The goal of every team each season is to win a championship. Sometimes that’s not realistic, but that hasn’t stopped general managers from making mind-boggling moves at the trade deadline, setting their organization back years in development.
For the past two seasons, the Braves have been one of the more active teams at the trade deadline. As they should be, considering they have won the NL East both years. However, it wasn’t too long ago that Atlanta was a delusional organization looking to make a substantial push much earlier than they should have. Had this trade been completed, all of those woeful years of rebuilding may have been for not.
The Trade: Ozzie Albies (and more) for Jose Quintana
Here’s a tweet from ESPN’s Jeff Passan on July 14th, 2017, a few weeks before the trade deadline and one day after Jose Quintana was traded to the Chicago Cubs.
Sources: The Braves made a strong and serious run at Jose Quintana, with an offer that included 20-year-old SS Ozzie Albies.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 15, 2017
At the time, Ozzie Albies had yet even to play a major-league game. He was putting up stellar numbers in AAA, posting a .285 batting average with 9 homers, 8 triples and 21 doubles in 97 games before the Braves eventually called him up later that year.
Jose Quintana was a highly-regarded 28-year-old left-handed starter coming off an All-Star campaign in 2016. He still had three more years remaining on his contract, and the Braves were only a few games out of the playoff picture, looking for a controllable veteran starter that could head a rotation that was severely lacking star power.
Today, we know this trade would have been a disaster for several reasons. The Braves were not nearly good enough to compete for a playoff spot in 2017 (they ended up finishing 72-90), and they also would have given up one of the critical pieces that helped them claim the NL East in 2018 and 2019.
Ozzie Albies became an All-Star in 2018 and was even better in 2019, establishing himself as one of the best second basemen in baseball. The Braves were also able to sign him to a seven-year extension during last season for only — wait for it — $35 million. Atlanta now has possibly the best bargain contract in baseball and two NL East titles to their name. That would not have been possible if this trade was completed.
Quintana has been decent ever since he was traded to the Cubs. His first half-season was his best, going 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts, but in the two years since his ERA has eclipsed four, and he most recently had a 4.68 ERA in 32 starts. Typically, that might not even be good enough to last in the Braves rotation. Although, as we know, this year is a little different, considering all the problems Atlanta has with their starting pitching. Still, this would have been a dreadful deal for the Braves that probably would have already cost them one NL East title — if not two — and many more in the future.
We may only be a week into the 2020 season, but the trade deadline is only a month away. And like there is every year, several marquee names will be on the trade block, and the Braves will certainly be evaluating the landscape, especially in the starting pitching market. However, rumored trades like this that almost happened should serve as a reminder that while a trade can put a team over the hump on the road to a World Series, it can also cripple an organization. Just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates, who traded both Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to the Rays for Chris Archer in an attempt to speed up their rebuild. Now, they are one of the worst teams in baseball, while the Rays are considered to be World Series contenders.