It was December of 1989, the Atlanta Braves were coming off of their 6th straight losing season. 5 of those 6, the Braves finished last or next to last in their division. It was a glum time to be a Braves fan, but hope was on the horizon as David Justice, Ron Gant, Jeff Blauser, and Lonnie Smith formed a formidable offensive core while youngsters Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery were the future of the rotation. The Braves were stocking up the Minors with visions of a long run, and with the worst record in the Majors, there was a #1 overall draft pick coming in 1990. The young pitchers in the rotation needed a veteran to lean on and in his final year as a GM before going back to the dugout, Braves GM Bobby Cox made one of the Best Trades in Atlanta Braves History: Charlie Leibrandt.
Best Trades in Atlanta Braves History, Charlie Leibrandt: The Trade
On December 15th, 1989, the Braves swung a deal with the Kansas City Royals:
Both Perry and Leibrandt were on 1-year deals and provided veteran presence fulfilling a need for the acquiring clubs. Luecken played a few years in the bigs, but only found small sample success in the year prior to the trade with the Royals. He then fizzled out and bounced between the MLB and MiLB for a few years before hanging it up. Lemasters never graduated from the minors. Gerald Perry continued the Major League trend of the 80’s into the 90’s of first base mediocrity. But Leibrandt…good ol’ Charlie…was brilliant in a Braves uniform.
Charlie Leibrandt’s Walk Year
While he didn’t pitch until June, Leibrandt was brilliant in a Braves uniform in 1990, throwing 162.1 innings with a 3.16 ERA. While the results didn’t come for the team in 1990, Leibrandt proved he belonged and John Schuerholz signed him to a new multi-year deal.
Charlie Leibrandt, 1992 and 1993
Over the next 2 years, Leibrandt would pitch 422. 2 innings with a solid 3.43 ERA. He was 2nd on the depth chart behind Tom Glavine in the 1991 season, and 4th on the depth chart in 1992 behind Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery. In 1993, Leibrandt’s contract was not up, but his time with the Braves was as the team needed his 3 million in salary (to pay some guy named Maddux) and shipped him off to the Rangers for Jose Oliva.
While Charlie will always be remembered by Braves fans for serving up Kirby Puckett a gopher ball in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, maybe he shouldn’t be. And just maybe, collecting 10.4 WAR over the course of 3 years when the expectation was a 1 and done veteran presence for a young staff, should be what we should remember. Mac sure did.
Charlie’s tenure with the club is probably the shortest of any player on the list, three years. He’s on the list for the simple reason that the Braves would not have won the division in 1991 without him. Of course, when you win by only one game that’s true of basically everybody, but a lot of guys were replaceable. Leibrandt, as the team’s one veteran starter, was a steadying influence on a very young staff; I think his role as a mentor to Glavine and Avery is unappreciated.Mac Thomason
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