Think whatever you want of the guy, but as far as the transaction log goes, John Coppellela hit way more than he missed. When looking back at the Braves rebuild, one trade sticks out like a sore thumb, and that was the Hector Olivera deal. Olivera was a complete bust, ended up in legal trouble and has yet to be heard from since. Due to some maneuvering by Coppolella, and then his replacement, Alex Anthopoulos, the team was able to redeem itself by getting some production from Matt Kemp in return, and then turning his huge contract into expiring money and Charlie Culberson. However, that was a small consolation prize for losing out on Jose Peraza, who just enjoyed a nice season with the Cincinnati Reds, and Alex Wood, who has simply been terrific throughout his career.
However, this article profiles a terrible deal that has not been talked about nearly enough. On December 1, 2016, the Braves traded John Gant, Chris Ellis, and Luke Dykstra to the Cardinals in exchange for Jaime Garcia. The move made no sense from the start. This was the only deal in which it seemed Coppy was reversing course, giving up prospects in exchange for a starting pitcher with an injury history and an expiring contract.
Gant had been acquired in the deal that sent Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to the Mets. That deal should have been considered a big victory in itself, but the Braves blew it by sending him to St. Louis. Though operating in a strange pitching style, Gant was terrific in the minors with the Braves and Mets, which eventually led to him receiving a handful of appearances for the Braves.
Fast forward to 2018, and John Gant has become a legitimate starting pitcher for the Cardinals. Sure, the Braves have so many arms at their disposal that they may not know what to do with Gant if he were still on the roster. But he is surely a more appealing asset than Huascar Ynoa, who the Braves later received back for Garcia. That’s right, the Braves gave up a legitimate cost-controlled starter for months of mediocre pitching from Jaime Garcia, and no one is talking about it.
Gant posted a 3.47 ERA in 26 appearances (19 starts) for the Cardinals, who are doing a fantastic job of developing young pitchers. If you do not know the name Jack Flaherty now, learn it soon because he will be a force for years.
This serves as yet another reminder of the dangers of trading prospects for a rental. At least in 2019, it would be more justified, but giving up a legit starter for a rental on a 72-win team is just a horrific trade that gives the Braves one less quality option going forward.