SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On the opening day of the general managers meetings, Braves president of baseball operations John Hart quashed reports Monday that said the Braves were “pushing hard” to trade slugging catcher Evan Gattis.
The Braves plan to have rookie Christian Bethancourt as their primary catcher in 2015, but Hart said they haven’t decided whether they’ll trade Gattis, who has 43 homers in 723 at-bats during his first two major league seasons. American League teams are particularly intrigued by the light-tower power of Gattis, and the Braves would require a big return in any trade, possibly a top young starting pitcher or prospect.
“We are coming in with the idea that we don’t have to trade anybody,” Hart said. “We have not made a call (to see if a team is interested in any player). We have received calls on people; we haven’t had any conversations yet. That (Gattis rumor) is absolutely inaccurate. And quite frankly, I think anybody that says that – if you look, I’ve got two corner outfielders who’ve got one year left (before free agency), and I’ve got one potential corner outfielder (Gattis) that’s got four years left (under contractual control).”
Left fielder Justin Upton and right fielder Jason Heyward are eligible for free agency after 2015, and the Braves have discussed moving Gattis to left if one of those two is traded.
Gattis played more in left field than behind the plate as a rookie in 2013 when Brian McCann was in his final season with the Braves. Although Gattis’ outfield defense was shaky at best, some Braves officials think he could possibly develop into average outfielder if he were asked to focus on the position in spring training.
If Gold Glove winner Heyward were traded, Upton could move back to right field, his former position. There’s also a scenario in which the Braves could move Heyward to center if B.J. Upton struggled again early as has throughout his first two seasons with the Braves. In that scenario, the speedy Heyward would be in center flanked by Gattis in left field and Justin Upton in right.
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