The trade deadline is often the most exciting time for failing major league ball clubs. Most suffering ball clubs often try to acquire hope in acquiring young talent by trading away their current valuable pieces of their struggling team. At the beginning of the season, the 2015 Braves were expected to be sure sellers at the deadline. However, a group of young misfits managed to keep the World Series favorite Washington Nationals division lead at arm’s length. In spite of their surprisingly valiant effort, General Manager John Hart elected to continue to rebuild for the future and trade away the now at the deadline. Hart has continually broken Braves fans heart by dealing the former building stones of the organization. Fan favorites Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and even Craig Kimbrel were dealt prior to the season. Hart as been one of the most aggressive GMs in baseball thus far and that did not stop at the deadline. Hall of Fame executive Branch Rickey once said, “It is better to trade a player a year early than a year to late”. Hopefully Braves fans will be saying the same thing once these young prospects start to invade the major league club.
Braves send Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to the Mets for John Gant and Rob Whalen
This was the first big move for the Braves prior to the deadline, and it showed right off the bat whether they would be buyers or sellers as the deadline approached. The Braves got rid of two of their best bats for two minor league pitchers. Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe were both on veteran expiring contracts, and Hart felt the team was not ready to win now, so he made a move to shop the veterans and take the best young talent he could find. At 33, Johnson has been more than a pleasant surprise, as he as arguably been the Braves most consistent hitter with the injuries to Freddie Freeman. The former Baby Brave was hitting .275 with 9 home runs before being dealt to the Mets. Juan Uribe was acquired by the Braves earlier this season in a trade with the Dodgers. Uribe was not getting much playing time in Dodger blue, but became the full time 3rd baseman for the Braves. With the Braves, his power numbers were respectable and he hit just a few points under .300. Johnson and Uribe were the two catalysts carrying the Braves lineup in the absence of Freeman, and the move was the waving of the white flag on the 2015 season.
However, the Braves did receive two mid-level prospects. John Gant started 17 games in the Mets farm system over A-AA and recorded a 6-5 record with a 3.52 ERA. The Savannah, Georgia native had his debut for AA Mississippi last Friday and threw 5 2/3 innings with 1 earned run in a win. Gant will likely make out as a lower end of the rotation pitcher in the majors, and with the Braves repertoire of starting pitching prospects, it is unlikely he ever appears as a starter for the Braves. The “prize” of the deal for the Braves was Rob Whalen. Whalen is coming off a 2014 year in which a hand injury held him back. As a starter, he only threw 69 2/3 innings last season, but has already thrown over 96 this season. In his minor league career Whalen is 17-10 with a 2.41 ERA. In his two starts with the Carolina Mudcats he is 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA.
The Braves did give up hope on the 2015 season a little prematurely by trading Johnson and Uribe for mid-level prospects. Regardless, Hart and most people around the Braves knew this was not going to be the season that the Braves were holding up the World Series trophy. Getting a valuable prospect like Whalen, who will be in the mix to move up the minors and make the major league club over the next few years, for a couple of expiring veteran contracts is not a bad deal by any means.
The Dodgers Receive Mat Latos and Michael Morse from the Marlins, Pitchers Alex Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan and Prospect Jose Peraza from the Braves
The Braves Receive Hector Olivera, Zach Bird, Paco Rodriguez and 2016 Overall Competitive Balance Draft Pick (34th)
Marlins Receive Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham, Victor Araujo and cash
This trade did not get a lot of hype because it occurred in between the blockbuster deals that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers and David Price to the Blue Jays. It was the other blockbuster deal that took place before the trade deadline. Once again, John Hart has been caught toying with Braves fans emotions. What a devil that man is. Hart traded away the 24-year old lefty pitcher, Alex Wood. Wood has possibly been the most consistent starter for the Braves over the last two seasons. In 2014, Wood finished 11-11 with a remarkable 2.78 ERA. The numbers were a little worse this season but still respectable, as Wood has posted a 7-6 record with a 3.54 ERA. HE EVEN WENT TO GEORGIA FOR GOD’S SAKE! However, Hart does not care care about all that stuff. He cares about rebuilding this organization the right way, and when taking a deeper look Wood was expendable.
For the 1 billionth time, the Braves have stockpiled starting pitching. There are quality starting pitchers from top to bottom in the Braves’ farm system. Olivera has been on the Braves radar for a while now. The Braves were reportedly in a bidding war with the Dodgers for Olivera’s services, a war in which the Dodgers obviously one. Olivera is hitting .384 in his short stint in AAA and looks to be major league ready once he comes off of injury. The Braves currently have a huge hole at 3rd base, and when looking at upcoming free agent 3rd basemen, there are few realistic options. Olivera looks to translate to a .300+ hitter with decent power, and the Braves will only have to pay him around $6 million a year for the next 5 years as the Dodgers are on the hook for the bonus they paid him. He’s a cheap option and the market for players at the hot corner isn’t great between now and 2017. He could come in and be a great compliment to Freddie Freeman and immediately boost a struggling Braves lineup. The Braves are looking toward the future and have arms to deal, so it makes sense to deal a guy like Wood, who has shown no signs of improvement over the last couple seasons. Hitters hit .288 off Wood so far this year, and though he is team controlled and talented, the Braves appear to perhaps sold high on Wood.
The Braves also got a very solid reliever in Paco Rodriguez. Rodriguez is everything Luiz Avilan is not. He is a lefty pitcher who can actually get out lefties. Lefty batters have only hit .174 off of Rodriguez in his career. The Braves also got a high draft pick and starting pitching prospect Zach Bird. Bird is a mid-level prospect who will not pitch for the Braves ever unless he begins to turn things around in the minors. The big right handed pitcher is 16-35 with a 4.67 ERA in his career in the minors. The numbers are poor, but Bird is only 20-years old and has plenty of time to turn things around.
The Braves also parted ways with former top prospect Jose Peraza. Peraza is a terrific prospect and looks to be a great contact bat in the major leagues one day. However, the Braves have the middle infield of the future set with Simmons and Peterson, so Peraza had become a luxury, especially with the emergence of Ozhaino Albies. Jace Peterson has a higher OBP in the majors this season than Peraza does in AAA. He will likely be a solid MLB player, but Olivera clearly has a better bat and can play the hot corner for the Braves. The Braves also sent over pitcher Bronson Arroyo to the Dodgers, which basically means they acquire stud pitching prospect Touki Toussaint for free. The deal is a tough one for Braves fans to deal with now, but in a year or two things will start to look a little better.