The Braves traded second baseman Tommy La Stella to the Cubs for reliever Arodys Vizcaino in a Sunday trade that also netted the Braves about $830,000 in additional spending room for international free agents beneath the per-team limit that triggers taxes and penalties.
Jose Peraza is the Braves’ second baseman of the future, but the Braves would like him to get a little more minor league seasoning and will look to pick up another proven second baseman to get them through all or part of 2015.
Sunday’s trade was another sign the Braves are making moves with an eye toward 2017 and beyond. The deal gave them another power arm in the bullpen, and Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said Vizcaino has the stuff to possibly fill an eighth-inning role at some point during the 2015 season.
Hart didn’t say it, but the move might also increase the likelihood of trading an arbitration-eligible reliever such as Jordan Walden or David Carpenter to fill another need or continue to replenish the minor league system.
The additional signing-pool slots provides the Braves with more room to sign more international players. For now, they have targeted younger Dominicans and Venezuelans rather than older, more costly Cuban free agents, but that could change before much longer.
The Braves are expected to be more active internationally across the board, having overhauled their international scouting by hiring acclaimed scouts Gordon Blakeley, Marc Russo and Mike Silvestri, with the intent of being both thorough and aggressive.
They gained the additional spending room by trading a No. 4 international signing-bonus slot for the Cubs’ Nos. 2, 3 and 4 slots. Before adding the $830,000 with the additional slots, the Braves had only about $100,000 left to spend on international free agents without incurring a penalty tax on any additional signings.
Peraza, 20, is a converted shortstop who quickly adapted to second base and hit .339 with a .364 OBP, 11 triples and 60 stolen bases in 110 games between stops at high-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi in 2014.
The Braves will look for a veteran second baseman on a one-year deal to handle the transition. They have utility man Phil Gosselin as as in-house option, but would prefer to keep him in a utility role.
In Vizcaino, they re-acquired a right-hander who threw 100 mph in the Yankees and Braves minor league systems and made 17 major league appearances for Atlanta as a rookie in 2011, before blowing out his elbow the following spring. He had Tommy John surgery and was traded to the Cubs in a July 2012 deal that brought Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to Atlanta.
Vizcaino, who turned 24 last week, missed the 2012 and 2013 seasons for surgery recovery, but was healthy again in 2014 and throwing in the mid-90 mph range. He had a 5.40 ERA with four strikeouts and three walks in five innings for Chicago and posted a 3.51 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 18 walks in 41 minor league innings.
La Stella, 25, hit .251 with a .328 OBP in 93 games as a Braves rookie after being called up to replace struggling Dan Uggla in the last week of May. After batting .297 with a .371 OBP and 21 RBIs his first 46 games, La Stella hit .201 with a .281 OBP and 10 RBIs in 47 games the rest of the season.
In late August manager Fredi Gonzalez began using the left-handed hitter in a platoon with Gosselin.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.