I will start this off by saying I think there is a very small chance that the Braves trade their best pitcher in Max Fried before the 2023 season, let alone to the Texas Rangers.
MLB Pipeline analyst Jim Callis was recently on Hot Stove on MLB Network and threw this out at the end of his interview, however:
Proposing a hypothetical Max Fried trade between the Atlanta Braves and the Texas Rangers
Callis is a long-time minor leagues reporter for various outlets and would know what teams are thinking. He has sources in every front office that help him with information about their minor league systems. He is able to call or text sources and get a text back from them. I don’t know where he got this piece of information from, but let’s just assume that someone told him that the Braves were gauging what Fried’s market would be if they were to trade him. I can’t imagine he would go on-air with that piece of information without knowledge of the Braves’ thinking.
Let’s start by looking at a past trade for a good starting pitcher as framework for what the Braves should be expecting. This past July, Luis Castillo was traded from Cincinatti to Seattle. The Mariners sent four prospects: Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Levi Stoudt, and Andrew Moore, to the Reds in exchange for Luis Castillo. They traded their number three, number eight, and number 15 preseason prospects according to Baseball America. Moore was a 14th round pick in the 2021 draft. That’s made a pretty significant trade. Later, they signed Castillo to a 5-year extension for 108 million later in the season.
Max Fried is more accomplished than Luis Castillo at this stage, having been on a World Series winning team and pitching in the clinching game back in 2021. I am thinking the Braves would likely want at least five players, probably a combination of MLB players and prospects that they would have more years of team control over. They also are still looking to compete in the NL East with the Mets and Phillies.
Who will be the headliner of the trade? I am thinking they would demand that the Rangers include one of their top pitching prospects. That means Jack Leiter, Owen White, Mitch Bratt, or Cole Winn. The Rangers say no to Jack Leiter. They view him in the same way the Braves viewed Spencer Strider prior to the 2022 season. The Braves then agree to take Owen White who had a better season than Leiter in 2022 and is a former first round pick like Leiter.
The second piece is someone they can place in their rotation this season to help them continue to compete. That means someone from the Dunning, Otto, Ragans group. Any of them would be able to step in and be able to be a fourth or fifth starter for the Braves. Let’s include Glenn Otto as the second piece. Unlike Dunning, he is not coming off surgery. Otto also was solid down the stretch, has great stuff, and just needs to continue to work on his control. He can do that pitching in the back of the Braves rotation.He showed signs in the second half of making improvements. He struck out more batters with 60, walked less with only 28, and had a higher strikeouts per nine innings at 7.3. If he can continue these improvements in 2023 he could be a very valuable starting pitcher.
The third piece is someone from the Rangers’ MLB roster. The Braves need a left fielder to join Michael Harris and Ronald Acuna. Eddie Rosario was pretty terrible in 2022. He played in only 80 games. He missed time due to hamstring issues as well as needing laser corrective eye surgery. Let’s include Adolis Garcia in the trade. Garcia was much more productive this past season and is able to play every day. He increased his batting average to .250 in 2022, less home runs with 27, but fewer strikeouts, more stolen bases, and more walks with 40 as well.
In return, the Braves include Rosario in the trade and cash. The cash value is nine million, bringing his remaining contract down to two years/$9 million. The Rangers will be paying him $4.5 million the next two seasons. They are betting on getting the Rosario who won the NLCS MVP in 2021 and was a regular 25-30 home run guy from 2017-2019.
The fourth piece is Luisangel Acuna. The Braves bring Ronald’s brother to Atlanta. It appears Dansby Swanson is heading elsewhere and they are handing the shortstop job over to Vaughn Grissom. Acuna would go to AA or AAA and be insurance in case it does not work with Grissom. He will still play SS every day and get some work in the outfield as well. I think that would excite Ronald that he would potentially get to play with his brother down the line.
The final piece is Avery Weems. A future left-handed reliever. He came over in the Lance Lynn trade from the White Sox. He was moved from the rotation to the bullpen in 2022. He was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft this off-season, but was not picked up by anyone. He is someone if he can develop more control could be a solid reliever. The Rangers with Brock Burke, Taylor Hearn, Brett Martin, and potentially Matt Moore are not really needing left-handed relievers.
This Braves-Rangers hypothetical trade would involve seven players, including Max Fried
This deal helps the Braves continue to compete now, while also giving the Rangers a secondary ace to team up with Jacob deGrom. They still have the financial resources to go out and sign an outfielder or trade for one. Fried is still under team control through 2024. I imagine the Rangers will be looking to extend him immediately upon signing him as well.
I put the trade into the MLB Trade Value Simulator and it came out that the Rangers are slightly overpaying, but the numbers were closer than you might think. The Braves are getting 52 points in value from the five players the Rangers are giving up and the Rangers are getting 48 points in value from the two players they are receiving. If the Rangers did this trade having a 2-headed monster with deGrom and Fried at the top of the rotation would give them one of the best rotations in all of baseball.
Again, I doubt the Braves move Max Fried this off-season or next. They are actively trying to compete for the World Series. If they did want to do a trade, though, this is likely what it would look like and what it would take for the Texas Rangers to acquire a pitcher of Fried’s stature. What do you think? Would you do this trade or not?