Why Trade Martin Prado?

It seems that the Atlanta Braves are intent on dealing Martin Prado this offseason. So far, Prado has been mentioned in trade talks with Kansas City (along with Jair Jurrjens for Lorenzo Cain and Wil Myers), with Colorado (for Seth Smith and a prospect) and with Detroit (for Delmon Young). Braves GM Frank Wren hasn’t found the right match for the 28-year-old yet — the Young rumor was shot down quickly — but a number of teams are likely to be interested in Prado if Wren continues to shop him. In fact, ESPN’s Buster Olney quotes an AL team’s official who favorably compares Prado to free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer. Trading Prado surely should be easy, but it begs the question: Why is Wren so anxious to get rid of his super-utility player?

The answer perhaps is difficult to understand, considering that Prado is a versatile defender who also has been productive offensively. He has a career wOBA of .337 and has compiled 10 WAR in three-and-half seasons of full-time play. He’s serviceable at both second and third base and is an above-average left fielder when you look at data from this past season. Prado is under team control for at least two  years, and he’s projected to make a budget-friendly $4.5 million in 2012. Additionally, the Braves don’t have an immediate replacement for Prado in the outfield — or in his other role as a  third base fill-in when the aging, oft-injured Chipper Jones needs time off. The Braves were in the bottom half of the N.L. in runs scored in 2011 and their outfielders’ combined .300 wOBA was last in the league. Needless to say, it’s not like the Braves are overstocked with productive outfield bats.

But Prado does come with some negatives: Most important, he has struggled to stay healthy. He missed 16 games in 2010 with a broken finger, then came back and suffered a severe oblique injury that kept him out of the playoffs. In 2011, he missed 31 games after he needed a surgical procedure to help clear up a nasty staph infection in his right calf. Perhaps as a result of the lingering effects of the oblique and the calf injuries, Prado slumped to his worst season as a professional, hitting .260/.302/.385 with a .296 wOBA in 129 games this year. Outside of his injuries, Prado doesn’t have the power that teams typically look for in corner players. In fact, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Dave O’Brien suggests that Prado’s lack of power is why he’s being shopped. This seems to be a clear case of the Braves focusing on what a player cannot do, rather than what he can do. Prado might not be a classic slugger, but if he hits like he did in 2009 (.355 wOBA) and in 2010 (.352 wOBA) he’s clearly an asset with the bat — even if his hits often don’t leave the yard.

So what could a team reasonably expect to get out of him? In terms of health, oblique injuries are known to recur, but broken fingers and staph infections don’t tend to be chronic injuries. As such, there’s no extant reason to expect Prado to miss significant time in 2012. Bill James projects Prado’s to bounce back offensively in 2012 and sport a .289/.339/.423 triple-slash and a .333 wOBA. Is there any reason to think that James is being too optimistic about Prado’s 2012? Maybe. Prado’s walk rate has declined in each of the past four seasons — from 8.3% in 2008 to 5.8% in 2011. James forecasts a 6.9% walk rate next year, but Prado’s increasing aggressiveness at the plate would be a concern for any non-power hitter.

Still, despite swinging at many more pitches in 2011, his strikeout rate declined considerably — from 13.2% in 2010 to 8.8% in 2011. Compared with previous years, Prado in 2011 put many more balls in play. Unfortunately for Prado and the Braves, the results weren’t pretty: Prado posted a career low .266 BABIP, compared with .335 in 2010, .331 in 2009 and .357 in 2008. The primary culprit seems to be his line-drive percentage, which fell from 21.0% in 2010 to a career low of 14.6%. Given the low year-to-year correlation in line-drive percentage, there’s no reason to expect that Prado would have such a low BABIP next year.

