuable a trade chip for a possible front line starter.
Still, there is something to consider here and it would not hurt the Blue Jays to call Atlanta and see what can be worked out. Prado could slide right into left field for the Blue Jays and hit in the top two spots of the line-up, allowing either Brett Lawrie or Colby Rasmus to move down into a more comfortable position in the order.
In the end, it comes down to cost. We can speculate all we want about possible deals, but unless the clubs can come to an agreement which is mutually beneficial, speculation will be as far as they get.
UPDATE: The Braves have exercised the option on McCann, negating my argument here. They may still look to trade him this offseason, but until then…