During the 1987 season, the Atlanta Braves were easily out of contention, and decided to trade starting pitcher Doyle Alexander to the Detroit Tigers for a young starting pitcher named John Smoltz.
The Tigers were in a heated division race, and needed to add an extra arm to battle the Toronto Blue Jays.
Doyle Alexander was in the middle of a respectable campaign in 1987, playing in his 17th major league season. Although he had a 5-10 record, he had a respectable 4.13 ERA.
Acquired by Atlanta in the middle of the 1986 season, following two seventeen win campaigns while with the Blue Jays, Alexander was a veteran pitcher that the Tigers targeted to make a run at the postseason.
Alexander provided immediate dividends to the Tigers, as he posted an astounding 9-0 record and 1.53 ERA while with the team, which ended up winning their division by two games over the Blue Jays.
Although he helped get the Tigers into the playoffs, Alexander went 0-2 against Minnesota in the ALCS and the Tigers were sent home.
Alexander pitched for just two more years. Although he was an all-star in 1988, he finished with just a 14-11 record and a 4.32 ERA. In 1989 he posted another respectable ERA, but had a league leading 18 losses in his final season.
John Smoltz was a 22nd round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1985, and he pitched well despite a 7-8 record in the minors in 1986.
During the 1987 season, in which the trade was made, Smoltz was struggling in AA Glen Falls before the trade, and continued to struggle in AAA Richmond for the Braves after.
In 1988, Smoltz turned a corner while continuing to pitch for AAA Richmond. He was 10-5 with a sub-3.00 ERA which earned him a late-season promotion to Atlanta.
Smoltz proved he belonged in the majors in 1989 while posting a 12-11 record and a 2.94 ERA as a rookie. He also made his first all-star team in 1989 (equaling the total that Alexander made in his entire career).
After a solid 1990 season, Smoltz played an integral part in the worst to first Braves of 1991.
Smoltz was the only player on all of Atlanta’s division winning teams in the 90s and 2000s.
A sure Hall-of-Famer, Smoltz has proved a outstanding pitcher whether in the starting rotation or coming out of the bullpen.
He finished his 20 year career with the Braves with a 211-150 record, a 3.28 ERA and 154 saves. He led the league in strikeouts, wins and winning percentage twice.
Alexander was definitely an integral part of the Tigers making it to the 1987 playoffs, and without the addition of his arm to the rotation, the Tigers likely would have been sitting home that October.
However, Smoltz ended up being an Atlanta icon and a dominant pitcher for the better part of two decades while wearing a tomahawk across his chest. A huge part of 15 division titles, and a member of the Braves big three, Smoltz impact was just as great and lasted longer than Alexander’s.
Although the Tigers accomplished their short term goals. The Atlanta Braves became the clear winners of this trade as Smoltz went on to dominate hitters for 20 years.