Trades That Change The Future

Aug 1st 2007 was a big day in Atlanta Braves history. No it wasn’t a milestone hit. There wasn’t a significant injury or victory. What happened was one of the biggest trades in Braves history. On this day the Braves sent Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Texas Rangers for Mark Teixeira.

It’s commonly said that you will have no idea the exact value of the trade for both teams until 3 or 4 years down the road, especially when the deal involves a lot of young prospects. Now while Teixeira was with Atlanta he was extremely productive. He hit 37HR and drove in 134 runs in just 157 total games, not even a full season. While the short stint with Atlanta was impressive, the issue is just that. The time he spent in Atlanta was far too short to justify the prospects that we parted with.

At the time of the trade the Braves found themselves 4.5 games behind the New York Mets. Yes just a few years ago the Mets were the front runners in the N.L East. But that’s besides the point. The Braves found themselves within striking distance and didn’t want to fall short of making the playoffs. On top of this they felt that they still had a decent shot of winning the wild card as well. What were they missing? Well they needed a big bat in the middle of the line up. Andruw Jones was not getting it done in the clean up spot and they believed that bringing in Tex would be the answer. He would provide a lot of power and would give them switch hitters in the 3 and 4 spots in their order. Sounds impressive right?

Well not only were Braves fans excited when the trade was made, the players in Atlanta were extremely excited as well.

” Yes we’ve got the team to win the World Series” – Brian McCann

“Seems like they’re trying to make us win a World Series around here” – Tim Hudson

Forget winning the World Series. The Braves failed to even make the playoffs that year as they would end the season 5.0 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. This would be the beginning of the Phillies run a top the N.L East that is still going strong today.

John Schuerholz must have been devastated when the team failed to qualify for the playoffs. He knew that he was giving up some elite prospects, 2 of the best ones in our entire farm system. Whether or not the Braves could keep Tex for the long term was a question that was asked almost immediately after the trade was completed.

” I’ll think about next year, next year” – John Schuerholz

That was pretty much the only response from John Schuerholz. In fairness what could the guy really say? He couldn’t second guess his own move right after it was completed. He knew that he would have to role with the punches and take any criticism  that would come his way. If the Braves had won the World Series that year or even made a deep run in the playoffs then maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

You never know what kind of players prospects will actually turn into. If you look at all the prospects that the Mets sent to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana you’ll see that none of  them really amounted to anything. But this trade turned out pretty well for the Texas Rangers.

They would receive a franchise short stop in Elvis Andrus. A great young arm in Matt Harrison. And a franchise closer in Neftali Feliz who would go on to set the rookie saves record. These guys were a HUGE part of their World Series run last year. As a Braves fan I couldn’t help but feel a little upset watching our franchise’s prospects shine on the big stage. Granted I’m happy for any young athlete that does well I just wish that they were all wearing Braves uniforms rather then one’s that say Texas on them.

While Teixeira is long gone as most Braves fans have forgotten about him by now, there affects of the trade are still affecting the Braves today. Alex Gonzalez is now the Braves short stop and while he has done a decent job for the Braves I can’t say that I wouldn’t prefer to have Elvis Andrus out there right now. Can you imagine this Braves line up with Andrus in it? We would be set at almost every position for the next 5 years if not more, outside of 3B. The franchise does not really have a sure fire answer for a short stop in the minor leagues and Gonzalez will most likely be gone after this season. Does the team make a trade? Go to the minors? Or sign a free agent? Short stop is a critical position for a team that wants to contend. It’s said that the short stop is the QB of the infield.

I know that our bullpen is dominant and possibly the best in all of baseball. I love the guys we have in our pen and they do a terrific job. Where would Feliz fit into that bullpen? Would he just be ANOTHER great arm coming out of the pen or would we have traded him or one of the other guys for another big name bat or maybe even a starter? The options are endless.

Just 1 year later the Braves would trade Tex to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek. If that’s not heart breaking then I don’t know what is. At the end of the day we gave up elite prospects for a 1 year rental player that we had to give away for basically nothing. It would have been one thing if the Braves had been able to move Tex for another big name player or at least 2 or 3 decent players but we were forced to basically give him away for nothing. The whole trade was a huge bust there’s no way that anyone can justify it now.

The point of this article is not just to bash the Braves front office for a bad trade. The point I’d like to make as I wrap up this article is that Frank Wren showed incredible patience at this years trade deadline. He could have dealt one of our coveted pitching prospects for a 2 month rental but he didn’t. He knew that a move like that would not be in the best interest of the ball club going forward. He waited it out and still got a great player in Michael Bourn.

Every time the trade deadline rolls around and your team is in contention for a playoff spot you want them to make a big move. I can honestly say that at certain points I wanted Frank Wren to just pull the trigger and get Beltran. I would be lying if that thought never crossed my mind. If you check my Twitter account I’m sure I made reference to dealing Mike Minor for Beltran. Now I realize what a mistake that would have been.

When you make a trade like that your putting yourself in a very difficult position. It becomes almost a World Series or bust scenario and that is just putting too much pressure on your players to justify a move that the front office made. Sometimes these big trades pay off and other times they don’t. It’s a crap shoot but if you can hold onto your prospects and let them develop a lot of times this is the better way to go.

I applaud the discipline of Frank Wren and the Braves front office. They resisted temptation to pull the trigger and make the “easy move”. That’s not an easy thing to do and I think they deserve a lot of credit. Maybe we should all consider the Mark Teixeira trade when were pushing our teams to make wild and extreme moves at the deadline.

By: Bob McVinua

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