The Braves are looking to upgrade their offense and have let other clubs know that they’re willing to trade from their recently bolstered stable of pitching prospects in order to acquire a bat, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN (via Twitter). According to Stark, Atlanta has asked other clubs about the availability of their young catchers.

It’s just one tweet, but there’s a lot to digest there. For one, it doesn’t seem that the Braves will act as strict sellers, as they did for much of the past offseason. Additionally, the Braves’ desire to add a young catcher is perhaps somewhat telling of the confidence they have in rocket-armed but offensively-challenged (to this point, at least) Christian Bethancourt.

Bethancourt has been tabbed as the Braves’ catcher of the future for quite some time, but he’s batted just .223/.248/.279 in 222 big league plate appearances in his young career. Still just 23 years old, Bethancourt’s been optioned back to Triple-A this season in favor of a more veteran combination of A.J. Pierzynski and Ryan Lavarnway. He’s hit well in he minors since his return, but the fact that the Braves are inquiring about young backstops has to at least call into question whether or not the restructured front office feels that Bethancourt’s bat can catch up to his vaunted arm.

As far as pitching prospects are concerned, the Braves are very suddenly in no short supply. The Braves seem likely to use a combination of Shelby Miller, Alex Wood and Julio Teheran at the front of their rotation for the foreseeable future, and they have a handful of MLB-ready arms to choose from for the remaining two spots. Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler and Manny Banuelos have all made starts for Atlanta this season, and any two of the three could be looked at as a rotation piece going forward. Further down the line are Max Fried and Lucas Sims, each of whom is recovering from injury. The Braves also picked up right-hander Touki Toussaint, the No. 16 overall pick from the 2014 draft, in a recent trade with the Diamondbacks. Fellow Class-A hurler Ricardo Sanchez, a high-ceiling arm in his own right, was acquired from the Angels this offseason.

Suffice it to say, the Braves have gone from an underwhelming farm system to one teeming with pitching prospects after an offseason of trades from new president of baseball operations John Hart. What the team lacks, however, is offense at a number of positions. In addition to the struggles of their catchers — a combined .237/.270/.357 batting line — left field has been an egregiously detriment to the club’s offensive output. Atlanta left fielders have combined to bat just .221/.284/.311 this season.

It seems unlikely that the Braves would move one of their talented young pitchers for a pure rental, so the expectation here is that any bat theoretically acquired by Atlanta would be under control beyond the 2015 season — perhaps beyond the 2016 campaign as well. Previous reports have indicated that the Braves inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy‘s availability, though most indications remain that the Brewers are unlikely to move him.

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Today’s roundup of minor transactions from around the league…

  • Outfielder Xavier Avery exercised a July 1 opt out clause and was granted his release by the Tigers, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com (via Twitter). Formerly one of the Orioles’ top prospects, the fleet-footed Avery has enjoyed a very nice season with Triple-A Toledo to this point, hitting .305/.371/.393, although his typically strong success rate is stolen bases is down this year. The 25-year-old has swiped 14 bases but been caught 10 times. A former second-round pick, Avery has eclipsed the 30-steal mark four times throughout his minor league career.
  • Also via Schmehl, it seems that Avery’s spot will be filled by another once-promising outfield prospect, as he reports that Trayvon Robinson has signed a minor league pact with Detroit and is headed to Toledo. Once a well-regarded prospect in the Dodgers’ system, Robinson’s career has stalled a bit in recent seasons. He’s spent the early portion of the season with the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, batting .276/.357/.448. He’s a career .258/.332/.423 hitter in parts of five Triple-A seasons. Robinson reached the Majors in 2011-12 with the Mariners but posted a .602 OPS in 319 total plate appearances.
  • First baseman Daric Barton has been released from the Blue Jays‘ Triple-A affiliate, tweets Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Barton, a longtime member of the Athletics, batted just .196/.282/.299 this season at Triple-A Buffalo. Still 29 years of age, Barton served as Oakland’s everyday first baseman in the 2010 season and led the American League with 110 walks that year. He’s slashed .216/.323/.284 in 600 big league plate appearances since that time, however.
  • The Blue Jays announced yesterday that the recently designated Steven Tolleson has cleared outright waivers and been outrighted to Buffalo. The 31-year-old utility man was designated on July 1 after his rehab assignment ended in the minors and Toronto had to make a call on his roster status. He’s been outrighted in the past and will therefore have the option to refuse the assignment in favor of free agency.

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The Braves announced that they have traded minor league right-hander Garrett Fulenchek to the Rays in exchange for a pair of international bonus slots. The value of those slots comes out to roughly $494K.

