My first thought was, "Well, at least poor ol' Len Barker is finally off the hook."
So that's a bit of an overreaction. Trading Alex Wood, who represents everything the Braves are trying to become, was a steep price to pay for an unproven, 30-year-old rookie who is injured.
But Barker's place as the key player in the worst trade in Atlanta Braves history is safe. For those too young to remember -- or those who just like to relive that anguishing day in 1983 -- the Braves sent three of their best young players, Brett Butler, Brook Jacoby and Rick Behenna, to the Cleveland Indians for Barker, who was a once-decent pitcher, but the Braves apparently neglected to read the autopsy report on his right shoulder.
Actually, you can make a case for the Dan Uggla deal establishing a new low, and that's far more relevant now. The Braves sent Omar Infante and Mike Dunne to the Marlins and then signed Uggla to the worst contract in team history. That deal, combined with the new worst contract in team history -- Melvin Upton for $75 million -- and the trade of Martin Prado for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson was the root cause of this mess that led to this complete organizational overhaul.
That overhaul has been the strangest period in franchise history. Keep in mind, we're talking about a franchise whose new owner rode an ostrich race around the bases, donned an Indian headdress, sent his manager on vacation and took over the club for a day, and got suspended for a year for tampering for boasting that he would not be out-bid for free agent Gary Matthews.
Oh, how we miss you, Ted Turner.
Back to Thursday's trade. By now, we shouldn't be shocked by anything. We were reminded of that on the eve of Opening Day, when the Braves sent closer Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to the San Diego Padres for Matt Wisler and Cameron Maybin. Even before last week, the Braves had already set franchise records for players used and roster moves, and we're still a month away from September call-ups.
The Braves entered July as a legitimate playoff contender. Within just two weeks, they were making a strong push for last place. So it was widely believed they would become sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline of Friday at 4 p.m. Two veterans on one-year contracts, reliever Jim Johnson and catcher A.J. Pierzinski, were likely candidates. Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe had already been dealt to the New York Mets for pitching prospects.
John Hart, Braves president for baseball operations, insisted the club wouldn't just start dumping players. Just two weeks ago, Hart had said, "If we can't get something that will fit the plan for what we want, we won't make a move."
It's hard to understand how giving up one of your best young starting pitchers fits into the plan. Yes, they have stockpiled depth in pitching prospects. Wisler, Williams Perez, Manny Banuelos, Mike Foltynewicz, Tyrell Jenkins. But that's all they are now -- prospects.
Essentially, the eight players the Braves and Dodgers swapped can be broken down into four trades.
To get Jim Johnson, the Dodgers had to take on Bronson Arroyo and his contract. Johnson will be a free agency after the season. The $5-7 million they save on Arroyo's contract can be reinvested into a reliever in the offseason, maybe even Johnson. Win for the Braves.
Getting Paco Rodriguez for Luis Avilan was an upgrade for the Braves, even if Rodriguez can't pitch until 2016.
There was a swap of minor leaguers, the Braves giving up second baseman Jose Peraza for pitcher Zack Bird. On the surface, the Dodgers win this one. Peraza was supposed to be their second baseman of the future. Sisk has struggled commanding his lively fastball. But the Braves had lost confidence in Peraza, who failed to make progress this season and was ticketed for a return to the minors next year. It's always a worthy gamble to take on a young power arm. So that's perhaps a wash. Then consider that the Braves are also getting a bonus first-round draft pick from the Miami Marlins, a team within their division, and that could be a double win for Atlanta.
So it boils down to Wood for Olivera, the veteran Cuban National player who should step into the lineup as soon as he comes off the disabled list. It's hard to gauge players by international stats. From all of his numbers, Olivera is a high-average hitter who doesn't strike out much. Former Brave Brian Jordan compared him as a hitter to Yunel Escobar. Not a superstar but a solid hitter. We'll see. Olivera missed all of 2012 with injuries. He returned in 2013 but his power totals dropped substantially. Then he missed all of 2014 with injuries. He played just 19 games in the minor leagues for the Dodgers before going on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
Seems like quite a risk in exchange for one of your best young pitchers.
Here's one potential positive. Perhaps trading a good young pitcher for a 30-year-old hitter is a sign that the Braves aren't conceding anything for 2016. The fact that they didn't trade Maybin is a positive sign. Two thirds of the outfield and three fourths of the infield are set with Maybin, Nick Markakis, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and now Olivera. Jace Peterson provides infield flexibility. They could add a bat in left field and possibly third base or catcher and have a fairly solid lineup.
They no longer have the excuse of financial constraints. Uggla's contract finally comes off the payroll. The front office owes it to the fans to field a competitive team next season.
Either that, or bring back ostrich races.