I wanted to get to this right away when it happened, because it’s always fun when we get the “first move of the offseason.” But then the Edwin Diaz re-signing happened, and the Willson Contreras-Dusty Baker report came out, and then there were options decisions to discuss, and the day (a Sunday!) got away from me.
We can still call it the first trade of the offseason, though.
Naturally, it’s the Atlanta Braves pouncing on a trade target – they always seem to be among the early movers, at least in the Alex Anthopoulos era – with the Rockies:
It’s pretty clears the Braves were targeting Hilliard as an upside play, because he can absolutely wreck the ball, but hasn’t done it with any kind of consistency in the big leagues (he is one of those prototypical late-20s guys who rakes at Triple-A, and can’t quite get over the hump in MLB). He plays all over the outfield, bats lefty, has huge power, and is a Statcast darling. Seems like the Cubs might’ve been interested in a guy like that, too.
The return is a 24-year-old 10th rounder from 2021, who hasn’t appeared above High-A yet (and didn’t put up outstanding numbers there this past season). Not a nothing there in Spain, but probably a scouting play. For Hilliard, who takes a 40-man spot and is out of minor league options, it wasn’t fair to expect much.
Speaking of which: What the trade also does is clear a 40-man spot for the Rockies in advance of next week’s rostering deadline. That’s the other main reason I wanted to spotlight this trade. We could see more like this over the next week, as teams with crowded 40-man situations (Cubs! Cubs!) try to move guys out for a little bit of non-40-man value in return.
This week is going to be a time to be opportunistic on the buy side, as the Braves were with Hilliard, but also a time to be an aggressive “seller.” It would be nice if the Cubs could move out a bubble guy or two for a modest return. I expect they are aggressively working the phones on this front, given that the deadlines here are so much more compressed than usual (historically, you’d have the rostering deadline about three weeks after the season ended, and the non-tender deadline about five weeks after the season ended … this year it’s barely one week and one and a half weeks, respectively!).