If you’re the kind of person who believes that past experience could be the reason the Atlanta Braves have recently been reluctant to make certain types of deals, the 2007 season is probably of particular interest for you.
On July 31, the Braves were 56-51 and trailed the NL East-leading New York Mets by 3 1/2 games. They were also two games back of the Dodgers for the Wild Card and had been running something of a first-base-by-committee with Scott Thorman, Julio Franco and Craig Wilson. Thorman and Wilson never played in the majors after that season, while Julio Franco will probably make a return to the league when he’s 75 and still hit for power.
So the Braves made a deal at the trade deadline, sending Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. Teixeira was one of the top power-hitting first basemen in the league, notching home run totals of 26, 38, 43 and 33 in his first four seasons with a very solid batting average as well.
For his part, Teixeira did exactly what the Braves acquired him to do. In 54 games for the Braves in 2007, he hit .317 with a 1.020 OPS that included 17 homers, 56 RBIs and 66 hits against just 56 strikeouts. Mahay was no slouch, either. In 28 appearances for the Braves that year, he carded a 2.25 ERA and only allowed one home run.
What’s wild about that season is that almost everyone seemed to do their jobs. The offense was third in the NL in runs scored, buoyed not just by Teixeira but by Chipper Jones hitting .337 with 29 home runs in just 134 games to lead a core of six Braves with 16 or more homers. Chipper played 51 games in August and September with a .333 batting average, 1.049 OPS and 33 extra base hits to include 12 homers.
The pitching was also adequate, at the very least, finishing fifth in the NL in runs allowed. The rotation wasn’t stellar, but John Smoltz (3.11 ERA in 32 starts), Tim Hudson (3.33 ERA in 34 starts) and Chuck James (4.24 ERA in 30 starts) provided a solid core. Bob Wickman was something of a dud as closer, but backing that up with Rafael Soriano’s 3.00 ERA in 72 innings would seem to help out.
The final record, though, didn’t reflect that any of that mattered. The Braves finished 84-78, meaning they posted a 28-27 record in the season’s final two months with Jones and Teixeira absolutely torching the ball in the middle of the lineup. Atlanta missed the playoffs by five games, and I won’t steal the next writer’s thunder by telling you how Teixeira’s career in Atlanta played out.
What I will tell you is that almost all of the players the Braves sent to Texas in the Teixeira deal went on to play at least minor roles in the Rangers’ back-to-back AL pennants in 2010 and 2011. Feliz was the team’s closer for both of those runs, and Andrus was among the team’s leading hitters both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Harrison was a starting pitcher for the 2011 campaign and made an All-Star team in 2012. Saltalamacchia was also a fine catcher for the Rangers for a few years before a successful stint with the Boston Red Sox.
That is some unbelievably bad luck for the team that traded them all away, no matter how highly-ranked they were in the farm system.
I can’t speak to how much impact all that had on the actual decision-making process of the team. As a matter of fact, it would be incredibly frustrating if that one trade had a real impact on the team’s actions 14 years and two general managers later. But what I can tell you is that for fans, that one trade in 2007 comes up every year in late July as an example of just how wrong even the most impressive trade can go.
Rentals are generally a bad acquisition unless the price is appropriate. I can’t think of what could have driven Teixeira’s price so high. If he had one more year under contract, maybe, or if we had gotten a verbal agreement to resign, but we definitely didn’t. That was just a fleecing.
At least you got to recap a season with a winning record… Well done.
To me the Teixeira story is the necessary remonstrance to any story that starts: “All we need is a…” Anyone who says that is oversimplifying. It wasn’t enough just to get McGriff in 1993, though the story is certainly told as if it were. Such are the limits of human attribution of causes to effects.
They were going for it with Teixeira. I would want the Braves to do it again.
“Still a douche”. Tim Hudson
@1 from the previous thread, you are correct, I must have mistaken Games played for AB’s.
Regarding Texeira, I remember the players traded being called a bunch of surplus players who while they could be good, the braves were already set at those positions. It still ended up stinging the braves big time.
And don’t get me started on the Kotchman/Marek return for Texeira, that was another cherry on this debacle sundae.
