Two bad trades cost Braves this season

If you’re trying to place blame on when the Braves blew their shot at making the playoffs, it wasn’t when Matt Diaz was caught off base trying to score against the Florida Marlins. That would have made the score only 5-5, and the game could still have been won.

And it wasn’t when Frank Wren was slow to pull the trigger on John Smoltz, leaving him to hook up with the Red Sox. Nor when Tom Glavine was turned down, in essence making way for Tommy Hanson in the pitching rotation. Au contraire, a stroke of glowing luck.

No, it goes way back longer than that. (And with this, I promise never to bring it up again.) It was when the Braves traded Adam Wainwright — as if he wasn’t enough — and Jason Marquis to the Cardinals for J.D. Drew, the nomadic outfielder. (Eli Marrero, the mysterious Latin also came along, but he created more dilemma than offense.)

And, of course, more recently the disastrous deal that robbed the farm system of five high-grade prospects to Texas for Mark Teixeira, the temporary first baseman. Five, mind you, starting pitcher, a catcher with long-range value, a shortstop now among the finest in the other league, Elvis Andrus, and maybe best of them all, the relief pitcher named Neftali Feliz.

They patched some of the holes, like signing Garret Anderson, the expression-less outfielder, then had to turn around and undo the deal that sent Adam LaRoche to the Pirates, by way of the Red Sox. LaRoche had been traded away in exchange for Mike Gonzalez, another of those one-inning bullpen wonders.

There’s nothing like what-might-have-been. Some of the best deals in baseball are those that are never made. It is quite likely that after all those 14 seasons of ringing up those banners over the left-field fence, that the Braves brass was beginning to pant for a return to glory. Their scouts had brought in some glistening prospects, only to have them squandered in disastrous trades. Nothing worse than the one that sent a pitcher developed under their noses here in the state, in Brunswick, also a tough out at-bat — Wainwright, who hits as well as he pitches. A 20-game winner for years down the road. Marquis, winner of 15 games at Denver — after being passed around to the Cubs and Cardinals — wasn’t popular with the brass. But waste a 15-game winner because he’s quirky?

Under Wren’s care, some good deals were made, and some not so good. He invested heavily in Kenshin Kawakami, the good-natured Japanese, who has since fallen from grace — into the bullpen. Derek Lowe cost even more, and true, he found a way to win 15 times, but his earned-run average outweighed his value, by a bunch. The Braves invested $60 million in him over the long haul. Just how much of this they can afford into future seasons is yet to be seen.

But, you will have to conclude that one major reason Bobby Cox decided to stick around another season is that he must have felt it a shame to leave with a gold-nugget pitching staff on hand. So there.

As for Matt Diaz, he’s a good card to have in your hand. Not only was he the Braves’ leading hitter, but he has never made a move that  he didn’t make with the idea that it might win the game. Yep, he does have a kind of unscripted swing, but you can believe this — he’ll be back, and the Braves will win with him.

218 comments Add your comment

Random

October 5th, 2009
9:09 am

Within the span of just two short paragraphs, Mr Furman Bisher is of two different minds on relievers:

Theirs — “and maybe best of them all, the relief pitcher named Neftali Feliz”

and

Ours — “Mike Gonzalez, another of those one-inning bullpen wonders.” (Derisive sarcsam is inferred.)

Richard Dawson

October 5th, 2009
9:15 am

Agreed. The Braves gave up tons of prospects that never panned out over the years, but those particular ones hurt. Lowe was a total bust. Attributing wins and losses to pitchers is remarkably ignorant.

Richard Dawson

October 5th, 2009
9:16 am

Chipper: “To the guys’ credit, it’s kind of hard to come out here and play the last day of the season with nothing riding on it.”

It’s this kind of losing attitude I can’t stand. You’re getting paid a lot of money, fans are paying a lot of money, and you’re supposed to be competitive athletes. It’s not a tribute that you play on the last day, it’s a freaking requirement, it’s your job, and it should be your passion.

