The 5 Best and 5 Worst Trades of the Atlanta Braves Rebuild: Part 3

Feb 27, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Arodys Vizcaino (38) throws a pitch during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2017; Lakeland, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Arodys Vizcaino (38) throws a pitch during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Part 1 and Part 2 were spent evaluating which were the 5 best and 5 worst deals for the Atlanta Braves during their recent rebuild. Today we’re going to to look at the trades that just missed each of the two list.

Finding 5 bad trades was hard enough the first time so all three of these deals were on the “best trades” list. All the same rules from the first two parts apply here so let’s jump straight into it.

Braves trade RP Jordan Walden and  RF Jason Heyward to St. Louis for SP Shelby Miller and SP Tyrell Jenkins. #8 on the best trades list

If you’re confused on how this trade is just now making the list, I suggest going back to part 1 and reading the intro to find your answer. On it’s own merits, this was a pretty even trade.

I do give a slight edge to Atlanta because of the years of control they acquired but given where St. Louis was in their win cycle and the stable of arms they had in their system, I get it from their perspective too.

Atlanta thought they were getting a young, talented pitcher with several years of control for their rebuild and St. Louis thought they were getting one year of elite outfield play for their playoff run. Both were right.

Shelby put up a 3.5 Win season in his one year in a Braves uniform, the best of his career, and gave Atlanta and extremely valuable asset to either keep or move. You know how that ended.

Jason, meanwhile, put up an incredible 6 Win season in his one year in St. Louis and lead them to a 100 win season, a Division Title, and a trip to the NLCS.

I can go into Jordan Walden and Tyrell Jenkins but I really don’t see a point as neither guy did anything to move the needle on this trade. This was about Heyward and Miller.

Both guys have moved on from their respective teams since and Atlanta obviously made the better subsequent move, trading Shelby, but for this trade, both teams got exactly what they hoped.

Braves trade 2B Tommy La Stella to Chicago (Cubs) for RP Arodys Vizcaino and $832,000 in International slot money – #7 on the best trades list

This trade has worked out well for Atlanta for a couple reasons. The first reason is Vizcaino has become one of the Braves best relievers, when healthy, and given the increased value for relievers in general, has become quite valuable.

The second is Tommy La Stella has spent a good chunk of his time in Chicago either being hurt or making headlines off the field. And not in a good way.

La Stella is still a decent hitter but will always be a bench player and while the value of relievers has gone up, major league bench players can be had for pretty cheap at the moment. Guys like Kelly Johnson and Angel Pagan are still waiting for a big league team to call and can provide similar production to a guy like La Stella.

Basically, the Braves picked a really good time to trade a solid bench bat for a really talented reliever as the value of those two positions have gone in opposite directions.

We’ll never know exactly how the international money was spent but you can be sure Atlanta has more talent in their system because of it.

Braves use depth pieces to acquire two potential stars from Seattle. #6 on the best trades list

I decided to combine two trades here because they were between the same two teams, structured the same way, happened within weeks of each other, and in both cases, Atlanta came away with the most talented piece.

The first trade was Atlanta acquiring C/OF Alex Jackson and LHP Tyler Pike for SP Rob Whalen and SP Max Povse.

The second trade was Atlanta acquiring LHP Luiz Gohara and LHP Thomas Burrows for CF Mallex Smith and RP Shae Simmons.

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I love trades like these. Anytime you have as much depth as Atlanta has in their system, the best thing you can do is begin to combine some of lesser pieces together and see if you can extract a potential star from someone else.

Jackson was a former first round pick who’s hitting ability was almost universally praised. In fact, he’s bat was so highly regarded he was actually moved off of catcher because there was fear his bat would progress so much faster than his glove.

He hasn’t hit the way he was expected to but Seattle has struggled on a systemic level to develop hitting prospects and I do wonder if getting out of that environment will help unlock that potential.

Gohara was traded to Atlanta in a not-really-but-kind-of three team deal. Seattle immediately flipped Mallex plus another prospect to Tampa for Drew Smyly. He’s a big boy lefty who’s big arm has led some to a CC Sabathia com and Keith Law of ESPN sees his potential as a #2 starter if he can continue to improve his command the way he has to this point.

Both of these deals with Seattle were classic examples of two teams being at two different stages of the win cycle. Seattle wants to win right now with an aging and expensive roster and saw the chance to add 4 arms to the depth of their major league club even if it meant giving up the more talented players.

Atlanta, having the luxury of a little more patience, saw the chance to turn a collection of guys who aren’t among their top prospects and flip them for guys with considerably more upside.

Next: The 5 Best Trades of the Braves Rebuild

I said earlier in this series that “going for it” is a motto that’s justified some terrible trades and it looks like it’s happened again as Atlanta used its patience and depth to take advantage of Seattle’s urgency.