@3 Thanks for sharing Timo! That seems like a lifetime ago, but watching that video again made me realize how excited I was at the time and how much fun it was to be a Braves fan.
Has anyone done the math on the amount of excess value Tex, Mahay, Kotchman, and Marek provided vs. who we gave up? I would think someone would have calculated it by now.
I’m with Timo.
Going back to the deal that won’t die, arguably, both Harrison and Saltalamacchia were properly viewed as surplus talent. It’s pretty rare to have a deal like this where BOTH of the lottery tickets, Feliz and Andrus, turn into All-Stars. There’s some luck involved there, especially considering that most of the other top prospects the Braves have traded away over the years, other than Wainwright, have generally busted. But it’s possible that in this case, the Braves didn’t do as good a job of scouting their own players as you might wish.
As I’ve said before, the problem is that JS gave SO MUCH AWAY, and continued to roll over. The last-minute inclusion of Beau Jones sucked from a process standpoint, as it suggested exactly what JonathanF says — it suggests that the team was so desperately hooked on Tex that they forgot that he’s only one of the 25 guys it takes to win.
I want the Braves to make the next blockbuster go-for-it deal. I just want them to act out of a position of confidence rather than desperation.
From my memory, going 28-27 the rest of the way post-trade & missing the post-season was what hurt the most at the time.
The previous season, 2006, felt like an aberration, so maybe there was a little bit of entitlement/delusion going on from the franchise & the fanbase. It was like… get this game-wrecker & we’re back in the saddle again – even if it’s just for one more swing at October.
Nonetheless, there’s no getting around it – hard to see Tex as anything but a bad trade for Atlanta in the end. A gamble, perhaps somewhat noble, that didn’t pay off. (Hey, at least the ’87 Tigers won their division after trading us Smoltz for Doyle Alexander.)
And, looking back, it wasn’t such a great division – FWIW, very winnable. The Phils just slipped past the Mets at the end, taking the East with 89 wins. The Mets bellyflopped, losing 12 of their last 17.
But just before that slide, the Mets beat the Braves 5 of 6 in the space of 12 days, seriously crippling ATL’s chances. Win 5 of those 6 & maybe there’s a different ending to that season. Unfortunately, that team just wasn’t good enough.
Melancon to the Padres. I had hoped for him to return to the Braves. At least DOB will probably be happy though.
Interested to see what Melancon signed for.
A looooot of Chuck James, Buddy Carlyle, and Jo-Jo that season. Pitching could be hard to watch when Smoltz or Hudson weren’t on the mound.
Fun story — I was at Turner Field the afternoon Teixeira was traded. I remember it was rainy. Tex was wearing a white golf polo and khaki shorts. Somewhere I have a picture of him walking to his Mercedes in the player parking lot and leaving.
I think if Melancon hadn’t been on our team the last two years, we wouldn’t really care at all that they didn’t sign him now. Dude wasn’t that special in this year’s free agent class and his K% isn’t really what you’d like in a late-inning arm. However, he never looked scared of shit on the mound I strangely felt more comfortable with him handling high-pressure spots because he’d been there before. Now he also has a knack for making a routine inning into an adventure…
That said, they really do need to add a strong arm or two to this pen. You’ve gotta think nobody’s starters are going to stretch out very fast this year. Especially the Braves group which includes Soroka coming off injury, two young arms who’ve never sniffed 180 innings, and Drew Smyley who probably shouldn’t ever see an order for the 3rd time anyway.
Yeah, time to dumpster dive for some depth in the BP and bench.
15, who’s still available?
Seems like any of these guys would cost around $3 million now, right? Am I missing anyone?
Of course, AA will likely get a Joyce at the end of Spring Training, but jeez. I’m thrilled with what’s been done so far, truly, but these last pieces are so important. The Braves just don’t (yet) have an MLB bench.
Travis Demeritte back. Jeremy Walker DFA’ed.
Add some trash, play 60 games, see what you need. I dont mind saving some budget for later, we have a core that should keep us involved in the playoff hunt.
