We’re near the quarter point, way too early to judge John Hart’s winter moves. But so far his misses have been mostly minor errors while his hits have been doubles in the gap.
Traded Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals. Received Tyrell Jenkins (minors) and Shelby Miller. Hated this deal initially, mostly because I didn’t want to believe Jay Hey was leaving. And the Cards didn’t seem to mind losing Miller, who had regressed in his sophomore year. Turns out 2014 was an aberration, not a trend. Miller seems poised to become the Braves’ first true ace since Smoltzie while Heyward’s struggles at the plate (.674 OPS) continue. Again, it’s EARLY, but Jay Hey’s rookie season may turn out to the exception, not the norm. As for the others, Walden is on the DL, a familiar spot for him, while Jenkins has been decent at Double-A. Big advantage to Braves, for now.
Signed Jim Johnson as a free agent. Take away one bad week and Johnson, signed for $1.6 million, has been the Braves’ best reliever. Good value.
Signed Nick Markakis as a free agent. Still not crazy about this move, but at least Markakis hasn’t pulled a B.J. thus far. He’s been excellent at getting on base, but his power has been non-existent. And that, going forward, is a bigger need for the Braves. Not as bad as feared, but still questionable.
Signed Alberto Callaspo as a free agent. Bad defense, punchless at the plate but hey, he doesn’t strike out much. Three mil unwisely spent. Lemon.
Traded Anthony Varvaro to the Boston Red Sox. Received Aaron Kurcz (minors) and cash. Didn’t understand this deal at the time and the Braves could surely have used Varvaro in relief. The Varvaro of 2014, that is. Boston released him and the Cubs designated him for assignment. Kurcz has saved 5 and has a 11.6 K/9 IP ratio at Gwinnett but won’t be getting a call-up until he improves his command (12 BB in 14 IP). Incomplete.
Traded Aaron Northcraft (minors) and Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres. Received Max Fried (minors), Dustin Peterson (minors), Mallex Smith (minors) and Jace Peterson. I wasn’t upset that J-Up was traded, knowing the Braves had zero chance of re-signing him. But I thought Hart could’ve gotten much more. Turns out he did pretty well. Jace Peterson has been consistently getting on base and his bat has come around after a poor start. Mallex, hitting .333 with 8 steals at Mississippi, appears poised to be the Braves’ lead-off hitter for years to come (though he need to cut down on his Ks). The other Peterson, Dustin, selected by the Pads in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, has taken a big step forward after a disappointing season in A-ball. Jumping to High-A, Peterson is batting .314 with a .839 OPS and 14 walks — 11 fewer than he had all of last season. Could emerge as a dangerous right-handed bat, something virtually every team needs. And Fried, still recovering from TJ surgery, is considered the best prospect of them all. Much better than expected.
Traded David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve to the New York Yankees. Received Manny Banuelos (minors). Carpenter and Shreve have been okay pitching in the middle innings while Banuelos has shown steady improvement at Gwinnett (2.89 ERA, 31 Ks in 37 IP) though he needs to cut down on his walks (17 so far). Yes, the Braves could use some bullpen depth but 2015 doesn’t matter as much as 2017, when Banuelos may well be a fixture in the rotation. Future friendly.
Signed Jason Grilli as a free agent. Can’t vouch for his leadership skills but he’s been a better than replacement-level closer and stands to be a valuable asset at the trading deadline. Excellent value for $3.5 million, and his $3 mil option will be appealing to cost-conscious contenders.
Signed A.J. Pierzynski as a free agent. Better than I expected behind the plate, better than anyone expected with the bat. A steal at $2 million.
Traded James Hoyt (minors) and Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros. Received Rio Ruiz (minors), Andrew Thurman (minors) and Michael Foltynewicz. Loved this trade at the time and still like it, even though Ruiz has been awful at Mississippi (.173-0-9). Gattis isn’t doing much better for the ‘Stros, batting .183 with 32 strikeouts and just four walks. He does have six homers, putting him on pace for a Rob Deer-like season. Folty is the key to this deal, and so far he’s shown flashes of brilliance, looking far more comfortable in the bigs than he did a year ago. Potentially great, even if Ruiz is a dud.
Signed Kelly Johnson as a free agent. Still leads the Braves in homers. A steal at $1.5 mil.
Signed Eric Stults as a free agent. Wouldn’t be surprised if his next start is his last for the Braves. Mark Redman redux.
Signed Jonny Gomes as a free agent. Decent power from the right side, plays hard, about what we expected.
Traded Josh Elander (minors) to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Trevor Cahill and cash. A regrettable move even if the Braves had received another $5.5 million — Cahill’s remaining salary. Could’ve signed Aaron Harang for $500,000 less. A bust, but without any long-term repercussions.
Traded Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the San Diego Padres. Received Jordan Paroubeck (minors), Matt Wisler (minors), Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and 2015 competitive balance round A pick. Dumping Melvin’s contract was a huge win. Acquiring a bona fide pitching prospect like Wisler, who has rebounded nicely after an ugly start, makes this one of the best transactions of Hart’s career (not quite Eddie Taubensee for Kenny Lofton, but still). Kimbrel’s struggles aren’t likely to persist, but if they do this trade will be remembered for years to come. Added bonus: Maybin has kept Eric Young Jr. on the bench.