Don

October 5th, 2009
9:19 am

The huge mystery is— Why do the AJC writers look at comparatively insignificant problems and ignore the main obvious problem with the Braves. I agree that these two deals should not have been made – but as far is disasterous effect on the Braves, they pale in comparison to having Bobby Cox as a manager – with his continuous bluundering and terrible actions and lack of actions – not to mention his complete failure to manage the offense – - He has never taught, emphasized, demanded working the count/ being selective/ making the pitcher throw a lot of pitches – which has multiple effects – this failure guarantees inconsistant run production. The way he has won was by having a Pitching Staff so far far superior to all other teams that this overcame his lack of management and enabled the Braves to win over the 162 game regular season. But even with this tremendous advantage, he usually only barely won the Division and only 1 W.S. in 14 opportunities.

David

October 5th, 2009
9:27 am

What a completely unnecessary commentary. The Braves got exactly what they needed in the Wainwright trade, a 30-homer cleanup hitter for 2004 which got them into the playoffs. I seriously doubt the Braves would have gotten there without him. The Tex trade was a molestation, clear and simple, I can’t argue that. But he produced very well while he was here, the pitching just couldn’t stay healthy (remember Buddy Carlyle was the #3 guy for half the season), otherwise one of those years might have been another playoff year as well.

Let’s take a look at some of the more recent prospects who were traded that went on to become stars: Hanley Ramirez, Scott Kazmir, Adam Jones, Dan Haren, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore…I could go on an on. And I won’t even start a list of all the touted prospects who were traded that never made it, but I would imagine that’s a very long list. Basically, hindsight articles are a pointless exercise in futility. It doesn’t do any good for anyone.

bvillebaron

October 5th, 2009
9:28 am

BravesBeat:

The Braves would have won if they kept Glavine and Smoltz? Get real! Stop living in the past! Hanson is twice the pitcher than either of them are NOW and he is 22. Besides, starting pitching wasn’t the problem this year. Furman hit this one right on the head. Schuerholz will go down as one of the best GMs of all times, but his shortsighted trades that cost us Marquis and Wainwright and gave up 5, repeat 5 quality prospects, for a one year rent a player, Mr. Mercenary, Mark Texeira, has hurt this team tremendously.

Extend Hudson

October 5th, 2009
9:29 am

Looking back, those trades are horrible. And so are the free agent signings. $15 million for Lowe? The guy was overrated from the start. And Kawakami’s kung fu moo goo gai pan is no good in America. You know, where REAL baseball players play, not the slant-eye league.

OedipusTax

October 5th, 2009
9:35 am

Reading many of the posts here, many of which vary far from the original topic, reminds me that “a walk through the ocean of most souls will barely get your feet wet.” Here’s hoping that the most insulting of you actually look into the mirror, and see the real problem.

David

October 5th, 2009
9:35 am

Richard Dawson @ 9:16 am…

You telling me you’ve never taken it easy at work on a Friday afternoon before a holiday? These guys are human, I don’t care how much pay is involved. If you really want to vent some anger, go yell at the nine DOT workers gathered around a hole in the road with only one shovel. We don’t have a choice about paying for that, now that’s a travesty!!!

B. E. Pettitt

October 5th, 2009
11:30 am

Amen to your article. You hit the nail on the head. I have been thinking about Wainwright and those guys in Texas for sometime now. We (Braves) just rented two players for a short while. Drew is always hurt and he does not appear to want to play. I am not favorably impressed with Wren’s management skills. We shall see what the Winter brings. The Braves stayed too long with Shafer, Johnson, and Francoeur. If they had contributed anything at all, we would have run away with the eastern division!!!!!!

Doug B

October 5th, 2009
12:02 pm

Both trades needed to be made. Jd replaced Shef and we made the playoffs. We desperately needed a 1B and Tex was avail. What about the bad trade of Klesko and Boone for Versas and Sanders, ouch!!

THE BEAR Illegitimi non carborundum

October 5th, 2009
12:03 pm

I agree on Wainwright but at the time he had not shown that much promise at the time. It took him years to develop with the Cardinals, including many months in their bullpen.