Boy .. we are dumpster diving .. just like Braves to bargain hunt .. all teams getting better in our division and we sit on our hands . This organization doesn’t want to win..
Adcox @ #16
Sounds like we need to have an atomic bake sale.
I don’t mind Travis back for when he eventually takes over 2nd base….
jeremy walker was released, not DFA, I think. His shoulder problem may be career ending, unfortunately. Best wishes to him.
I can’t imagine Braves put a claim on Demeritte if they didn’t see potential. His AAA Gwinnett hitting coach is now assistant on MLB squad and Demeritte had a fantastic 2018 in AAA. Maybe he thinks he can fix him. He’s got an option so it’s worth a shot.
Also, Braves are apparently interested in Justin Turner. Not putting too much faith in the report or actual interest.
@19 – The strategy to assess your team then add at the deadline only works if your big deadline move isn’t Tommy Milone.
Sadly, this org doesn’t really have a track record of pulling the big deadline move. The trade for Tex might’ve been the last one.
Asdrubal Cabrera to D backs for 1.75 million .. really .. the weak bench we got and we won’t go more than that to improve our bench .. pitiful .. Braves are content for finishing runner up every year …
@ 20/26 – Sorry but that is a load of crap. We’ve signed Smyly, Morton, and Ozuna and we will probably make another significant move or two. We’ve won our division 3 years in a row and we were within one game of winning the NLCS last year. All that and we’re content to sit on our hands, we don’t want to win, and we are content to finish runner up every year??? I want us to make another move, but at least wait for the season to start before you give up and declare the Braves organization equal to the Pirates.
Agreed, td. In AA I trust.
I am a little disappointed that the Braves aren’t bringing in some of these bench (Cabrera) or back-end relief (Melancon) options on the cheap. But Cabrera is a hit-only bench option; his fielding is terrible. Deneritte is both cheaper and has more upside than Cabrera. Not only does he have the power potential, but he is known as an excellent IF/OF fielder (especially at 2B). And at 25, he still has time to learn (and has two options not one). Demeritte is great competition for Camargo as SuperUtil.
Greene is still out there and I’d like to see him back. He is likely holding out for more than he’s being offered by anyone. Patience may be in order.
I am not that big on a Turner signing. He definitely wants more than he’s worth and will likely sign with the Dodgers anyway. A Ramirez trade would be great but the Indians aren’t biting for anyone.
There are other options still available. SP depth in Tajiuan Walker, Paxton, Porcello, and Odorizzi (gotta be a King Feliz type MiL deal in there somewhere). Back of the bullpen in Greene and Rosenthal. OF help in JBJ (would be a good replacement if Inciarte could be traded) and Pillar. IF help with Miller. For what we still need on the bench and in the relief corps, there are lots of cromulent options so trying to get the cheapest one makes a lot of sense.
The time that Asdrubel Cabrera and Odubel Herrera were both on the Phillies in the 2018 season was the only time I ever felt sorry for John Kruk.
Relax, y’all. Plenty of players left. And saying our deadline deals under AA are mostly Tommy Milone and not, oh, I don’t know, Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene is just silly.
@5 Wow, I had completely forgotten that Tex had another year left on his contract and that we had traded him. For some reason, I’ve had it in my head that we just let him walk. Of course, for what we got for him at the deadline, we pretty much did let him walk. SMH.
But that explains the haul that Texas got. We had ample opportunity to try and keep him. It was just never in our plans.
I’m still okay with the Teixeira trade, mainly because I’m skeptical that any of those guys could have done much to help those 2010-2013 teams get over the hump.
And if we had somehow held on to Tex, then maybe some fools in the FO would have considered Freddie Freeman an expendable prospect at some point
Just saw an article that mentioned the ongoing debate between whether Soto or Acuna was better and it reminded me of the age-old debate that lasted so many years about whether Aaron or Mays was better. The main thing that came to my mind was that I hope this new debate lasts at least 15 more years. It’s really nice that a Brave is part of one of those debates again. It’s one of the better features about loving baseball.
