Decade in Review: The Braves’ Biggest Trades and Free-Agent Acquisitions of the 2010s

Braves’ biggest trades and free agent signings of the 2010s
Photo: [email protected]/Curtis Compton

The Braves were contenders at the beginning of the decade, then went into a full rebuild, and now are back to being on top of the National League East. A lot of trades and signings are required in order to do all of that in a ten-year span. Some moves work, some fail, and some of them look ridiculous a few years later. The Braves have had moves in each of those categories. Remember reuniting the Upton brothers? How about trading for Swanson? Time to go back and examine the Braves’ biggest trades and free-agent acquisitions of the 2010s.

November 29th, 2012

Braves sign center fielder B.J. Upton to a 5-year, $75.25 million contract

B.J. Upton, who was known as Melvin Upton Jr. for four years, was coming off of a season where he hit 28 home runs to go along with an OPS+ of 108. He was a league-average defender in center field while providing plus power for the position. His last year in Tampa Bay was on par with his average season over the six full seasons he spent in the Sunshine State. Braves fans knew what to expect from Upton upon his arrival in Atlanta. You were getting an above-average hitting center field with plus speed and power.

Everything took a turn for the worst. Upton, in his first season with the Braves, compiled an fWAR -0.9 while batting .184. He only hit nine home runs in 446 plate appearances and struck out 141 times. The next season got better, but it was hard to get worse and stay on a Major League roster. Upton had a 0.0 fWAR in 2014 and batted .208. His failure to drastically improve his strikeout percentage while also keeping his power numbers to where they were in Tampa Bay is what led to him not meeting his expectations.

January 24th, 2013

Braves trade Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado, Brandon Drury, Martin Prado, and Zeke Spruill for Chris Johnson and Justin Upton

The biggest piece of this deal was Justin Upton. What did the Braves give up? Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and Brandon Drury only combined to have a total of 4.6 fWAR in their times in Arizona. Nick Ahmed was the only real piece the Braves gave up in this trade. Ahmed was a prospect at the time of this trade but has turned into an everyday shortstop for Arizona. He had a 2.4 fWAR this past season while also winning his second Gold Glove. Not a huge haul to bring a player of Justin Upton’s skill.

Upton, in his two seasons in Atlanta, hit .267, 56 home runs, and had an OPS+ of 129. This gives Upton a 7.2 fWAR over two seasons. Much better than his brother and a more than solid player in the middle of the Braves lineup. He was traded in 2014 as the Braves were going through a rebuild but he was good for his two seasons. Chris Johnson, the other player coming from Arizona, was a pleasant surprise. He played well above expectations and had a 3.5 fWAR in two seasons as the Braves starting third basemen. All five players the Braves gave up were no match for the productivity that Upton and Johnson provided. This trade was a success for the Braves.

November 17, 2014

Braves trade Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins

This marks the beginning of the rebuild in Atlanta. Heyward was supposed to be the next great Braves outfielder, but he did not live up to those expectations. Heyward was still a very good player, putting up 19.6 fWAR and was a Gold Glove defender. Jordan Walden spent two seasons as a relief pitcher in the Braves bullpen. He was a league-average relief pitcher who was more known for his unique delivery. These two were packaged to get two starting pitchers. Tyrell Jenkins was a mid-level prospect and only appeared in fourteen games for the Braves. Walden only appeared in twelve games for the Cardinals, so these two were basically a push.

Shelby Miller, on the other hand, had one good season for the Braves. He had a 3.45 ERA in 205.1 innings pitched while adding a 3.7 fWAR. Jason Heyward, in his only season with the Cardinals, had a 5.6 fWAR. Both players only lasted one season with their teams. Based on the results in 2015, the Cardinals got the better end of this trade. The Braves then took Miller and flipped him into one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. For the Braves, this trade worked out great.

December 19, 2014

Braves trade Aaron Northcraft and Justin Upton for Max Fried, Dustin Peterson, Jace Peterson and Mallex Smith.

The first Upton brother going to San Diego in 2014 was the better Upton. The Braves received four players for Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft. Jace Peterson was a super-utility bench player for the Braves through the rebuild while Mallex Smith and Dustin Peterson were nothing but low-level prospects. All three are now on different teams. Max Fried, on the other hand, has become quite the promising starting pitcher. In 2019, Fried sported a 4.02 ERA in thirty-three appearances (thirty games started) and went 17-6. Fried is only 25 years old and will continue to get better. Upton, however, has started to decline. Upton only spent one season in San Diego before being traded to Detroit then signing with the Angels.

He was good in his one season in San Diego and it looked like the Braves did not get enough in a trade similar to the Kimbrel trade. Upton’s fWAR has dropped for the past three seasons all the way down to -0.2 as he continues to decline because of age. Fried is starting to even this trade out now and he could make this look like a really good trade if he becomes the middle of the rotation piece the Braves need.

April 5, 2015

Braves trade Craig Kimbrel and B.J. Upton for Cameron Maybin, Matt Wisler, Carlos Quintin, and a 2015 Competitive Balance A draft pick (Austin Riley)

Trading the best closer in baseball never seems like the best move but it was time to move on. The Braves were rebuilding and had no need to hold onto a closer than was just going to walk away in free agency. Atlanta also added on one of the most disappointing signings of the decade to help clear payroll.

