The best GM in Braves history is responsible for three of the five worst deals on our list, while the newest makes it with his very first trade.
10. John Schuerholz/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. 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. Boone, meanwhile, did not represent my surname well while a Brave.
9. Bobby Cox/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.
8. JS/Beau Jones, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus for Ron Mahay and Borasbot. A few years ago we had this at #1, but the years have not been kind to the former Brave prospects. Salty has never hit as anticipated and his defense remains subpar. Andrus looked to be a star — instead, he’s an albatross and is due $15 million annually for the next seven years. Injuries, meanwhile, have derailed the promising careers of Feliz and Harrison.
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 Coppy/Andrelton Simmons and Jose Briceno to LAA for Chris Ellis, Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar. Let’s assume Newcomb becomes the next Jon Lester (unlikely). Lester had a 3.1 WAR last year. Andrelton’s was 4.6. So how do the Braves come out on top? Doubt they could get much for Aybar and Ellis is a middling prospect. You don’t trade the best.
3. 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.
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 was dominant out of the ‘pen in 2006, helping the Cards win the World Series, before becoming one of the game’s most accomplished starters. He’s finished in the Top 3 in Cy Young voting four times. A true ace, the rarest of commodities.
- John Alevizos/Darrell Evans and Marty Perez to San Francisco for Willie Montanez, Craig Robinson, Mike Eden and Jake Brown. Alevizos, a Red Sox administrator, fronted a group that seemed poise to buy and relocate the Bravos following a dismal ’75 campaign in which only 534,672 fans showed up to watch the local nine finish 40 games behind the Reds. Fortunately, some on the Braves board, including Bill Bartholomay, felt the franchise shouldn’t ditch Atlanta after only 10 years. They sold the team to Ted for $10 million, less than what the Alevizos group — which wanted to move the Bravos to Toronto — offered. As a consolation, Alevizos was named GM, though his tenure would end 9 months later. While Willie Montanez had two decent years in Atlanta, Evans, a stalwart defender and on-base machine, would go on to hit 283 homers for San Fran and Detroit. And why would you reacquire no-field (29 errors as the Braves starting SS in 1974) and no-hit (.230 BA, .545 OPS) SS Craig Robinson? Call it Alevizos’ revenge.
- 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.
- 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 traded by Alevizos back to LA along with Elias Sosa for a washed-up Mike Marshall while Wimpy became a productive player AFTER he was released by the Braves. Dusty went on to hit 140 homers for the hated Dodgers.
- 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 acquisition possible.