@32 – At the time of the trade, I was ok with going for it, especially since it seemed like the FO thought it might be able to sign Teixeira to an extension. I may be stealing the thunder of whoever’s writing about 2008, but retroactively the worst thing about the whole sequence, if my memory is correct, is that the Angels used the comp pick they got for Teixeira to draft Mike Trout.
Maple Maddux won his arb case. $2.8M.
I actually think Acuna-Soto is DiMaggio-Williams. Soto is the best hitter in baseball; that’s all he is, but it’s a hell of a lot. Acuna does absolutely everything better than almost absolutely everyone.
It’s pretty neat.
37: yes, sir.
@34, I don’t remember there being much of a debate about Mays/Aaron until Mays got old and Aaron was still productive in the Launching Pad. Mays had a higher peak, and between that and being in New York for his first several years, my impression was that the media consensus was that Aaron was great but a lesser star than Mays.
Acuna/Soto is a fun conversation. Soto’s batting eye (so OBP) is just so great, and his SLG is better than Acuna’s too, though neither were healthy last year. He doesn’t look to me like he’ll age very well, and I remember reading once a Bill James statement that young players with old players’ skills don’t usually have long careers. Soto looks slow, but he’s 23/5 in career SB attempts, while Acuna is 61/15. At least according to range factor/9, Soto started out a little better than average in LF and has declined each year, while Acuna started out as a below-average LF and has improved each year and was significantly better than average in CF and RF last year. Not sure that Soto in RF and Schwarber in LF is going to work out well for the Walgreens. Still, it says something for the strength of the position in the division when Bryce Harper is the median starting RF.
The thing is, the truly elite players don’t age normally. Juan Soto is so good at hitting that applying a normal age curve just doesn’t make sense. That’s why I applied the Williams and DiMaggio comparison — Acuna and Soto aren’t just mere mortals. They’re on another level.
Maybe its just me, but maybe we ought to pump the brakes just a tad on those type of comparisons when Player A’s career average is .281 in 1200+ ABs.
Great, undoubtedly. But doubtful to ever be close to Williams or DiMaggio.
Acuna’s runs from baserunning is also only slightly higher than Soto’s in a similar amount of ABs.
Soto is a terrible fielder, as noted.
@37 You may be right but I was only using Mays/Aaron for the Braves connection.
@39 Depends upon when you weighed in on the argument. Mays had a couple of year head start on Aaron and Aaron was productive way beyond Mays. And, yes, the argument had bias because of the local media difference. Mays had his highlight reel moment in the 50s and Aaron in the 70s. Looking at the stats. Aaron’s career HOF stats are higher but, as you say, Mays’ peak was higher. I grew up nearer to the end of their careers and it was a pretty standard discussion at the time. Oh, and BTW, media consensus be damned.
@41 You have no vision and no faith.
@40 Hmm…I guess it would’ve been clearer to say that I don’t think he’ll age as well as most hitters who are that great that young. Williams certainly lasted a long time, but for a more recent similar great hitter, how about Pujols? One of the top hitters in MLB from his debut at 21, top-5 in MVP voting 10 of his first 11 years, and never reached 4 bWAR again after age 32. (This assumes his listed age is correct.) To continue the comparison with Soto, he’s been a poor defender and a surprisingly good base stealer – 114/41 career and 11/0 from age 36 on.
A lot of my skepticism about Soto’s chances of still being great at 34-35 has to do with his body type. Maybe it’s just baby fat that he’s going to lose, or maybe it’s an irrational prejudice on my part, but I can’t think of too many recent heavy players who had really long careers. David Ortiz, I guess. My impression is that most of the players who are still productive in their late 30s were built more like Acuna as rookies.
And no, I don’t think Vlad Jr. will be in the majors at 38.
It’s tough to find a Soto comp who wasn’t an all-time great hitter. There may be something to the old-player skills argument, but a great batting eye is not in itself an old-player skill unless it’s compensating for some other deficiency. As for Acuna, the sky’s the limit but also Cesar Cedeno and Bobby Bonds are saying hi.
Yeah, I don’t think Acuna is a lock for the Hall, but I’d agree that someone like Cedeno’s the floor, so I’ll take my chances!