So how does Prado compare to his rumored 2012 replacements? Bill James projects that Delmon Young will provide essentially identical offensive production as Prado — .332 wOBA for Young; .333 for Prado. Young, though, is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball and he can’t play the infield. That might be one reason why the Young rumor died so quickly. Seth Smith has posted good offensive numbers in Colorado, but he has a severe platoon split. His career wOBA is .377 against right-handed pitching, but it’s only .262 against lefties. Smith would make a good platoon partner with lefty masher Matt Diaz (.374 career wOBA), but unless the Rockies send an impact prospect along with Smith, trading a versatile player such as Prado for a guy who needs a platoon partner is not an optimal strategy.

There’s little doubt that the Braves can find a taker for Prado. But given that the team seems to undervalue his skills, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Atlanta fail to get fair value for him. And that would be an ominous sign for a team looking to put its 2011 meltdown behind them.



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I am political science professor at the University of North Carolina. I grew up watching the Braves on TBS and acquired Red Sox fandom during the 1986 World Series. My other hobbies include cooking, good red wine, curing meats, and obsessing over Alabama football---Roll Tide! Follow me on Twitter @ProfJRoberts.


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Dwight S.
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Dwight S.
4 years 9 months ago

Unfortunately as a Tigers fan its starting to look like Atlanta isn’t dumb enough to trade Prado for Elmon Young like what was rumored.

Comedy Audience Plant
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Comedy Audience Plant
4 years 9 months ago

Why do you call him Elmon?

Dwight S.
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Dwight S.
4 years 8 months ago

Not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not(because of your name) but if you’re not It’s a lame joke that alot of us Tigers fans call him because he has no D.

4 years 9 months ago

Wren would trade him for a lot more than what’s being talked about. They won’t be looking to acquire a left fielder for Prado, but more likely prospects. They aren’t in a position where they have to trade him, but many teams will call about his services.

Trading him is wise for the right package, which will likely eventually come.

Dang
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Dang
4 years 9 months ago

Nice to see you away from CAC Ben

Mr. Sanchez
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4 years 9 months ago

two things.

I don;t see him bringing back the high level prospects that would make it the “right package”, but that’s just personal opinion.

But I’d also disagree on dealing him just for prospects. The Braves aren’t building for 2012 and beyond, they have plenty of high level pitching prospects for that. They are looking for a playoff run in 2011, and Prado, because of his versatility, is a big part of that. Jurrjens, the other much discussed trade possible, has a cheaper, ready replacement in Teheran or Delgado. But Prado has no internal option coming up in the minors. Moving him opens a hole in LF, and on the bench behind Chipper that he fills. Because of available internal options, I can see Jurrjens going for purely a prospect package, but Prado would open a hole that at least in LF, doesn’t seem easily filled through free agency. So we’d have to find an immediate replacement in such a deal or take a step back in 2011 playoff hopes.

DAP
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DAP
4 years 9 months ago

Wren seem anxious to trade Prado? I’m not sure about that, or with all the rumors we have heard, something would have happened. Wren is listening, but he isn’t actively trying to trade Prado.

BSally
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BSally
4 years 9 months ago

Has anyone else seen the 3B market right now? Prado is the most attractive 3B that’s currently available (I’d have him over Ramirez for the next few years for sure). Wren is taking advantage of the incredibly thin pool of talent available. Makes a lot of sense.

cthabeerman
Member
cthabeerman
4 years 9 months ago

Prado’s best value is at third. The guy is a defensive wizard there, 16 DRS in what amounts to about 3/4 of a season at the position. Do I think he’s a +20 DRS guy at third?? No, but he’s still likely to do exceptionally well. Anyone that thinks he’s more valuable at second hasn’t dug into the numbers, because he’s below average at that spot.

With Chipper on his way out after this year or next, the Braves would be well-advised to not create another hole by trading Prado away. If they do, the trade better provide both short and long-term options that are pretty significant pieces in their own right.

