ATLANTA -- After a couple months of speculation, the Braves completed the final significant phase of their roster reconstruction by trading Evan Gattis to the Astros.
The Braves traded Gattis and Minor League right-hander James Hoyt to the Astros in exchange for three prospects -- right-handed pitchers Michael Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman and third baseman Rio Ruiz. The deal was announced by both clubs late Wednesday night.
"It was difficult to trade Evan with the [contractual] control we had, and he has been a great story," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "I really liked the player. But we really liked the young players we got in this deal and the other trades we've made. We've brought back a lot of upside. This completes our work to strengthen the foundation, which we needed to do."
Blessed with tremendous power and burdened by defensive limitations, Gattis has long been best suited to be in the American League, where he could be utilized as a designated hitter. The Braves were toying with the idea of playing him in left field, a position where he struggled in 2013. But after evaluating concerns about his glove and ability to stay healthy over the course of an entire season, they opted to part ways with the slugger who has tallied a pair of 20-homer seasons despite not playing more than 108 games in either of his first two Major League seasons.
Gattis will likely make a little more than $600,000 this year and he won't be eligible for free agency until the end of the 2018 season. But while these financial facts added to his attraction, the Braves jumped at another opportunity to strengthen a farm system that had been considered weak just a couple of months ago. With this deal, the Braves feel they have made another significant step toward strengthening the club's future. Their decision to deal Jason Heyward (Cardinals), Justin Upton (Padres) and Gattis within the past two months has created immediate concerns about an offense that struggled to score runs this past season.
But by dealing three of the key members of last year's lineup, the Braves feel they have taken another step toward completing their goal toward being a consistent playoff contender by the time they open their new stadium in 2017. Over the past two months, they have added seven starting pitchers and a total of eight players who are now among the Braves Top 20 Prospects, according to MLBPipeline.
"I think we've gone from a bottom five farm system to a top five," Hart said. "That creates options and bodes well for future success."
Foltynewicz (pronounced FOL-TEN-EH-VICH) was selected in the first round of the 2010 Draft. He highlights this latest return package for the Braves and now ranks as their No. 2 prospect. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander possesses an above-average fastball that has created triple-digit radar readings. Command has been an issue for the 23-year-old, who notched 102 strikeouts and issued 52 walks while producing a 5.08 ERA over 21 appearances (18 starts) for Triple-A Oklahoma City this past season.
The Braves will give Foltynewicz a chance to compete for their final rotation spot during Spring Training. But the high-upside pitcher, who made 16 relief appearances for Houston in August and September, will likely begin the season as a part of Triple-A Gwinnett's rotation.
"We've liked him for a long time," Hart said. "He's a young developing pitcher who has a real strong power arm."
Ruiz, who slated to begin this year with Double-A Mississippi, now ranks as the Braves' No. 6 prospect per MLBPipeline's updated list. The 20-year-old left-handed-hitting third baseman batted .293 with an .823 OPS in 131 games for Class A Advanced Lancaster this past season. He could compete for a starting job in Atlanta within the next two seasons.
While Thurman might not be as celebrated as the other two players acquired from the Astros, the Braves like the potential of the 23-year-old who was taken with the 40th overall selection in the 2013 Draft. Thurman recorded 107 strikeouts and posted a 5.38 ERA over 115 1/3 innings for Class A Quad Cities last year.
As of early Wednesday evening, the Braves were still talking to the Rangers about a deal that would have included Gattis. But the Rangers were never willing to sweeten their offer enough to trump what Houston offered.
There were some definite concerns about the physical performed on Gattis, who had a bone chip removed from his right knee after the 2013 season and then missed a month of the '14 season because of a bulging disc in his back. Gattis also missed some time in September because of an undisclosed kidney ailment. Coincidentally, the Dallas-area native had already been scheduled to travel to Houston on Wednesday to visit a doctor regarding this condition.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.