The best GM in Braves history is responsible for four of the five worst deals on our list. Go figure.
10. JS/Ryan Klesko, Bret Boone and Jason Shiell to San Diego for Wally Joyner, Reggie Sanders and Quilvio Veras. As someone who thinks you can’t have enough speed, I LOVED this deal at the time. But then Klesko ended up stealing more bases in 2000 than Sanders and only two fewer than Veras, who was released in ’01. Sanders slugged 59 homers combined the year before and after the trade; with Atlanta he hit 11. As for Boone, if he had to do ‘roids, why’d he wait ’til leaving the Braves?
9. Paul Richards/Mickey Rivers and Clint Compton to California for Bob Priddy and Hoyt Wilhelm. Yes, the knuckleballer helped the Braves clinch the division in 1969 and was solid in ’70, but who trades a prospect for a 47-year-old? Rivers retired with 267 steals and a .295 BA.
8. Bobby/Steve Bedrosian and Milt Thompson to Philly for Ozzie Virgil and Pete Smith. An understandable deal, as Bobby was looking to add young pitching and Smith was a very talented arm. But intentions don’t matter on our list. Bedrock won a Cy Young and saved 143 games after the trade and Thompson became a quality platoon outfielder. Virgil was a one-time All-Star with the Braves but good luck finding an Atlanta fan who remembers him fondly.
7. Eddie Robinson/Andre Thornton to the Cubs for Joe Pepitone. The pretty boy ex-Yankee lasted one month and 11 AB’s with the Braves. Thornton slugged 253 homers and drove in 895 runs after leaving Atlanta.
6. John Mullen/Gary Matthews to Philadelphia for Bob Walk. Sarge was MVP of the ’83 NLCS and ranked fifth in the NL MVP voting the following year. Three years and a day after the trade, Walk was released. He won 12 games as a Brave with a 4.85 ERA and 1.472 WHIP.
5. JS/Jermaine Dye and Jamie Walker to KC for Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart. Often overlooked as one of JS’ worst mainly because Dye was so underrated. The 2005 World Series MVP hit more than 30 homers four times and drove in 118 or more runs thrice. Throw-in Walker emerged as a serviceable southpaw in the ‘pen. For that the Braves received a solid fourth OF and Capt. Mediocre, a generous nickname considering his .248 BA and .671 OPS.
4. John Mullen/Brett Butler, Rick Behenna and Brook Jacoby for Len Barker. A trade that lives in Braves infamy. Butler stole nearly 500 bases with an OBP better than .380 after leaving Atlanta while Jacoby was a two-time All-Star with the Tribe. Barker was 10-20 for the Braves with a 4.64 ERA and 1.391 WHIP.
3. JS/Beau Jones, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus for Ron Mahay and Borasbot. A speedy SS and an established closer sure would fit nicely on the 2011 Braves. Down the road this could rank as THE worst.
2. JS/David Justice and Marquis Grissom to Cleveland for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree. I liked this trade at the time; Justice was coming of an injury while Lofton was the most exciting player in the game, batting .317 with 14 homers and 75 steals in ’96. Lofton wasn’t horrible with the Braves, batting .33 with a .409 OBP, but he was successful on only 27 of 47 SB attempts and famously clashed with Bobby. He returned to Cleveland the following year as a free agent and was once again a productive sparkplug.
Justice hit 96 homers with a .294 BA and .918 OPS in four years on Lake Erie. Marquis was on the downside of his career but still topped 20 homers four times post-Atlanta. It’s fair to argue that, had this trade not been made, the Braves would own more than one World Series crown.
1. JS/Adam Wainwright, Ray King and Jason Marquis to St. Louis for Just Disabled and Eli Marrero. This trade might’ve made the list even if the Braves had re-signed ol’ J.D., who was at his best in 2004 — until the playoffs, when he registered four singles and one RBI. Wainwright, meanwhile, was dominant out of the ‘pen in 2006, helping the Cards win the World Series. In four subsequent seasons as a starter the Brunswick native posted a sterling 64-34 record with an ERA below three, improving each year; Wainwright finished third in the 2009 NL Cy Young voting and second last year. And he’s still only 29.
Eddie Robinson/Dusty Baker and Ed Goodson to the Dodgers for Jerry Royster, Tom Paciorek, Lee Lacy and Jim Wynn. Royster stuck around for 10 years but didn’t impress, hitting .246 with a .310 OBP as a Brave. The Toy Cannon made like Reggie Sanders as a Brave and was gone after one year. Lacy was dealt back to LA along with Elias Sosa for a washed-up Mike Marshall and Wimpy became a productive player AFTER he was released by the Braves. Dusty went on to hit 140 homers for the hated Dodgers.
Paul Richards/Rico Carty to Texas for Jim Panther. One of the more popular Braves was dealt for a middle reliever who, in 30 innings for Atlanta, allowed 45 hits with a 7.63 ERA. Carty struggled with the Rangers but rebounded with the Indians in ’75, twice batting higher than .300. He topped 80 RBI three more seasons before retiring.
PR, JM, Bobby/Clay Carroll, Ken Dayley, Brian Fisher, Duane Ward for Milt Pappas, Ken Oberkfell, Rick Cerone and Doyle Alexander. That quartet of talented relievers saved 326 games post-Atlanta. Cerone hit .216 during his brief tenure with the Braves while Alexander and Pappas won 29 games in A-town. Oberkfell, of course, represented malaise better than any Jimmy Carter speech. One caveat: Trading Duane Ward for Doyle Alexander made the Smoltz deal possible.