Braves trade Mallex Smith, Shae Simmons to Mariners for 2 LHP prospects

For the second time in three months months, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners have reached a trade agreement. Atlanta is sending speedy outfielder Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons to Seattle in exchange for left-handed pitching prospects Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows.

Smith, 23, broke in with Atlanta’s major-league club in 2016, posting a .316 on-base percentage with three home runs and 16 stolen bases, but a fractured thumb undercut his otherwise productive rookie season. With the franchise’s veteran-laden of outfield consisting of Ender Inciarte, Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis, the Braves faced a decision with Smith: utilize him as a bench bat and pinch-runner or send him back to the Triple-A level for consistent playing time.

Additionally, Smith’s power profile best projects to center field, where Inciarte, who signed a five-year extension with a 2022 club option in December, just netted his first career Gold Glove.

The Mariners later packaged Smith with two other prospects to acquire Tampa Bay Rays starter Drew Smyley, sending the speedster back to his home state of Florida.

Simmons, 26, returned from Tommy John surgery this past season and posted a 1.35 ERA in 6 2/3 innings pitched. He was expected to be a member of an improving Atlanta bullpen.

From Atlanta’s perspective, the deal revolves around Gohara, a consensus top-five prospect in the Mariners system who signed for $880,000 in the 2013 international signing period.

In two separate minor-league stops this past season, the 20-year-old southpaw posted a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-2.75 FIP. The 6-foot-3 lefty made 10 starts for the A-ball Clinton LumberKings in 2016, striking out 9.9 batters per nine innings and allowing just one home run total.

The Braves add Gohara’s name to arguably the scariest collection of left-handed starting pitching prospects in the minors: Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller — just to name the headliners. Of the 35 left-handed pitching prospects receiving a 50-plus overall grade at the moment (per MLB Pipeline), the Braves farm system now claims six, twice as many as the next-closest franchises.

Burrows, a 22-year-old fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft, is another relief option that could move fast through Atlanta’s system. The 6-foot-1 Alabama product struck out 37 batters in his first 24 2/3 pro innings with a low-90s fastball and improving slider.

“We felt like we were dealing from a position of strength with both players,” Braves general manager John Coppolella told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “and we are going to keep building around young power pitching.”

This is the fourth significant trade the Braves have made this offseason, following deals that netted them Jaime Garcia, Alex Jackson, Tyler Pike and Luke Jackson.

The move opens up two spots on the Braves’ 40-man roster.