The Braves traded outfielder Mallex Smith and relief pitcher Shae Simmons to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday for a pair of left-handed pitching prospects, Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows.
Gohara, 20, was rated the Mariners’ No. 3 prospect by Baseball America after going 7-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 13 starts at two Single-A levels in 2016 and posting 81 strikeouts with 23 walks in 69 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-3 Brazilian, who allowed just two homers, features a mid-90 mph fastball and quality slider and is developing a change-up.
“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.”
Burrows, 22, was a fourth-round draft selection out of the University of Alabama in 2016 and had a 2.55 ERA with six saves in 20 relief appearances for Single-A Everett, with 37 strikeouts and 11 walks in 24 2/3 innings. A three-year closer for the Crimson Tide, he’s the school’s career saves leader with 30 during 2014-2016.
It was a frenetic day for Smith, who was traded again less than an hour later from Seattle to the Tampa Bay Rays along with two minor leaguers (infielder Carlos Vargas and lefty Ryan Yarbrough) for veteran lefty starter Drew Smyly.
Smith, 23, hit .238 with a .316 OBP in 72 games as a Braves rookie, totaling 14 extra-base hits (four triples, three homers) and 16 stolen bases in 24 attempts. The former minor league stolen-base-leader missed 10 weeks with a broken thumb after being hit by a pitch in June, and became expendable following a trade for veteran left fielder Matt Kemp coupled by the emergence of Ender Inciarte as a Gold Glove center fielder and effective leadoff hitter.
Last month, the Braves signed Inciarte to a five-year, $30.525 million contract.
Simmons, 26, was impressive as a rookie in 2014, when he looked like a future closer or setup candidate while posting 23 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings over 26 appearances. But he blew out his elbow just before 2015 spring training and missed most of the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery and related setbacks.
The right-hander returned in September and posted a 1.35 ERA in seven appearances with three strikeouts and no walks in 6 2/3 innings, but didn’t pitch after Sept. 18 due to forearm soreness.
“We felt like we were dealing from a position of strength with both players,” Coppolella said, “and we are going to keep building around young power pitching.”