With Shelby Miller signing a major-league deal with the Dodgers yesterday, I recently did a piece on the trade that landed Dansby Swanson in Atlanta, which involved shipping Miller to the Diamondbacks. Off the top of my head, I thought that had to be one of the most one-sided trades in Braves franchise history, which got me thinking — what are the best trades the Braves have made over their tremendously successful last 40 years.
5. Braves trade Vince Moore, Donnie Elliot, and Melvin Nieves to the Padres for Fred McGriff
You’ll notice a theme in this article. The Braves have absolutely slaughtered the Padres in trades over the years. Vince Moore never made it to the majors. Donnie Elliot only accrued 1.1 WAR in two major-league seasons, and Melvin Nieves produced -2.3 WAR over seven big-league seasons.
Meanwhile, the Crime Dog was critical to the Braves 1995 World Series title. His best four seasons came in Atlanta, as he made three of his five All-Star appearances donning a Braves uniform.
4. Braves trade Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson
When I began this article, I thought this trade would be higher. Miller was elite for the Braves during the 2015 season, so the team decided to sell high on him, which turned out to be a brilliant decision. Once he joined the Diamondbacks, It’s like he forgot how to pitch. He only made 28 starts over three seasons with the team, posting a horrific 6.35 ERA before the team decided to part ways with him.
Inciarte’s MLB career may be over, but his best baseball came with the Braves, as he won three straight Gold Gloves and even made the NL All-Star team in 2017. However, the prize of the deal was #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson. His Atlanta debut was highly anticipated, and while it took him longer than expected to get his feet under him, he’s come as advertised, becoming arguably the best shortstop in franchise history and a key cog to Atlanta’s 2021 World Series run.
3. Braves trade Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres for Carlos Quinten, Cameron Maybin, Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st overall pick
At the time, this one hurt because of Craig Kimbrel’s legendary run as the Braves closer. However, looking back at it today, it worked out perfectly. Kimbrel was never the same pitcher after leaving Atlanta, and the Braves were able to rid themselves of one of the worst contracts in baseball in Melvin Upton Jr.
On the surface, the return for the Braves wasn’t much. Quinten and Maybin never did anything. Wisler had some success in the majors, but not in Atlanta, and Paroubeck never made it to the majors. However, the golden goose of the trade was the 41st overall pick, which turned into Austin Riley. Riley has become a perennial MVP candidate in the National League and just inked a ten-year extension to remain with the club. If his success continues over his Braves career, there’s a chance this trade moves up the list before long.
2. Braves trade Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft to the Padres for Max Fried, Dustin Peterson, Jace Peterson, and Mallex Smith
There’s a reason the Braves won the World Series in 2021 and set themselves up for more than a decade of sustained success. When Atlanta chose to rebuild going into the 2015 season, they made a number of trades that turned out to be slam dunks. Upton was on the final year of his contract. He put up some good numbers with the Padres and even made the All-Star Game, but the Braves were never going to re-sign him and neither did the Padres, as he joined the Los Angeles Angles the following offseason. Northcraft only has eight big-league innings under his belt.
Jace Peterson developed into a decent utility player, while Dustin Peterson and Mallex Smith never panned out, but the acquisition of Max Fried is what this trade is all about. At the time, he was a top-100 prospect in baseball, and he’s turned out even better than that, becoming the ace of the Braves staff and arguably the best left-hander in baseball. Fried pitched six innings of shutout baseball in Atlanta’s series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Astros in the 2021 World Series, joining an elite list of pitchers in Braves franchise history.
1. Braves trade Doyle Alexander to the Tigers for John Smoltz
Doyle Alexander actually had a couple of decent seasons for the Tigers, but in exchange, Detroit missed out on one of the best pitchers to ever walk the planet. Smoltz debuted for the Braves in 1988, spending 20 years with the organization, in which he really had two separate carers — one as a starter and one as a closer.
As a member of the rotation, Smoltz made six All-Star Games, won an NL Cy Young, and won a World Series. He’s also one of the most dominant pitchers in postseason history, owning a remarkable 2.67 ERA over a ridiculous 209 innings. As a closer for three seasons, he made two more All-Star teams and led the league in saves in 2002 with 55, finishing third in the NL Cy Young race.
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