Saturday, November 20, 2010

Canon Review List-A-Mania: The Ten Worst Trades in Atlanta Braves History

A few days ago, the Atlanta Braves pulled off a blockbuster deal, sending 2B/OF Omar Infante and RP Mike Dunn to the Florida Marlins for 2B Dan Uggla. Uggla, although not the best defensive player around, has shown rare power for a second baseman, becoming the only second baseman to put together four consecutive seasons of 30 or more home runs. Plus, the Braves get the added bonus of Uggla not killing them year after year, and if he comes anywhere close to his career .354/.399/.652 line at Turner Field, than the Braves should be very pleased with Uggla. Yes, on paper, the Uggla trade looks like a good idea and gives the Braves the right-handed power bat they've been looking for since Jeff Francoeur failed to emerge and was eventually traded. But often times, the trades that look good on paper turn look awful on the field. So, with that in mind, here are the ten worst trades in Atlanta Braves history. (Note: this list is the ten worst trades in Atlanta Braves history, so trades the Braves made while in Boston and Milwaukee were not considered).

Honorable Mention:

June 13, 1976: traded 1B Darrell Evans and INF Marty Perez to the San Francisco Giants for 1B Willie Montanez, SS Craig Robinson, INF Mike Eden, and OF Jake Brown 

Yes, the Braves did get a solid 2 years out of Montanez (.302/.339/.441), although it wasn't worth giving up a player the caliber of Evans, a power hitter who could play both third and first and was one of the most patient hitters of his era.
June 23, 1976: Traded OF Lee Lacy and RP Elias Sosa to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RP Mike Marshall

Marshall pitched well for the Braves, but only lasted three months with the team. Meanwhile, Lacy, although not a superstar, was a decent player with speed, while Sosa put up a 2.24 ERA out of the bullpen from 1977-1979.
September 8, 1969: Traded OF Mickey Rivers and P Cliff Compton to the California Angles for RP Hoyt Wilhelm and RP Bob Priddy 

While Wilhelm pitched well down the stretch for the 1969 Division Champion Braves (one earned run in 12.1 innings), Rivers went on to have a solid career, hitting .295 and stealing 269 bases as one of the best leadoff hitters of the 1970s.
10. August 3, 1990: Traded OF Dale Murphy and SP Tommy Greene to the Philadelphia Phillies for RP Jeff Parrett, OF Jim Vatcher, and INF Victor Rosario 

Anytime you trade your franchise player for over a decade, there will be some backlash from your fans. Needless to say, the Braves fans were less than thrilled about this trade, as many frustrated fans expressed anger over the deal, even chanting "We Want Murph" when Jeff Parrett made his Atlanta debut. Heck, I cried after hearing on the radio that Murphy was traded. Yes, Murphy wasn't the player he once was (.232/.312/.418 with the Braves in 1990), but it was just assumed by the Braves faithful that the Murph would finish his career in a Braves uniform. That said, what makes this trade bad is that the Braves got absolutely nothing in return for one of the best players in team history. Vatcher and Rosario combined for 36 plate appearances in a Braves uniform, while Parrett put up an ugly 6.33 ERA in 1991, earning his release. Murphy had a decent season and a half for the Phillies, but he was not the same player that dominated in the 1980s. To make matters worse, Greene turned into a good pitcher for the Phillies, throwing a no-hitter in 1991 and going 16-4 in 1993. He also won the clinching game in the 1993 NLCS for the Phillies against the very organization that traded him. The lesson here is, if you're going to trade your franchise player, you'd better get more out of him than two non-prospects and a middle reliever.

9. December 10, 1985 - Traded RP Steve Bedrosian and OF Milt Thompson to the Philadelphia Phillies for C Ozzie Virgil and SP Pete Smith

From 1982-1984, Bedrosian was a key part in the Braves bullpen. In 1985, the Braves made him a starter, and Bedrosian wasn't so good (111 walks, 7-15 record). As one of Bobby Cox' first moves as GM, he sent Bedrosian and speedy outfielder Milt Thompson to Philadelphia for C Ozzie Virgil and prospect Pete Smith. The Phillies put Bedrosian back in the bullpen, and 'Bedrock' excelled, winning the Cy Young Award in 1987 after a 40 save season. Thompson proved to be a solid outfielder for a number of seasons, providing his teams with top-notch defense and speed for a number of seasons, and hitting over .300 in 1987 and 1991. Virgil did make the All-Star Game in 1987, but his .242/.330/.411 hitting and sketchy defense over three seasons in Atlanta left something to be desired. Smith, meanwhile, would become one of the most frustrating players in Braves history, as he had great stuff and showed flashes of greatness (including a 7-0, 2.05 ERA in 12 games in 1992), but for whatever reason, just wasn't able to put it all together. Bedrosian, interestingly enough, would come back to the Braves in 1993, and put together two solid seasons before struggling in 1995 and retiring shortly after.