As for Marquis he was always a nutjob and had never come close to winning 15 games until this year. The Cards and Cubs liked him almost as much as Atlanta did. And tell me this, just where would Marquis have fit into the Atlanta rotation this year?

Pitching was not what the Braves needed this year. Consistent hitting was their weakness.

As for Andrus would anyone trade Escobar for Andrus right now? Or would anyone trade McCann for the (Salty) catcher with the long name right now? No way would I do that.

So, I must say that of all the brickbats you threw at the Braves management today I only agree with one thing and that is Wainwright. On the other hand we did get J. D. Drew that year and we won the pennant with him. Could we have won it without him? It is highly doubtful.

I will admit I would like to have Neftali Feliz around but you never get something for nothing. I didn’t like giving up all those prospects for one player but they believed they had a shot at winning that year with Tex. Obviously they were wrong on that score.

THE BEAR Illegitimi non carborundum

October 5th, 2009
12:21 pm

Furman, let’s take this a step further. I just checked the stats and maybe you should do the same before you again attack the Braves management like you did today.

This year Saltalamachia hit .233, 9HR and 34 RBI. You would prefer him to McCann?

Andrus hit .267, 6HRs and 40 RBI’s. And you would prefer him to Yunel Escobar?

And to cap it off Feliz was 1-0 in 20 games from the bullpen. He did have an ERA of 1.78 (or thereabouts).

Are you contending the Braves would have been better off in 2009 with those three players on the roster?

Furman, just perhaps it is time for you to consider hanging it up. I am pushing 80 and remember you all the way back to Charlotte but I can still check the stats.

Charles

October 5th, 2009
12:36 pm

Mr. Bisher, you are right on the money about making trades for short term gains — the Braves seemed consumed by trying to get back on top quickly and made a series of trades – JD Drew, Teixera, etc — that on balance were very costly to the long term success of the team. The Braves should have realized that their aging stars could not be expected to stay healthy or maintain past performance levels and should have made the decision to rebuild, as they finally did in the 2nd half of this year. The desire to stay on top and get their quickly with the Boras rent-a-players was a disaster.

alvin

October 5th, 2009
12:50 pm

Furman,

Is this the same column you wrote at the start of the year?

Get back to us after your done with the beating…

Green Tea

October 5th, 2009
12:58 pm

It’s not bad trades that cost em. They couldn’t hit worth a SH*&, period, point blank….

don

October 5th, 2009
1:10 pm

VINDICATED. AMEN. I sounded the alarm about the sheer stupidity of the Drew trade and the Teixeira trade BEFORE they were made. I posted repeatedly that the Braves were destroying their future. I was crucified by other “knowledgeable” posters.

I was right. But, you know what, it is of little consolation to read that Bisher agrees. And, I assume, that finally the rest of you have caught up. Possibly a lesson has been learned- but don’t bet on it.

The absolute truth is that Schuerholz and Wren were completely outsmarted by St. Louis and Texas and the shortsighted fans fell in line. “Stupid” is too nice a word to describe the fools.

Kendawg

October 5th, 2009
1:14 pm

I personally thought (and still think) the Wainwright trade was one of the dumbest moves I’ve ever seen a major league club make.

swhite1115

October 5th, 2009
1:14 pm

Mr. Bisher:

I have enjoyed your columns for many years (and yes, I agree with you that if the NFL had awarded Lindsay Hopkins the franchise instead of Rankin Smith we would’ve had a great NFL team earlier. That’s how far back I go!) but I must say I can’t see your reasoning. Jason Marquis is 94-83 in his career, with a 4.48 ERA and has had 4 winning seasons out of 10. This season he did win 15, equaling his career high, but he also lost 13. Not what might be called stellar. Salty is at, what, .233 with 9 homers? And where would we have played him? Andrus batted .267 and had a .968 fielding percentage. Escobar was .299 with a .979 fielding average. So, where do we put Andrus? Second? What about Prado? Third? Hmmm, Chipper Jones.
As many have pointed out, the problem this year was hitting, not pitching. I guess we could’ve used Andrus, Salty, and Marquis as trade bait, but then, wasn’t that what we did before?

