Over the past six or so months, the Atlanta Braves have been serving as a dumping ground for other teams’ bad contracts. They’ve taken on Trevor Cahill, Cameron Maybin (which has actually worked out quite well for them), Carlos Quentin, and Juan Uribe (among others), all owed large amounts of money, in deals while also picking up better prospects.
On Saturday night, that strategy continued. The Braves essentially bought pitching prospect Touki Toussaint, the 16th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft and a consensus Top 100 prospect in baseball, from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The cost? Utility infielder Phil Gosselin, and the remainder of starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s contract, which comes out to roughly $10 million (which includes the remnants of the $9.5 million owed to him this season and a $4.5 million buyout on a 2016 club option).
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) June 21, 2015
Toussaint just turned 19 on Saturday, and has spent the year with Kane County of the Midwest League. In seven starts, he has a 3.69 ERA over 39 innings, striking out 29 and walking 15. Last season, he split the year between a pair of Rookie League teams and struggled at times, pitching to a 8.58 ERA over 28 1/3 innings, punching out 32 and issuing 18 free passes.
Arroyo is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and likely won’t be ready for major league action until August – if the Braves even keep him around that long. Last year, Arroyo had a 4.08 ERA in 86 innings with Arizona, striking out 47 and walking 19.
The other piece of this trade is Gosselin, a serviceable utility infielder. He’s currently on the DL with a broken thumb and has received just 42 plate appearances this season, hitting .325/.357/.425 while earning playing time at second and third base.
It’s an interesting strategy for the Braves. By allowing themselves to take on some ugly contracts, they’re bringing in plenty of potentially useful arms for the future while not giving up much in the way of their own future talent. Someone like Gosselin wasn’t part of Atlanta’s long-term plan, just like the four players they sent to the Dodgers (Alberto Callaspo, Juan Jaime, Eric Stults, Ian Thomas) weren’t part of their long-term plan. A player like Touissant could be a rotation stalwart for the Braves in the future, so it simply makes sense to take a short-term financial hit with money you’re not doing anything with anyway.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Braves are able to operate this way at the trade deadline. If a team is interested in a player like Jason Grilli or Jim Johnson, will the Braves offer to take on an ugly contract so they can also get some better prospects in return? I’d imagine they would, and that could play into Atlanta’s favor considering that many of the sellers on the market aren’t too eager to eat some of the salaries on their trade assets.