Braves acquire versatile David Fletcher in trade with the Angels

The deal also sends a catcher to the Braves
New York Yankees' Aaron Judge (99) steals second base ahead of a throw to Los Angeles Angels shortstop David Fletcher (22) during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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New York Yankees' Aaron Judge (99) steals second base ahead of a throw to Los Angeles Angels shortstop David Fletcher (22) during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

In the type of creative move at which he excels, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos found a way to unload a player he did not need while acquiring one he did.

The Braves on Friday acquired infielder David Fletcher and catcher Max Stassi from the Angels for infielder Evan White and and left-hander Tyler Thomas. They selected Thomas in the minor-league phase of Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft.

The Braves plan to move Stassi the same way they flipped Marco Gonzales on Tuesday. Atlanta already has Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud, and didn’t need another catcher. Stassi is due $7 million in 2024 and has a club option for $7.5 million for 2025.)

The Braves got a utility infielder (Fletcher) and sent $17 million (White) to Anaheim. How? White is owed $7 million in 2024 and $8 million in 2025 before a slew of club options. He has a $2 million buyout. He didn’t fit into the Braves’ plans.

Fletcher, who replaces Nicky Lopez, can play second base, third base and shortstop. He’s also appeared in the outfield during a major-league career that began in 2018.

Over his time in the bigs, the right-handed hitting Fletcher has hit .277 with a .682 OPS. He doesn’t hit the ball hard a lot, but he also doesn’t strike out often. Other than the shortened 2020 season, his best year was 2019, when he posted a .734 OPS while driving in 49 runs.

In 2021, the Angels signed Fletcher to a five-year, $26 million extension. It preceded a sharp drop in performance, which culminated with the Angels outrighting Fletcher off the 40-man roster this April. He played in only 33 games in 2023 as the Angels pivoted to giving opportunities to other players.

Fletcher will make $6 million and $6.5 million, respectively, in the next two seasons before he has club options the next two years. He has a $1.5 million buyout, which means he’s guaranteed $14 million over the remainder of his deal.

The Braves traded last year’s utility infielder, Lopez, to the White Sox in a deal that brought back lefty reliever Aaron Bummer. Lopez is projected to make around $4 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Los Angeles Angels' David Fletcher (22) bats against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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In September, the Angels placed Stassi on the restricted list. He hadn’t played up to that point because of a hip ailment, and even though he was able to perform baseball activities, he opted not to do so because of a serious family medical issue.

Stassi has posted good defensive metrics during his career. He’s not as good as Murphy or d’Arnaud, but the Braves seemingly feel confident about finding him a new home.

In the last week, the Braves have acquired a left fielder and a utility infielder. In the process, they’ve flipped Gonzales and White – two players the Braves took on to bring in Jarred Kelenic. Stassi will be next.

Bringing in Fletcher also comes with another question: What happens to Vaughn Grissom? At the beginning of the offseason, Anthopoulos said the Braves believe Vaughn Grissom has versatility and would be an asset to their roster. They want to try to find ways to get his bat into the lineup. Even if Grissom isn’t the primary backup infielder, he could still share left field with Kelenic, and his versatility could allow him to make starts elsewhere, too.

Even still, Grissom seems like a prime trade candidate if the Braves make a big move. He possesses more value than any other position-player prospect in their system.

The Braves’ cash payroll figure is now around $225 million, according to FanGraphs. Their luxury-tax payroll number is now around $261 million. The Braves have anticipated a payroll increase, but Anthopoulos works off the cash payroll. Atlanta is prepared to pay the luxury tax for a second straight year – though that number is calculated at season’s end.

Now, we wait to see how Anthopoulos flips Stassi.

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