Why did the Mariners trade touted pitching prospect Luiz Gohara?
Two scouts texted me Wednesday — unsolicited — after the Mariners traded one of their top pitching prospects, left-hander Luiz Gohara, to the Braves.
“Giving up Gohara, worst move EVER!!” the first scout said.
“Best pitcher in the Arizona Fall League,” the second scout said, adding that he saw Gohara throw 97 to 100 mph in an outing late in the AFL season.
So, why did the Mariners trade Gohara and fellow left-handed prospect Thomas Burrows for outfielder Mallex Smith and right-handed reliever Shae Simmons?
The obvious reason — Gohara, 20, helped produce the acquisitions of both Simmons and left-hander Drew Smyly, who arrived from the Rays in a second trade Wednesday for Smith and two other prospects.
But there is more, perhaps, to the story.
A reported trade that would have sent Gohara and another prospect to the Reds for shortstop Zack Cozart and a minor leaguer last Aug. 1 collapsed after the Reds raised concerns about Gohara’s shoulder, according to major-league sources.
Braves general manager John Coppolella, when asked about Gohara’s condition on Wednesday night, responded, “Our medical group puts a lot of time, effort and thought into evaluating every potential acquisition. We have had to walk away from two trades this offseason because of failed medicals. We feel good about the health of both players we acquired in the trade.”
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and Reds GM Dick Williams declined comment.
The M’s took on their own physical risk in the trade — Simmons has made only seven appearances the past two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery in Feb. 2015.
Executives routinely say that most pitchers — even young ones like Gohara — exhibit enough wear-and-tear to “flunk” a team physical.
The Braves, meanwhile, routinely acquire high-upside pitchers who are considered high-risk, figuring that enough of them will succeed to justify the gambles.
Gohara followed his breakout 2016 season at Class A by indeed throwing extremely well in the AFL, striking out 19 in 11 2/3 innings. Some scouts project his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame and see a young CC Sabathia.
MLBPipeline.com immediately ranked Gohara the seventh-best pitching prospect in the Braves’ pitching-rich system and the 12th-best overall.