scott

October 5th, 2009
2:24 pm

Furman Please retire. J.D. Drew said he was going to resign with us. The bad trade was not getting the same in return from the Angels for The now Yankee first basemen.

ugaaccountant

October 5th, 2009
2:29 pm

Speaking as an accountant here, Mr. Bisher is absolutely correct. If we had held onto Wainright and Feliz instead of including them in those trades, we would not have needed to invest in 2 of the 3 pitchers: 60 million in Derek Lowe this year or 21 million for Kawakami or 20 million plus prospects for Vasquez. That would have left plenty of money for Adam Dunn. Power problem solved and his defense in left would equal Loaf’s. The whole offseason we were told no to Dunn because of his defense and we settled for somebody with even worse defense. Makes no sense.

Also incidentally, if we had more prospects available last offseason I read several times that KC was willing to move Greinke for Francouer plus something. Imagine if we could have made that one work.

Moral of the story for mid level payroll teams – Hold onto your prospects.

ugaaccountant

October 5th, 2009
2:52 pm

To anyone saying it was ok to include Feliz in the Tex trade, it absolutely was not. The reason was because he wasn’t essential to it. We drastically underrated his value because he was the 4th player in a 5 man trade. If we had not included him and instead sent an average minor leaguer the trade would have made sense.

Same thing for Drew. Marquis for Drew was a good core to the trade given contract status at the time. Giving them Wainright as well was overpaying.

And just because Andrus isn’t better than Yunel doesn’t mean we couldn’t have used him. Think about all the at bats Diory Hernandez and Brooks Conrad got this year. Or we could have traded Kelly Johnson last offseason while his trade value was high. There certainly was consideration of that and with an extra middle infielder I think they would have. Elvis wouldn’t have to start for us, but having him on the bench could have been huge for our flexibility.

NS from Kennesaw

October 5th, 2009
2:55 pm

Mr. Bisher,

The Braves lost 2009 season before the ALL STARS break !!!

For sure it wasn’t pitching – but it is the “lack of critical hits” that caused us so many games. Now with the players we have (assuming that most of them remain for 2010), I hope Bobby would, for once, play the hot guys. Then we will have a better chance to play in October 2010.

bits

October 5th, 2009
3:15 pm

You are spot on…those two trades will continue to take a toll for years to come. Why not include JS first trade after becoming Braves GM…Jermaine Dye for Michael Tucker.

Nativebird

October 5th, 2009
4:00 pm

Oh come on now Furman, you can say it, you of all people certainly must have avoided the dark side, must have NOT caved in to political pressure of this City and have the GUTS to actually name, in writing, the culprit you speak of is thou holiest of all names Atlantan…a one Mr. JOHN SCHUERHOLZ! the keeper of all baseball knowledge, thoust embodiment of all brilliance in baseball? as well as and all things great and one with the world of the diamond as we know it? Surely you dont mean, THE MESSIAh, John Schuerholz?

Sammy

October 5th, 2009
4:05 pm

As long as the Braves don’t trade Heyward or Freeman, it’s all good.
If Salty was so good why did Texas acquire Pudge Rodriguez? Salty will be a career backup. Andrus is decent but Escobar is better.

Jeff

October 5th, 2009
4:08 pm

Beautifully written…

ugaaccountant

October 5th, 2009
4:16 pm

It’s not Salty that we miss. It’s Andrus as a 3rd infielder and Feliz as another potential #1 starter. Could you imagine the excitement of 2 Tommy Hanson’s coming up this year, not to mention the payroll flexibility?

tom

October 5th, 2009
5:11 pm

Thanks for the reminders, Furman! We could still have competed and, maybe won, had we brought Tommy with us from Florida. I still recall Wren saying that Medlin was the better of the two when he was promoted to the Braves from Gwinett. Really???

Hotrod

October 5th, 2009
5:13 pm

10 games over .500
They exceeded my expectations this year.