Another guy off the board .. Braves still sit …. twiddling thumbs
@46 – Hmm. I guess I don’t count signing Morton and re-signing Ozuna as “twiddling thumbs.” Sure, it would be nice to have a big splashy signing like a Realmuto or a Bauer and/or a trade for Lindor or what have you, but by this date that does not seem AA’s style. As they say, he seems to play smarter, not harder. Further, I am not yet convinced (or rather, would not be shocked) that we won’t see a trade for Ramirez despite what Cleveland has suggested.
All told, our rotation is stronger than last year. The lineup is largely the same from last year (minus the DH which effects every other NL team.) The bench still needs some work and the pen could use another arm. So yeah…the holes left to fill are minor and the Braves remain one of the top 4 teams in the NL. A bit early to start all the “doomed” talk, especially before ST. But that may just be me.
EDIT – Regarding the debate talk, historically the debate involving Mays was the NY triumvirate of Mantle/DiMaggio/Mays. The Aaron comparisons came later (and they did not play the same position.) Acuna/Soto will likely remain simply because they both debuted around the same time. I’ll take Acuna, but I am biased. 😉
EDIT to my previous EDIT – That should have read “the NY triumvirate of Mantle/Snider/Mays.” Duh!!
The face of the franchise…
Watt…. Wainwright vs Molina etc…
48 – Willie, Mickey, and The Duke
Takes me back to Nashville Sounds games as a kid. My dad liked to get there early to watch the players warm up, the infield being watered, etc. They would always play that song at some point. I liked it but didn’t really know who The Duke was…
@49, the article seems like a reach. I get that sports media language can be racially coded even if the person using it doesn’t realize/intend it (can’t remember seeing many hardworking-but-not-overwhelmingly-talented black players called “gritty”) and that it can be more likely for a more marketable (where white players might have an advantage) player to be seen as the “face of the franchise,” but his specific examples seem pretty weak. Going all the way back to 2014, when it was an actual teammate who called Wainwright the face of the franchise, when Wainwright had had four top-3 Cy Young voting seasons all with over 6 WAR and Molina had had two top-4 MVP voting seasons with only those two years over 6 WAR, and that’s the great example of racially coded language? And the hockey example is strange – he’s calling out a writer for saying that a presumably overwhelmingly-white crowd in an almost-all-white sport is not acting classily and this is coded language how?
Everything is apparently “coded language” right now, but to say more on that would break the blog rules, so I won’t. I only saw Deadspin, so I did not even bother to read (no offense meant blazon, but they don’t write anything I’m interested in reading.)
And @50 – Yep!
Deadspin seems to have pulled back from becoming a content farm, but I have fully decamped to reading Defector instead (Giri Nathan on tennis is the best beat writer of any sport right now IMO). The Ringer’s editorial obsessions (tanking and efficiency) essentially advocate for daily sporting events to be vehicles of anti-entertainment, so aside from occasional pieces from writers I like (i.e. Katie Baker, Scott Tobias) I have ditched it as well.
@53 – Curious to your further thoughts on The Ringer. They most def have an editorial obsession, but my issue with them is that they don’t know what they want to be. Sports? Entertainment? Pop culture? Politics? I’ve followed Simmons since he was at ESPN. His sports knowledge was already suspect (outside of my agreement that Clemens was the antichrist) but his pop culture is atrocious. He was at least right on the “Ewing Effect.”
@54 Well (and thanks for the invitation to expound), to begin with, Grantland was a small miracle — a writer-driven and largely self-governing carveout of a major media property that combined great established writers with talented up-and-comers. Simmons gets all the credit in the world for constantly leveraging his popularity to make it happen. It was a doomed venture from the start, as it was never going to reap the revenue necessary to keep it going, but I appreciated it all the more for that fact.
So I was on board with The Ringer from the start, and I liked most of the talent Simmons assembled. But over time it became apparent (to me, anyway) that his “cool boss” veneer masked an increasing tendency to play favorites based on those who either shared his specific enthusiams, or who he hung out with during off-hours. He didn’t make a great secret of that, actually — just listen to his podcasts with Cousin Sal, David Chang, Joe House et al. Eventually some interesting people started to leave, and less interesting people began to arrive, and there are only so many bro takes I can put up with.
