ATLANTA -- Instead of waiting to see if Mallex Smith's raw talents would develop to the point where he would factor into their everyday lineup plans, the Braves used the high-energy, fleet-footed outfielder to further enrich their farm system with the addition of two more high-upside pitchers.Smith's tenure with the
ATLANTA -- Instead of waiting to see if Mallex Smith's raw talents would develop to the point where he would factor into their everyday lineup plans, the Braves used the high-energy, fleet-footed outfielder to further enrich their farm system with the addition of two more high-upside pitchers.
Smith's tenure with the Braves concluded on Wednesday afternoon, when he and right-handed reliever Shae Simmons were traded to the Mariners in exchange for left-handed pitching prospects Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows. This was Atlanta's latest attempt to clear what it viewed as excess on its 40-man roster in order to brighten the club's future.
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Approximately an hour after announcing this deal, the Mariners traded Smith to the Rays as part of a four-player trade that made left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly the lastest addition to Seattle's rotation.
"It's tough trading away two players we really liked in Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "However, the opportunity to add two talented arms to our system was too good to pass up. We felt like we were dealing from a position of strength with both players, and we are going to keep building around young power pitching."
While Smith didn't have a defined role for Atlanta and likely would have started the upcoming season with Triple-A Gwinnett, Simmons' value has diminished as he has struggled to return from the Tommy John surgery he underwent before the 2015 season.
Standing as the centerpiece of Atlanta's return, Gohara features an above-average fastball that has neared 100 mph and an evolving array of secondary pitches that have preserved his potential future as a starter. The 20-year-old southpaw, who is one of the game's few prospects from Brazil, was ranked as the Mariners' fifth-best prospect by MLBPipeline.
Gohara posted a 1.81 ERA and recorded 81 strikeouts (23 walks) over the 69 2/3 innings he combined to complete for Class A Clinton and Class A Short-Season Everett this past season.
Burrows, a former closer at the University of Alabama and a native of Florence, Ala., was taken by the Mariners in the fourth round of last summer's MLB Draft. He posted a 2.55 ERA and recorded 37 strikeouts (11 walks) over 24 2/3 innings with Everett. He was ranked No. 25 in Seattle's system.
Smith endured some immediate struggles after he was rushed to the big league level this season because of a hamstring strain Ender Inciarte suffered in early April. But as Smith hit .272, compiled a .338 on-base percentage and stole 12 bases (17 attempts) within the 43-game stretch that preceded him fracturing his thumb on June 19, he provided a glimpse of the value he can provide with his bat, legs and glove.
This past year has been a trying one for Smith, who missed three months with the thumb injury and then struggled during brief stints in both the Mexican and Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. He made some rookie mistakes, like irking some veterans by skipping optional batting practice, and continued to show some inexperience with some of his defensive routes.
While the Braves did not necessarily give up on Smith, Inciarte has cemented his place as their center fielder, and they recognized that rising prospect Dustin Peterson might surpass him as a potential backup outfielder at some point this year.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.