8. December 13, 2003 - traded SP Adam Wainwright, SP Jason Marquis, and RP Ray King to the St. Louis Cardinals for RF J.D. Drew and C Eli Marrero

The problem with this trade was not the players the Braves got, as Drew was awesome in 2004 (157 OPS+, 6th in the MVP voting) while Marrero hit .320 as a fourth outfielder. However, both Marrero and Drew left after the 2004 season. Meanwhile, Marquis went on to have a few solid years with a number of teams, but the one the Braves really miss is Wainwright, as he has become one of the best pitchers in the game for the Cardinals, finishing in the top thee in the Cy Young voting over the past two years. At 28, Wainwright is still in his prime, and should continue to dominate for the next few years, haunting Braves fans. That said, I can see why the Braves made the deal, as they needed a power bat and pitching prospects are iffy, but sometimes trades just go against you.
7. December 22, 1999 - traded LF Ryan Klesko and 2B Bret Boone to the San Diego Padres for OF Reggie Sanders, 2B Quilvio Veras, and 1B Wally Joyner

At the time, it seemed as if this was a rather even trade. The Padres traded for power in Boone and Klesko, while the Braves traded for speed in Veras and Sanders (also a power hitter) and in Joyner, the Braves got an insurance policy for Andres Galaaraga, who was recovering from a bout with cancer. While Galaaraga played strong in 2000, the players the Braves received in this trade didn't do so well. Sanders, in a stretch of playing for seven teams in seven years, hit well in every year except in 2000, where he hit .232/.302/.403 in 377 plate appearances. Joyner hit .281 off the bench, but had little power and just lasted one season with the Braves. Veras wasn't a bad player for the Braves (.376 OBP), but had trouble staying healthy, and after two years the Braves gave up on him. Meanwhile, Boone had a three-year stretch of 100 RBI seasons from 2001-2003, and Klesko proved to be a valuable player for the Padres, putting up a .279/.381/.491 line during his seven seasons in San Diego. If the Braves had elected to keep Boone and Klesko, they might have won another pennant or two under Bobby Cox.

6. March 25, 1997 - traded CF Marquis Grissom and OF David Justice to the Cleveland Indians for CF Kenny Lofton and RP Alan Embree

In Spring Training 1997, the Braves had a glut of outfielders. There were veterans Ryan Klesko, Marquis Grissom and David Justice, who was coming off of injury. Not only that, but youngsters Jermaine Dye and Andruw Jones were seemingly ready to play. The Braves decided to remedy this problem somewhat by trading two good outfielders in Grissom and Justice for one great one in center fielder Kenny Lofton. Entering 1997, Lofton had won four straight Gold Gloves, led the American league in stolen bases for five straight years, and at the age of 30 and entering a contract year, seemed poised to have the best year of his career. While Lofton did hit .333 and finished 8th in the NL with a .409 on-base percentage, he also led the league in caught stealing with 20, and just didn't seem to fit in with the ballclub. Embree, meanwhile, lasted a year and a half with the Braves and pitched well as a left handed specialist before moving on. While Grissom never was the same player after the trade, Justice continued to be a power threat for the Indians and Yankees, putting up a 1.013 OPS in 1997 for the Indians and hitting 41 home runs in 2000. Meanwhile, Lofton left the Braves after the 1997 season, only to sign with the very team that traded him, the Cleveland Indians.
5. March 27, 1997 - traded RF Jermaine Dye and RP Jamie Walker to the Kansas City Royals for OF Michael Tucker and 2B Keith Lockhart

Just two days later, the Braves still felt the need for a left-handed hitting outfielder, even though they just traded one in Justice. So a deal was struck with the Royals that send prospect Jermaine Dye, who had a solid rookie year in 1996, hitting .281 with power. But the Braves had Andruw Jones coming up and felt they needed a left-handed outfielder to platoon with Jones. So off Dye went, along with Rule 5 pick Walker, for Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart. Tucker and Lockhart both had their moments with the Braves, as Tucker actually hit the first home run in Turner Field, while Lockhart lasted six years in Atlanta, primarily as an infield reserve. Meanwhile, while Walker would have some good years out of the bullpen, losing Dye really hurt, as Dye became a very good player. Dye is a two-time All Star, a former Gold Glove winner, has four 100+ RBI and four 30+ home run seasons to his credit, and also won the World Series MVP with the White Sox in 2005. Yes, the Braves did win nine division titles without Dye, but giving up a player of his caliber for two spare parts is never a good idea.