This marks the third separate trade that the Braves have made today in order to acquire international bonus money. The moves were made necessary by a pair of agreements to sign promising young international prospects Derian Cruz and Christian Pache for a combined total of $3.4MM. The Braves began this year’s international signing period with a bonus pool of $2,458,400, meaning they needed to acquire nearly $900K to accommodate the agreements free of penalty. Thus far, Atlanta has traded right-hander Cody Martin to the A’s and, in a second trade, sent minor leaguers Jordan Paroubeck and Caleb Dirks to the Dodgers. The combined total of those three moves has added $1,131,600 to its bonus pool, which will allow the Cruz and Pache signings to be finalized under the team’s cap, which has swelled to an even $3.59MM.

In parting with Fulenchek, however, the Braves have surrendered perhaps the most promising piece yet in any of these three deals. The 19-year-old was Atlanta’s second-round pick (66th overall) just one year ago. A high school righty out of Texas, Fulenchek debuted with the Braves’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2014 and pitched to a 4.78 ERA with 29 strikeouts against 22 walks in 37 2/3 innings. While those numbers aren’t exactly impressive, he still ranked firmly within the team’s Top 20 or so prospects. Baseball America rated him ninth among Atlanta farmhands this offseason, while Fangraphs placed him 17th. (Those rankings occurred prior to some of the team’s trades, however.) MLB.com presently ranks Fulenchek as the Braves’ No. 13 prospect.

Fulenchek received a $1MM signing bonus last year and is described by most as a projectable right-hander. BA praised Fulenchek’s ability to generate ground-balls with his fastball. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel noted that he sits 91-95 mph with his fastball and touches 96 at times, also flashing an above-average slider. MLB.com notes that he’ll have to work on repeating his delivery point, but could develop into a big league starter over time.

Fulenchek is a far more notable acquisition than most players that are swapped for international pool money, though it should be noted that he was selected by the Braves’ previous front office, which has since undergone some changes. He’s not as highly touted a prospect as Touki Toussaint, whom Atlanta effectively purchased from the D-Backs last month, but it’s nonetheless a bit surprising to see such a high profile draft pick moved just over a year after he was selected.

The Rays, for comparison, acquired a similar pair of slots from the Marlins earlier today in exchange for minor league right-hander Enderson Franco despite being limited to a maximum of $300K per signing this period.

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The Blue Jays have designated right-hander Todd Redmond for assignment and optioned lefty Matt Boyd to the minors, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (Twitter link). Corresponding moves will be announced by the team tomorrow, he adds.

Redmond, 30, worked a scoreless inning in tonight’s game, though that clean frame dropped his ERA to just 7.31 on the season. Redmond has worked 16 innings this year, surrendering 13 earned runs on 17 hits and seven walks with 13 strikeouts in that time. This DFA marks the third of the year for Redmond. He’s been outrighted and accepted his assignment to Triple-A after each of this previous instances.

Boyd, 24, was called up last week to make his big league debut and looked solid in his first outing. However, he surrendered seven runs on six hits and a walk without recording an out tonight versus the Red Sox.

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The Dodgers have designated right-hander Brandon League for assignment, the team announced. League, who is earning $7.5MM in 2015, has not pitched this season due to inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He had been on the 60-day disabled list.

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The Mariners announced that they’ve signed catcher Erik Kratz to a minor league deal. The 35-year-old Kratz, a client of Metis Sports Management, will head to Triple-A Tacoma for the time being. Earlier today, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweeted that Kratz had agreed to a deal with a new team, with Seattle a likely landing spot.

A career .217/.270/.400 hitter, the 35-year-old Kratz has proven himself capable of hitting for power but at the cost of questionable batting average and OBP marks. Defensively, Kratz’s 31 percent caught-stealing rate is above average, and he’s received plus ratings in terms of pitch framing. He began the season with Royals, who ultimately opted to go with Drew Butera as their backup catcher over Kratz. Boston picked him up off waivers when he was designated for assignment by Kansas City, but they, too designated Kratz once it was determined that an injury to promising young backstop Blake Swihart was minor. FOX’s Jon Morosi noted at the time Kratz elected free agency that the Mariners were a possible landing spot.

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The Mets have acquired an international bonus slot from the Angels in exchange for minor league right-hander Gaither Bumgardner, the teams announced. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that the Mets will add $239,400 to their pool with this move.

Bumgardner was the Mets’ 23rd-round pick back in 2013. Though he’s 24 years of age, Bumgardner has progressed to just the Class-A level. The South Carolina native has tossed 65 2/3 innings as a pro, working to a 3.84 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. He did not find himself ranked among the Mets’ top prospects entering the year.

The Mets entered this signing period with a bonus pool of $2,531,300, per Baseball America, and they reportedly have agreements in place totaling $2.7MM. Adding this bonus slot from the Angels will allow the Mets to stay within the confines of their now-$2.77MM bonus pool. As for the Angels, the team went well over its 2014-15 bonus pool to give Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin an $8MM signing bonus, so they’re restricted from spending more than $300K on an international amateur anyhow.

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