The Braves traded starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin to the Los Angeles Angels for 6-foot-8 left-hander Adam McCreery, a low-level relief prospect who’s 23 and hasn’t pitched above the rookie-league level.
The deal was finalized only hours before Chacin’s scheduled start for the Braves on Wednesday night against the Phillies, but the Braves already had replacement starter Williams Perez on a late-morning flight to Atlanta from Rochester, N.Y., and Perez walked into the Turner Field clubhouse at about 2:30 p.m.
“What we’re trying to do is build around our young players,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “This gets one more young starter up here for us. Every starter we have is age 25 or younger and is signed for at least the next five years.”
McCreery, 23, had a 3.55 ERA in 31 appearances in 2014 and 2015 for the Angels’ Arizona rookie league team, with 49 strikeouts and a .169 opponents’ average, but also 33 walks in 38 innings.
“We had a scout who saw him last week in extended spring training,” Coppolella said. “And when I spoke to Angels GM Billy Eppler, he said, ‘How’d you guys find that name?’ Because he’s a guy who (previously was) throwing 88-90 (miles per hour), and we saw him 92-95 (mph). It’s 2 1/2-to-1 ground ball/fly ball (ratio), and it’s a lot of strikeouts.
“Look, I’m not saying this is a top-five prospect, but he’s a player that we like a lot, and that our scouts liked, and we think we can help him and we think he can help us.”
McCreery had a 2.61 ERA in 16 games in 2015 with 28 strikeouts and 14 walks in 18 2/3 innings, and this year he’s been in extended spring training working on delivery and hasn’t made his season debut. He’ll go to Braves extended spring training for now, but likely will soon be assigned to a low-level minor league team.
“When you’re 6-8, 195 (pounds), it’s hard to have pinpoint mechanics,” Coppolella said.
Perez had been with Triple-A Gwinnett for the past two weeks and was 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in three starts, including a one-hit shutout against Charlotte on Friday that included seven strikeouts and one walk.
The Braves have others at Gwinnett who could crack the rotation at some point this season, including high-level prospect Tyrell Jenkins, who has a 2.76 ERA in six Triple-A starts and might be ready for a call-up soon; John Gant, who’s already pitched in four major league games this season as a reliever; and prospect Lucas Sims, who’s pitched well in a couple of his four Triple-A starts since a promotion from Double-A.
Perez was the Braves’ No. 4 starter at the beginning of the season and posted a 5.11 ERA in three starts before he was optioned to Triple-A.
“Williams pitched very well in his last outing (for Gwinnett), threw a shutout, and his stuff was the best that we’ve ever seen it,” Coppolella said. “So we felt like it was a chance to keep growing with our young players, and if we see good things from our young players we want to give them opportunities.”
Chacin was 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five starts for the Braves, an ERA that was inflated when he allowed eight runs and four homers in 4 2/3 innings of his last start May 4 against the Mets. He had been a 3.27 ERA in his first four starts, with 22 strikeouts, four walks and no homers allowed in 22 innings.
Chacin, 28, signed a minor league contract with the Braves in December that included a $1.1 million salary if he made the major league roster, which he did by having a strong showing during spring training to earn the No. 5 starter job. He was added to the roster in the second week of the season, the first time the Braves needed a fifth starter.
Chacin went 14-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts and 197 1/3 innings for the Rockies in 2013, including a 2.44 ERA in 13 road starts. But he was 3-8 with a 4.80 ERA in just 90 innings over the next two seasons while slowed by recurring shoulder problems.