I’m not opposed to Smith+Wheeler, as Smith can provide a good chunk of Prado’s production at a similar price (Smith is one year behind in arbitration, but their salaries should match up as the two progress). I like what I’ve heard about Wheeler and hope he would be able to take over in 2013 when Bourn moves on to greener pastures. I think it’s pretty likely that his six years, along with Smith’s three, will provide quite a bit more production than Prado will provide in 2012-13.

-C

PeteH
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PeteH
4 years 9 months ago

I think Wren is just letting other teams know that if they have the LF or SS we need, Prado could be part of a package, perhaps with Minor or Beachy. But it would have to be a real impact bat, not a marginal guy. Prado is just too important as protection for Chipper. We’d be able to help another team in two positions, but they have to cough up what we need, and no one mentioned so far is fair value. I doubt we really WANT to trade Martin, but he is the only regular we can spare this year. Bundle him with young, quality pitching, and you have a very attractive package. Prado is clearly a more attractive piece as an infielder, where he doesn’t have a spot right now.

BTW, it’s pretty obvious that the staph thing was very serious and he never got back to 100 percent. It’s more likely, at his age, that he will return to his historical production than not, assuming he gets healthy over the winter. Which is pretty likely, given his work ethic.

The fact is, Prado was actually pretty good in LF. It’s the weak production in RF and CF before Bourn that made the OF look so anemic. Unless we can get a big upgrade in LF, we’re better off keeping him. And Wren is floating the name to see if he can pry away an elite outfielder. Young pitching is very attractive, but a team with a big bat will need a bat upgrade back to make a deal attractive. And Prado is an upgrade at 2B for a lot of teams.

Phantom Stranger
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Phantom Stranger
4 years 9 months ago

I have no problem with the Braves keeping Prado if they think he is fully healthy and recovered from the knee problems. He looked slow and hurt last year after he came back from the staph infection.

sheath1976
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sheath1976
4 years 9 months ago

I would imagine that Prado would have to be healthy if they are gonna get anything in return.

ABravesFan
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ABravesFan
4 years 9 months ago

Call me an optimist, but I do think Frank Wren does know what he is doing and how valuable Martin Prado is. I don’t think Prado will be moved unless the Braves get back a solid building block for the future. Prado is a terrific team player and his versatility makes him a great asset for a winning team. However, Prado is obviously that much more valuable as a 2B compared to being a LF (or even 3B) due to his relatively limited power. If the Braves can convince a team to pay for an all-star caliber 2B, then it could potentially be a boon to the team.

CircleChange11
Guest
4 years 9 months ago

To me it seems like Prado is the bait to get talks starting where ATL throws in a SP for three prospects or guys that can make the team overall better. If he’s not going to play 3B or 2B, then you might as well see what kind of deal he could bring.

If nothing meets your expectations, he’s still your LF and Chipper replacement.

The 3B market is slim.

If STL signs Pujols I wonder if they would be interested in Prado at 2B with sending Craig to the Braves?

Trade rumors are what they are but ATL generally is not a dumb team. They should get the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. With Prado’s price tag, he’s an option for most every team, so there could be lots of offers to choose from, even a three-team deal that nets ATL a good prospect from 2 different teams.

I do agree that the timing could be better given MP’s 2011 Season. But they haven’t traded him, they’re just listening to offers.

LRG
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LRG
4 years 9 months ago

I also agree that the braves would be stupid to trade Martin Prado. I wish my Buccos would throw an offer down there. Maybe Jose Tabata or Starling Marte?? Just thinking of Prado in the beautiful Black and Gold is giving me chills.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
4 years 9 months ago

I think they’re just listening to offers. They scout and know their own players better than anyone, if they end up trading Prado, it’ll be for a good reason.

Denny
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Denny
4 years 9 months ago

Two things: 1) You can’t make an argument based on a flimsy assumption that the team wants to dump a certain player. What if they don’t and they are simply getting ridiculous offers that the media jumps all over and makes news out of nothing? 2) You can’t make an argument based on ridiculous trade offers. Comparing Delmon Young with Martin Prado isn’t an argument at all because the Braves didn’t consider it, i.e. there was no trade (I’m certain they laughed hysterically).