They were fun to watch this season.

jgon

October 5th, 2009
5:41 pm

Braves over the yrs have had outstanding pitching except for last year. The problem has been that the team is a brutal bunch of chokers. You can’t expect a pitcher to give up no runs everday. A good team seems to come back in the late innings if they are behind. When the Braves are down a run or tied you might just as well switch the channel. Last game brought out the best of the chokers!!!!!

CharlieAlphaBravo

October 5th, 2009
5:56 pm

So let me get this straight…

You’re suggesting that the Bravos didn’t make the playoffs this season because of poor pitching (Wainwright/Feliz), catching (Saltalamacchia), and shortstop play (Andrus)??? Brian McCann, Yunel Escobar and one of the National League’s best pitching staffs might disagree…

I suppose they don’t show Braves games at the country club…

DawgDad

October 5th, 2009
6:18 pm

No point in looking back at the Drew-Teixiera trades now. Braves did not make the playoffs this season for one reason and one reason alone: Chipper Jones. Others could have picked him up, sure, but when your $10 million+ #3 hitter and 3b-man plays a whole half season like a AAA retread you aren’t going to win.

The production from the 3-4-5 hitters was crap (it’s not fair to McCann as a catcher to expect him to carry the load for all three spots). On the big issues Frank Wren did pretty darn well, but he couldn’t find a replacement for Norton (just what kind of prospect would it have taken to get a .230 pinch hitter to replace our .130 pinch hitter?, and he didn’t bring up Heyward from Mississippi. It would have been nice to see a young player with some energy in one of the corner OF spots, like when McCann and Frenchy came up a few years ago.

I don’t see how the Braves can be better next year. Willing to be pleasantly surprised, but too many big holes and more opening up with free agency. The team payroll is going to be soaked up by two or three players not likely to pull their weight or otherwise ride the pine when they don’t perform and drag the team down. What are they going to do, sign Utley and Howard? Braun and Fielder?

Greg

October 5th, 2009
6:38 pm

My problem is that Furman is in the print edition of the paper and I guess Tony Barnhart was not good enough for the AJC. Please note that the bad trades alluded to were not made by Frank Wren but by his predecessor. As far as this years lineup compare the opening day lineup to the ending lineup and there is a major improvement. Some of the improvement is statistical but quite a bit is batting lineup chemistry.

Ron

October 5th, 2009
6:40 pm

Enter your comments here
The Texeira trade and the Wainwright trades were bad, but there is enough talent on the present team to win a division if they hit like they were capable. It was obvious to everyone that hitting issues became a “head” problem.

The decision (two years in a row) to keep the same coaching staff is unbelievable. These guys are the ones that created the head problems. Now we’re going to perpetuate them for another year.

I’m a Terry Pendleton fan, but he is not a good hitting coach. Someone needed to show some passion and raise a little hell with some players. I am so tired of hearing that they had some extra hitting time before the game.

Charles

October 5th, 2009
6:45 pm

Enter your comments here: Let me see——— How many trades has Mr. Bisher made in his career? The answer to that would be zero. He has made a living of second guessing coach’s, managers, general managers, owners and if the truth be known the ” Housewives of Atlanta”. I wounder if he has ever second guessed himself about the Wally Butts – Bear Bryant story? Time to say good night Gracie.-

brad

October 5th, 2009
7:16 pm

hindsight is always 20/20..trading wainwright was a mistake, but no one knew what he would become, like Detroit didn’t know what Smoltz would become. Marquis has bounced around a bit, he can be real good, but he can also be real bad. Andrus is good, but Escobar is a far better hitter and has about the same defense. Salty was not going to take McCain’s job nor is he anywhere near as good at 1B than Laroche. Every team can look back at trades and see mistakes that were made, but for every Wainwright you lose, you get a Smoltz back.

Braves Mom

October 5th, 2009
9:23 pm

I am glad that Marquis isn’t a Brave, especially after his remarks when he left that he “didn’t really learn anything from Mazzone”. Honestly, the Braves probably saw that unprofessionalism in him, and were happy to let him go.
I don’t agree about the Tex trade, although I don’t like Tex. I agree w/ others who say that Mac and Escobar would be starting in front of Salty and Elvis anyway, and they have not helped Texas get into the playoffs.

