The Braves are rebuilding, apparently

22 Comments

Recent days have featured several Braves rumors. Some involving trading Jason Heyward and shopping any number of other players like Evan Gattis and/or Justin Upton. Last night Joel Sherman of the Post reported that the Braves intended to make Gattis their everyday left fielder which, gah, let me get my medication before I watch that 100 times next year. Less viscerally, that suggests a trade of at least one outfielder.

All of this taken together suggests to David O’Brien of the AJC that the Braves are punting the next year or two and doing a rebuild of sorts in anticipation of moving into their new ballpark in 2017. And new vice president of baseball operations John Hart seems to be leaning that way if the Braves can’t get some immediate help with their starting pitching:

“We obviously have all options open, and I think a lot of it’s going to be dictated by what we’re able to do in the starting-pitching market . . . What we’re able to do in the starting pitching market, that is going to, I think, fully engage us as to what we do in 2015, if we want to come back with a somewhat intact ballclub. And then obviously if we can’t do that, there’s other options that we’ll certainly examine.”

It seems off to me that a team one year removed from a 96-win season and with several young players under team control for an extended period of time would choose a wholesale rebuild right now. Which isn’t to say things are wonderful and changes shouldn’t be made. Injuries and uncertainty with starting pitching does mean that the Braves could use a starter or two. Trying to find some way to get rid of B.J. Upton or to at least work around him is important. There are issues here that need to be solved.

I guess I’d just say that, if you’re going to rebuild, freakin’ rebuild and do so in a way that maximizes return. That means just understanding that B.J. Upton is an utter lost cause and sunk cost and not trying to bundle him in some deal because doing so necessarily lessens the return. That means trading what may your most valuable asset — Craig Kimbrel — rather than hoping he’s still dominant three years from now. It also means making sure the parts you keep for 2017 are still likely to be good and useful in 2017. Which, in my mind, does not include Evan Gattis as a left fielder, even if he can wrestle the position to a draw for a year or two in the meantime.

Lots of uncertainty with this team. And, hopefully, some seriously open minds in the Braves front office, focused on maximizing the return and shooting for true contention, not some piecemeal deals that solve one problem only to create another.

Evan Gattis says he is ‘done playing’ baseball

Evan Gattis
Bob Levey/Getty Images
2 Comments

In a recent appearance on the 755 Is Real Podcast, hosted by The Athletic’s David O’Brien and former Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, catcher Evan Gattis confirmed he is “done playing” baseball. Gattis said back in October that he didn’t have any desire to continue playing the game, so this news comes as no surprise.

Gattis, 33, hit .226/.284/.452 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI for the Astros in 2018. The Astros did not extend him a qualifying offer, then $17.9 million. Though reporting on specific offers is scant, it is hard to imagine he received zero offers, or would have received zero offers if he were still interested in playing.

Gattis has one of the more interesting stories out there. He was a well-regarded college baseball prospect, but he battled anxiety and substance abuse. He checked into rehab and, temporarily, abandoned his baseball-related pursuits. Gattis eventually resumed playing college baseball but suffered an injury, prompting him to drop out of college. He went on to take on some not-so-glamorous jobs, including working in a pizza shop, as a parking valet, a ski-lift operator, and a janitor. Gattis battled more mental health issues, suffering from insomnia and depression, resulting in suicidal ideation. He checked into an inpatient psychiatric ward for several days. Afterwards, Gattis roamed around the west coast, going from Colorado to New Mexico to California to Wyoming.

In 2010, Gattis returned to baseball, playing for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He performed rather well, resulting in his being drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round that year. He worked his way through the minors quickly, debuting in the majors in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history. Gattis retires with a career .248/.300/.476 batting line along with 139 home runs, 410 RBI, and 299 runs scored over 2,662 trips to the plate.

The story of Gattis is an important one because mental health in general was not taken seriously, especially among men. It still isn’t, to a large degree, but it’s better now than it was 10 years ago. Due to social taboos and gender norms, men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues. That Gattis — a burly avatar of testosterone — was willing to be vulnerable about his struggles with his mental health was important.