This article was very poorly conceived.

Bob
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Bob
4 years 9 months ago

Unfortunately this article is based on speculation about who the Braves might trade Prado for. So, as Denny said above, the article is poorly conceived. Prado has been important to the Braves for the past 4-5 years. I’ve never seen anything different written by those who cover the Braves. Frank Wren is doing what any good GM does, he is exploring the market and looking for ways to improve his team. Speculation by those who don’t follow the Braves and don’t have a good idea of what he is trying to do leads to weak articles like this one.

Tomas
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Tomas
4 years 9 months ago

Atlanta is willing to listen, but they are not shopping him. Prado lacks power and has a low walk rate, and for a team looking to get better in those aspects and who doesn’t have much money, trading Prado makes sense. Trading Jurrjens also makes sense, since he has been injured a lot, his velocity drop was a concern meaning his season was pure luck.

If they don’t trade Prado or Jurrjens, they can’t do anything. No SS, they’d have to call Pastornicky up who isn’t ready, and depend on bounceback seasons by Prado and Heyward. Problem is, Prado at his best will never be a high OBP or SLG%, and the Braves know that.

If they want to get better, they have to make a trade, and Prado and Jurrjens are definitely the most tradeable pieces at this point at their second year of arbitration.

Braves should target, Carlos Quentin, Erick Aybar, Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer, or prospects.

I’ve got a trade in my head for awhile now that would bring Aybar and Quentin to ATL.

Braves send Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens to the Angels for Erick Aybar and 2 solid low level prospects.

Then trade, JJ Hoover, Zeke Spruill, and Joe Leonard for Carlos Quentin.

Essentially trading Prado, Jurrjens, +3 prospects for Quentin, Aybar, +2 prospects. braves will be adding between 1-2 million in salary, and getting two guy who are in line to be type A FA’s unless the new CBA changes their status.

Angels get a pitcher and a 3B, and instead of signing converted reliever CJ Wilson, they could use the money to sign Jose Reyes instead. the White Sox get salary relief and quality prospects. Braves cover their mos pressing needs with a quality SS(with speed) and a power hitting right handed corner outfielder in Quentin, and now they have like 5 million to improve the bench.

mikk402
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mikk402
4 years 9 months ago

Your hearing almost nothing out of the Braves camp, most of the talking is coming form “other sources”. The Braves do their business best when nobody has any idea what their doing till it’s done. I trust in FW.

brian
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brian
4 years 9 months ago

This is article asks a good question, yet an unneccessary one. Wren is not shopping anybody and the Seth Smith and Delmon Young rumors are just that-rumors. Wren has no intention on getting rid of either player, but like a smart gm hes listening to all offers. Do u not thibk he gets calls about other players too? Also, why the uggla bashing? I know hes not known for his D but i watched every single game last year and uggla more than hustled his butt off and got to some pretty deep hitballs. Not to say that prado wouldntbe a better fit at second defensively, but i dont think we want to try another posiion change with bulky uggla in left. Leave him where he is comfortable

Scott
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Scott
4 years 9 months ago

Wren is just floating their names out there for interest. The whole Tigers for Young thing was pure speculation, if Atlanta had any interest in Young they would have traded for him at the deadline.

TecJug
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TecJug
4 years 9 months ago

Given the trade rumors we’ve heard, I too believe Prado is undervalued…but not by the Braves. Just because a guy is being shopped doesn’t mean his team doesn’t value him. It means that they have greater needs than what he can provide. The fact of the matter is that the Braves have NOT dealt Prado for any of the rumored packages. Doesn’t it stand to reason, then, that the Braves value him appropriately?

Greg
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Greg
4 years 9 months ago

Leave Prado in left and watch him rake to the tune of 290/350/440 in a bounce back year next year. Acquire a power source to platoon with Prado in left (Prado could move to 3rd on such days giving Chipper a day off) whether it’s a guy like Willingham, Queintin or Seth Smith. The Braves need to relax, maybe deal Jurrjens to get one of those bats but other than that stand pat.

