4 Atlanta Braves trade heists people don't talk about enough

Atlanta has made some truly great trades in their history that don't get enough recognition.

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two / Adam Hagy/GettyImages
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No team is perfect when it comes to trades and the Atlanta Braves are a prime example. Fans don't have to think hard about some notable Atlanta misses on the trade market and to this day, mentioning names like Mark Teixeira, JD Drew/Adam Wainwright, Hector Olivera, and Nate McLouth is a good way to get Braves fans riled up all over again.

However, the Braves have largely done very well when it comes to making trades. The most obvious example is the John Smoltz trade that is widely regarded as the best trade in franchise history, but there is also the clear example of the 2021 trade deadline which is pretty much the biggest reason why the Braves won the World Series.

There are some other Braves' heists from years past that don't get the press they deserve as we are here to remedy that.

Here are 4 of the biggest trade heists in Atlanta Braves history

The goal here isn't to make a list of the best trades in Braves franchise history. If that were true, the John Smoltz/Doyle Alexander trade would be at the top. Instead, the purpose is to focus on some really great moves that tend to be forgotten when thinking about how great the Braves' end of the deal was. There is no particular order to these moves as all have their merits, but they are all significant moves that look VERY lopsided with the benefit of hindsight.

Braves acquire Fred McGriff

  • Date: July 18, 1993
  • Trade Details: Braves acquire 1B Fred McGriff and Padres received OF Vince Moore, OF Melvin Nieves, and RHP Donnie Elliot

We start with the Crime Dog himself. The Braves traded for McGriff during the 1993 season at the trade deadline when they were in desperate need of an offensive difference maker. McGriff was already well-established in the league from his time with the Blue Jays and Padres and immediately gave Atlanta's lineup a big boost. Over the next four seasons with the Braves, McGriff slashed .291/.366/.505 and cracked 111 homers as part of a Hall of Fame career.

As for what the Braves gave up to land McGriff, the answer is not much at all. Vince Moore never made it to the big leagues and both Nieves and Elliott saw limited time in the majors. This is definitely a deal San Diego probably wishes they could have back, but it worked out great for the Braves.

Atlanta trades for Matt Olson in shocking twist

  • Date: March 14, 2022
  • Trade Details: Braves acquire Matt Olson while Athletics receive C Shea Langeliers, OF Cristian Pache, RHP Ryan Cusick, and RHP Joey Estes

The Freddie Freeman/Matt Olson saga is right on that line of being too recent and too high profile for this list. Freeman's departure was a huge deal in Atlanta and when the Braves moved on to Olson after Freddie's agents played hard ball with the wrong guy in Alex Anthopoulos, it marked the end of the era. However, what is often lost in the discussion is just how savvy this move ended up being for the Braves.

Other than his defense taking a step back from his days with Oakland, Olson has been everything the Braves wanted. He remains one of the game's premier power hitters and is coming off the best season of his career when he led the league with 54 homers, 139 RBI, and a .604 slugging percentage. Freeman is still a great player, but Atlanta could have done a LOT worse than Olson to be sure.

What puts this move on the list though is that the Braves landed Olson for a package that Atlanta does not miss basically at all. Langeliers is an uber-talented catcher, but the Braves stole Sean Murphy from them anyways and Langeliers has yet to eclipse a .700 OPS in the majors. Cristian Pache was highly touted as a prospect, but severe hit tool limitations and some injuries have kept him from reaching his ceiling.

Cusick throws really hard, but he is going to be lucky to be a big league reliever given his struggles with walking guys. As for Estes, he did make his big league debut last year and he does have a chance to be a big league starter, but that is a small price to pay for one of the best first basemen in all of baseball.

Braves fleece Dave Stewart and land Dansby Swanson

  • Date: Dec. 9, 2015
  • Trade Details: Braves acquire SS Dansby Swanson, OF Ender Inciarte, and RHP Aaron Blair and Diamondbacks receive RHP Shelby Miller and LHP Gabe Speier

This one is starting to be forgotten simply because all of the players on the Braves' end are no longer with the team. At the time, the Braves somehow trading Shelby Miller for two lineup staples and a very interesting pitching prospect was big, big news.

It all started with news that the Braves' general manager at the time, John Coppolella, had lunch with his Diamondbacks counterpart Dave Stewart. Later that evening, it was revealed that Atlanta was sending Miller, who pitched great for the Braves to his credit, to Arizona and with each successive news update, the package got better and better for the Braves.

Dansby is obviously the headliner here. It took him a couple years to get his feet under him, but Dansby established himself as one of the game's best defensive shortstops who can also hit for power and really run. The end of his time with the Braves was unfortunate, but Atlanta got a lot out of him despite that. Inciarte was a shell of his former self towards the end of his time, but before that he was a solid offensive contributor and may have been the best outfielder defender in the league for a few years there. Blair had a lot of promise before a shoulder injury effectively ended his MLB aspriations.

As for what the Braves gave up, Miller posted three subpar seasons with the Diamondbacks and has since then remade himself as a pretty decent reliever while bouncing around the league. Speier never made it to the majors with the Diamondbacks, although it does seem like he has finally found a home in the Mariners' bullpen coming off a good season in 2023.

Adding Tim Hudson remains one of the Braves' best trades

  • Date: December 16, 2004
  • Trade Details: Braves acquire RHP Tim Hudson and Athletics receive OF Charles Thomas, LHP Dan Meyer, and RHP Juan Cruz

Tim Hudson remains a Braves legend to this day. After a stellar tenure with Oakland (seriously, the Athletics should be very nervous anytime Atlanta calls), the Braves traded for Hudson and he would go on to a nine season run with Atlanta. Over the course of his Braves tenure, Hudson posted a 3.56 ERA and 3.88 FIP while striking out nearly 1,000 batters over 1,573 innings of work.

This trade is a reminder that is never a good idea to try and buy high on a guy that does not have much of a track record. There were two headliners in this deal were Charles Thomas and Dan Meyer. In Thomas' case, he had a good 84 game stretch with the Braves in 2004, but didn't show much in the way of power. Oakland ended up regretting the choice as Thomas posted a dismal .343 OPS in 55 plate appearances with the team in 2005 and never played in the majors again.

As for Meyer, this is a fun part. Meyer was a highly touted pitching prospect, but he would have some shoulder troubles that kept him from returning to the majors until 2007. After parts of two rough seasons in Oakland, he would have one really strong season with the Marlins followed by a bad one that would end up being his final year in the big leagues. The fun part is that Meyer eventually returned to the Braves organization as an excellent minor league pitching coach and manager from 2015 to 2021.

With Cruz, Oakland was hoping to get the guy that posted a 2.75 ERA in 50 relief appearances, but were instead rewarded with a 7.44 ERA in Cruz's lone season with Oakland. Cruz would rebound and pitch pretty well for another seven seasons with the Diamondbacks, Royals, Rays, and Pirates.

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