I never minded the mix of sports and pop culture. I like good writing, and podcasting, about all that stuff, and there are culture writers he introduced me to (Wesley Morris, the erstwhile Girls In Hoodies — Emily Yoshida, Molly Lambert, and Tess Lynch — to name a few) who I follow to this day. But I have no interest in picking the bones of the same cultural artifacts over and over again, which is his thing…along with made-up contests trying to quantify art, which was fun for a while I guess. The whole venture just springs too much from his brain, and I’ve spent all the time there that I care to.
@53: I met Katie Baker (who went to college with AAR, btw… don’t know if they knew each other) when she was covering the single greatest non-baseball event in world history: https://grantland.com/features/yale-wins-national-championship-frozen-four/ Unlike a lot of sports writers I’ve met, she’s great in person AND on the page.
I definitely like Katie Baker, and when I grow up I want to write like Wesley Morris. Can’t think of anybody else over there especially compelling. I liked Simmons, when he wrote.
Loved me some Grantland! Although the longform articles definitely led me to push the boundaries of acceptable time in the work bathroom stall.
Like sansho1, I’ve kept up with Wesley Morris and Girls in Hoodies (we’ll miss you Night Call). Ben Lindbergh writes at FanGraphs now and is still great. Brian Phillips used to have some killer tennis writing at Grantland and it looks like he still has the tennis beat at The Ringer.
The Ringer has just never clicked with me. Leans too hard into the Simmons playbook. I do not need a whole week devoted to thinkpieces on Boy Meets World. Oh, you think Topanga was the Robert Parish of the cast and wrote 8000 words about it? Hard pass.
I never met Katie Baker, sadly! However, I’d agree with @55 on the shortcomings of The Ringer. I haven’t gone over to The Defector because there are only so many paywalls I have time to pay and loyally go behind, and for as much as I enjoyed many of their individual contributors (from Dave McKenna to David Roth), many of the other Deadspinesque writers were kind of grating.
Is Defector really good?
I like it, although I skip over Drew Magary’s scatological humor whenever possible. A good rule of thumb is to never read the last letter in his mailbags ….
But, you know, they’re going for it (where “it” is a subscription-based model of inmate-run asylum). It helps to have a high tolerance for sports cynicism, obviously. They claim to offer decent compensation on freelance pitches, although I’ve not seen too many make it onto the site yet.
Surprised me that in all the interesting reactions and generalizations to the Deadspin piece no one thought to mention the obvious addendum – the history of the Braves in all this is impeccable. Then, Henry Aaron. Now, Ronald Acuna. Black faces indeed, something to be proud of.
And don’t assume a less than perfect whole contains nothing of individual value, they often do. Deadspin somehow survived the Gawker fiasco and is being kept going by a few of the faithful and that’s good enough for me. And the topic – the face of the franchise vis a vis color- was intriguing. Never thought about it before. Really.
Hmm, who would you say were the faces of the Braves since moving to Atlanta?
1966-75 – Aaron (D’uh)
76-81 – Knucksie
82-87 – Murph
88-90 – Can I say Ernie, Pete and Skip?
91 – Glavine
92 – Add Smoltz to Glavine
93-94 – Add Maddux to Smoltz and Glavine
95 – 2010 – Chipper
2011-14 – Jason Heyward
15-18 – Freeman
19-21 – Acuna and Freeman
Am I leaving anyone out?
Fair. Acuna gets more ink than Freddie though.
The eras of three individual pitchers, each of whom had 4-letter first names and 6-letter last names, comprise the first 43 years in Atlanta. I speak of course of:
The PHIL NIEKRO era,
The JEFF DEDMON era, and
The JOHN SMOLTZ era
Which means we’ve entered the MIKE SOROKA era, right?
By the way, GREG MADDUX is a little mad about that, and probably TOMG LAVINE.
And how about the reverse split? KOLB, DANIEL.
None too soon.