Dick Almighty
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Dick Almighty
4 years 9 months ago

There’s a difference between “begging the question” and “raising the question” or “inviting the question.” The fact that Prado seemingly has many suitors may invite and/or raise the question why Wren wants to deal him in the first place. It does not, however, “beg” the question.

“The Braves should trade Martin Prado because he’s the kind of player who’s worth trading.” That statement begs the question, because it employs circular logic; Prado should be traded because he’s the kind of player who should be traded. I have assumed the truth of my premise.

JCC
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JCC
4 years 9 months ago

I think one very important factor that seems to keep flying under the radar during this debate is the locker room. That’s right team chemistry. Not to mention the risk that is somehow never mentioned, a new player in a new park with a new team and a new role often results in a big package deal of oops. Examples of that provided by holes left by now absent Nate Mclouth, Derek Lee, and a variety of others I don’t feel the need to mention. As a Braves fan, first off thank god the holes are now filled… at least for now, but second why make obvious lateral moves in the offseason in regards to the similar number production between any of the suggested options? The so called “off-season splash?” The Braves last year were a game out of the playoffs after the giant collapse and the suggestion that Prado had anything to do with that is laughable. The so called “trade bate” is an incredibly hard worker, a fan favorite, a clubhouse guy with a track record of great at bats with good CONSISTENT numbers and the number of positions he can play, and play well is invaluable. In my opinion, take it how you wish but I do believe I know a great deal about baseball and everyone’s united thought whether your for or against a Prado trade is that Atlanta needs power…. WRONG. Turner field is a pitchers dream and a power hitters pain, and my personal always forgotten a good defensive, contact hitting, somewhat speedy left fielders HOME. Keep Prado, and unless an unbelievable package deal comes in the mail for Jurrjens that includes a shortstop that actually field the position, (not Nunez from the Yankees) and a great center field prospect, I don’t think you make that deal either unless of course you just want to unload the Scott Boras client… I might concede that point. Pick up Jack Wilson aka another locker room guy for cheap, to bridge the gap to Pastornicky. Then let baseball nature take it’s course. Solid power from Heyward who won’t slump again like last season, Uggla who was a victim of the transition bug that I mentioned at the top will drop the 30+ bombs, McCann will be McCann, and if he is healthy which growing up a Chipper fan I hope is, knows the strike zone better than any hitter in the game and can still provide some pop… if he’s not healthy then “I’ll be damned not trading Prado was a great idea” will be echoed throughout Braves nation. The Braves will be a better team next year and I believe a legit contender but only if they stay the course. Period.

razor
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razor
4 years 8 months ago

As with any player, you can’t just mention Prado’s walk rate declining from 8.3% to 5.8% from 2008-2011 without revealing context. In that same time period the average MLB pitching staff has gone from walking an average of 545 hitters/year to 501 hitters/year. That’s an 8.1% decline.

It’s a different strikezone out there today and it’s been getting a tad larger every year for awhile now. Be it umpire turnover or a greater emphasis on the high strike…it’s real.

First some said the parks were too small. Then some said the baseball itself was being manufactured differently and in the middle of all of this we had the steroid era. All of these no doubt may have contributed to the offensive explosion we witnessed from around 1993-2006 or so, but more than anything baseball is simply a game of counts. Run scoring (and walks) are significantly down again now because the count is 1-2 instead of 2-1 a lot more than it was a half-decade or so ago.

Martin Prado’s walk rate is just a by-product of this, at least relative to the league. In my opinion Atlanta would be a lot better off if they had left Prado at 2B, then spent their money on the very thing they are looking for now as a result of the Uggla deal, which is a corner OF. Atlanta didn’t respect enough what Prado “could” do…and now they don’t see his skill set as fitting. Whose fault is that?

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