Braves Country took a collective gasp on the eve of the Major League Baseball trade deadline when the Braves finalized their multi-team, 13-player deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins.
After talking with a few sources close to the Braves’ organization, researching the deal and possible players available — I must say, I don’t like this trade. I don’t like this trade in a house, I don’t like this trade by a mouse. I don’t like this trade here or there, I don’t like this trade anywhere.
All jokes aside, let’s break down the details.
Atlanta gave up a talented young starting pitcher in Alex Wood (7-6, 3.54 ERA) along with reliever Luis Avilan (2-4, 3.58) and closer Jim Johnson (2-3, 2.25, nine saves). The Braves also traded away the rights to injured pitcher Bronson Arroyo and top infield prospect Jose Peraza.
In return, the Braves received left-hander Paco Rodriguez and minor leaguer Zachary Bird from the Dodgers along with a draft pick (35th overall) from the Marlins. However, Atlanta’s coveted piece in this trade came in the form of 30-year-old Hector Olivera. Olivera hit .348 with two homers and seven RBIs in 19 games with the Dodgers' farm system this season.
The sources I’ve talked to have told me Olivera is the real deal. He’s an impact hitter that can bat for power and on base percentage. The Braves’ front office may start Olivera behind first baseman Freddie Freeman in the batting order to make it tougher for pitchers to pitch around Freeman. Olivera is also versatile enough to play several infield positions. It’s no surprise the Braves front office would trade away pitching. Atlanta’s president of baseball operations John Hart has stated from day one he would use young pitching as “collateral.”
However, this trade just doesn’t meet the “eye” test. Olivera has serious health issues. The international prospect injured his hamstring on June 20 of this year. After a brief return, Olivera reinjured his hamstring and has yet to fully recover. He also developed blood clots in his left arm last year.
The injuries were serious enough for the Braves to take notice. Olivera’s contract has a clause that states if he has Tommy John surgery at any time during the next six years the Braves will add on another year at just $1 million.
With Olivera’s age and previous injury issues the Braves front office has begun to play a dangerous “what if game.”
What if Olivera doesn’t transition well to the majors? What if his hamstring injuries persist? What if Olivera does have Tommy John surgery? Even with the clause in his contract, an injured Olivera does not help a Braves lineup that has failed to score runs in close games as of late. What if Julio Teheran doesn’t shake his funk, who will be able to fill his void with Wood gone?
The fact of the matter is, Wood is a talent that does not come along often. The 24-year-old has solid command of his pitches and could be a pivotal No.3 or No.4 starter in the rotation. He’s a proven player. Avilan, despite an up-and-down season, adds value to the bullpen and with the departure of Craig Kimbrel the closer position is probably the last thing you want to trade away.
The Braves have put themselves in a difficult situation. If Olivera doesn’t pan out in the majors, the team is back to the drawing board—but this time without a fiery young pitcher, the infielder ranked as a No. 1 prospect last year, a closer and a left-handed reliever. All for a 30-year-old player that may, or may not, add pop to a depleted lineup.