For next year, please please trade Kelly Johnson and Derek Lowe.

rufues

October 5th, 2009
11:29 pm

Bobby Cox said he wanted to keep Kelly Johnson because he had a good year last year, and play Prado in the outfield. This statement convince me the man has lost his reasoning, his senses are no where in site, lost his mined, and most of all his memory, this guy is unreal. I hope someone with a little bit of sense in the front office will eliminate that though. The season isn’t even over and he already has the Braves position in fourth place for the 2010 season. The gut is scary.

Tech sucks

October 6th, 2009
8:43 am

Good article. That should go down as one of the worst trades of alltime. Hindsight I guess? At the time everyone loved getting Tex. We obviously gave up WAY too much.

KD

October 6th, 2009
9:35 am

Adam Wainwright was a bad one but, the Tex deal will go down as the biggest bust trade of all time, considering what we had to give up.

Alan Breeden

October 6th, 2009
10:22 am

Enter your comments here

Time to stop ignoring or covering up Cox’s mismanaging this team for the past two years. Two glaring examples: Sat.: in extra innings Yuenel leads off with a single & Cox does lets KJ hit away. Result: double play; players are satisfied to let Nationals win the game. Today, Cox announces he want KJ back at second in 2010. Same old, same old, and it’s terrible. Players will go into 2010 with the same attitude and the fans will get more of the same. Past time for a bench clearing of management.

Anthony

October 6th, 2009
10:49 am

Time for Furman and Bobby to walk into the sunset. Perhaps then, we’d get both a sports team worth watching and a sports page worth reading.

Skeezix

October 6th, 2009
12:12 pm

Still recovering from that depressing ending to the season. I thought before the season’s beginning that they were a third place team at best…but with the run they went on in September, I thought that maybe they would prove me wrong. Anyway, I agree that the Tex trade was pitifully shortsighted as well as the JD Drew trade. The Tex trade only made sense if we were to keep him (put his stick in the offense this year and the Braves are in the playoffs). One that goes back a ways that still haunts me is the trading away of Jermaine Dye. JS did some brilliant trading during his tenure, but the Tex trade was by far his worst.

Skeezix

October 6th, 2009
12:20 pm

Regarding 2010: Again, no playoffs if they don’t add punch/power/speed to the line up; but maybe we move up to second place.

Dan A.

October 6th, 2009
1:04 pm

Seriously Bisher, stop writing about the Braves. You haven’t got a damned clue. I suppose your next article will be about how the Braves current front office is still paying for the mistakes of moving the team out of Boston. You borderline on window-licking toolbag with your whining about the Teixeira deal. Saltalamacchia? Seriously? Your whining about trading Saltalamacchia? Where would you play Saltalamacchia right now, Bisher? Or Elvis Andrus… please, tell me about how you would play Elvis Andrus ahead of Yunel Escobar. Please tell me about how awesome Neftali Perez has been in the big leagues already. But you couldn’t leave it at just that. No, you had to suggest that we screwed ourselves by trading Jason Marquis. Your stupidity knows no bounds. Please retire, or limit yourself to writing retirement home reviews. You are taking a job away from somebody who can actually write about baseball.

ugaaccountant

October 6th, 2009
2:06 pm

Dan A. – Please look up how many at bats Diory Hernandez, Brooks Conrad, and Kelly Johnson got this year as backups.

As for Salty, perhaps he could have taken Greg Nortons at bats.

Pete

October 6th, 2009
2:22 pm

Mr. Bisher…………..right on !!!!

Nate Hurst

October 6th, 2009
2:56 pm

Yes we did give up alot for Tex, but keep in mind we were trying to make a push to the playoffs, what Braves fan was not excited to get Tex from the Rangers……another stinking Boras client……bottom line, dont sign Boras clients, they just dont pan out or they leave for the money…..15 million for a 4.5 ERA….whatever, could of done that with Glavine.

Roge

October 6th, 2009
4:45 pm

Get Chipper off his butt and make him hustle. He’s not doing what he’s getting paid to do.