In return, the Braves received three players and a draft pick. The most successful player in the trade was Cameron Maybin but he was gone after one season. Matt Wisler was just an innings eater for two years and then was out of the rotation then off of the team. Carlos Quentin spent nine days as a Brave before being released. Austin Riley, who was the player the Braves used their competitive balance pick on, came up this year and will be back in 2020. The success of this trade hinges on the kind of player that Riley becomes. In the end though, the Braves should have gotten more for the best closer in baseball.

July 30, 2015

Braves trade Bronson Arroyo, Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson, Jose Peraza and Alex Wood for Zachary Bird, Hector Olivera, Paco Rodriguez and a 2016 Competitive Balance Round A Pick (Joey Wentz)

What on earth were the Braves thinking? Arroyo was a salary dump, as he never appeared in a single game from 2014 to 2017. Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson were both toss-ins to the trade as well. Alex Wood was traded after having a season with a 2.78 ERA in 171.2 innings and twenty-four games started. Jose Peraza was the highest-rated prospect in the Braves system at the time and was being projected as a starting second baseman in the Major Leagues, which is exactly what he is now.

In return, the Braves received Paco Rodriquez, who never appeared in a single game for the Braves. Hector Olivera, the 30-year-old “prospect”, was worth a -0.3 fWAR and only played thirty games. Zachary Bird never made it to the Major League team. Joey Wentz was in the trade for Shane Greene this past year. Alex Wood has gone on to be a solid, middle of the rotation pitcher with a 3.51 ERA in 400.0 innings pitched. Peraza was the Reds’ starting second baseman, along with having time playing in the outfield. This was a very bad trade for the Braves. They gave up Alex Wood, someone who could help the rotation now, and Jose Peraza, a solid utility player, for absolutely nothing.

November 12, 2015

Braves traded Andrelton Simmons and Jose Briceno for Erick Aybar, Sean Newcomb, and Chris Ellis

Andrelton Simmons had already established himself as one of the best defenders at the shortstop position of all time and totaled 10.1 fWAR in four seasons in a Braves uniform. Simmons was never even a league-average hitter, but the defense made up for it. Simmons defense has not fallen off since going to the Angels and his offense has actually improved to near league average. Braves traded him for highly-touted prospect Sean Newcomb and a replacement-level shortstop, Erick Aybar.

Newcomb has bounced in and out of the Braves rotation along with having time in the bullpen. He will be back into the rotation for the 2020 season and is only 26 years old. Newcomb has good stuff and still has time to become a legitimate pitcher but he needs to learn how to cut his walk rate down to make that happen. Aybar was far past his prime and hit .246 in half a season with the Braves before being moved to Detroit. Right now, this trade does not look good. However, if Newcomb becomes the pitcher he can be, the Braves can make this trade justifiable.

December 9, 2015

Braves trade Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier for Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and Aaron Blair

Remember earlier when the Braves traded for Miller and it looked like they lost the trade at first? Well, Miller was apart of one of the most lopsided trades in this past decade. Miller, after a solid season with the Braves, went on to have a meltdown. Miller appeared in twenty-games and had a 6.35 ERA. He dealt with injuries and ended up with only a 0.7 fWAR in three years.

The Braves received a Gold Glove level center fielder in Ender Inciarte and their shortstop of the future in Dansby Swanson. The Diamondbacks traded Swanson just four months after signing him as their first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Swanson has been the Braves’ starting shortstop the past three years and been an above-average shortstop with a 3.2 fWAR but projects to keep getting better. Inciarte, in two and a half seasons, has been even better than Swanson. He had 201 hits in 2017 and won three straight Gold Gloves from 2016-2018. Inciarte was hurt in 2019 but plans to bounce back to his original form in 2020. Aaron Blair was a toss-in, as he started sixteen games as was just as bad as Miller. Every critic knew the Braves swindled the Diamondbacks and it continues to get worse as these plays get better.

November 26, 2018

Braves Sign Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million contract

Donaldson, coming off of an injury-riddled 2018, bet on himself, and signed a one-year deal. He went on to smack 37 home runs for an fWAR of 4.9. Donaldson added a new dimension to this lineup by providing much-needed depth behind the likes of Acuna, Albies, and Freeman. He was everything the Braves needed. A middle of the order power hitter who also provided Gold Glove level defense. This was a great contract for both parties. Will the Braves re-sign him after this success? Only time will tell.

Conclusion

There we have it, the Braves’ biggest trades and free-agent acquisitions of the 2010s. Overall, the Braves have been smarter than a lot of teams. You can thank John Hart for that after he took over for Frank Wren in 2014. The Braves have made a lot of moves over this decade and some big ones at that. A lot of them worked out, a couple still pending based on how a couple prospects turn out, and some really bad moves. Hopefully, the Braves keep making smart moves as we get into the 2020s.


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Justin Parrish

Senior Baseball Player and Sports Management Major at Eastern Mennonite University.

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