4. November 17, 1975 - traded OF Dusty Baker and 1B Ed Goodson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for OF Jimmy Wynn, OF Lee Lacy, OF Tom Pacoerick, and 2B Jerry Royster

Baker hit .321 in 1972, and over the next three seasons was a solid outfielder for the Braves. But the Braves felt they needed a power boost, so they sent Baker and bench player Goodson to the Dodgers for Wynn and the others. Wynn was the key player in the deal for the Braves, as the "Toy Cannon" was expected to give the team a bigger home run threat. Wynn lasted one season in Atlanta, and while he led the NL in walks with 127, he also hit a mere .207 with 17 home runs. As for the others, Lacy was shipped out of town in the middle of his first season, Pacoerick played two seasons for the Braves and had an OPS of .684, and Royster lasted nine seasons for the Braves, and in only one did he put up an OPS+ over 100. On the other hand, Baker had eight solid seasons for the Dodgers, winning two Silver Slugger awards and a Gold Glove and putting up a .281/343/.437 line with a 117 OPS+ during his stint in Los Angeles.

3. May 19, 1973 - traded 1B Andre Thornton to the Chicago Cubs for 1B Joe Pepitone

It's bad enough that the Braves didn't know what they had in Thornton, as they traded him away before his first major league at-bat. What made it worse was the fact that Pepitone played a grand total of three games for the Braves before deciding that he had had enough and decided to retire only a week after arriving in Atlanta. Meanwhile, Thornton put together a heck of a career, finishing with three 30 home run seasons, two All-Star game appearances, and a career line of .254/.360/.452 with a 122 OPS+. Not bad for a guy traded for a washed-up first baseman that lasted a week.

2. July 31, 2007 - traded SS Elvis Andrus, RP Neftali Feliz, P Beau Jones, SP Matt Harrison, and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Texas Rangers for 1B Mark Teixeira and RP Ron Mahay

The problem with this trade was not the return. After all Teixeira played very well in his 1 year in Atlanta, hitting 37 home runs and driving in 134 runs in 157 games with the Braves. The problem was that not only did they get just one year out of Teixeira, but they gave up way too much for him. Although Jones has yet to reach the big leagues, and Harrison and Saltalamacchia have yet to stick in the bigs, there's still time for each player to reach their potential. As for the other two, Andrus made the All-Star team as a 21 year old and hit .294 with 8 steals in the postseason for the Rangers, while Feliz set a rookie record with 40 saves on his way to being named the 2010 rookie of the year award. With both Andrus and Feliz barely over drinking age, the sky's the limit for them, and if they continue to improve, this might become the worst trade in Braves history in a couple of years.

1. August 28, 1983 - traded CF Brett Butler, 3B Brook Jacoby, and P Rick Behenna to the Cleveland Indians for SP Len Barker and $150,000 

The Braves were in the middle of a pennant race and were desperate for pitching. When teams get desperate, they tend to do things such as trade for a pitcher with a 5.11 ERA and sign him to a multi-year deal well above market value. Furthermore, the Braves sent two future All-Stars in Butler and Jacoby to the Indians, although they were aloud to stay with the Braves until the end of the season. That probably made things a bit awkward for Butler, the team's starting left fielder at the time, as the Braves were trying to clinch a postseason berth. Anyway, Barker didn't last very long with the Braves, pitching until 1985 and putting up a 10-20 record with a 4.64 ERA while with the Braves. Meanwhile, Jacoby was a good, if not great, third baseman for a number of years with the Cleveland Indians, making a couple of appearances in the All-Star game. Butler, meanwhile, went on to become one of the best center fielders in the game, finishing his career with well over 2,000 and 554 stolen bases, which currently ranks 24th in MLB history. Because the Braves got so little in return for two future All-Stars, the Len Barker deal is the worst trade in the history of the Atlanta Braves.

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