Atlanta Braves: Ranking the 5 Best Trades in the Frank Wren Era
Wren has made some great deals for the Braves which have helped to shape the franchise, but he has also made his share of bad deals. With the Braves potentially ready to trade Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado, now is a good time to take a look at what the team's general manager has done thus far.
5. Acquiring Michael Bourn from Houston for 4 B-List Prospects
Michael Bourn has only played 53 games in a Braves uniform to date, but the way Frank Wren was able to steal this All-Star without giving away any of his top prospects deserves mention.
Bourn, a two-time Gold Glove winner was hitting .303 with a .363 on-base percentage and 39 steals for a Houston team trying to rebuild. Just days after the Astros made the Phillies part with their top two prospects for Hunter Pence, the Braves got a player capable of making a similar impact for a fraction of the price.
Sure the Braves fell apart in September and lost a chance at the Wild Card, but it's not because of Bourn. During his 53 games with the team he hit .278 with a homer, 18 runs batted in and 22 steals—including 14 in September when the Braves were desperate for runs.
Given another year this deal could look even better for Atlanta, and if the Braves are able to sign Bourn to an extension then it could improve even more. Giving up a pair of back of the rotation starters, a reliever not able to earn a spot with the Braves and a center fielder who failed to live up to his potential in Atlanta despite multiple opportunities for a true leadoff hitter that plays Gold Glove defense in center qualifies as a steal.
4. Dan Uggla from the Marlins for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn
Just months after breaking out in a big way for the Braves and finishing third in the National League batting title race, the Braves dealt Omar Infante and reliever Mike Dunn to the Marlins for slugging second baseman Dan Uggla. At the time the deal was expected to put the Braves over the top, and although it didn't work out as planned in year one for Uggla, it was still a promising year.
Uggla hit for the worst average of his career in 2011, dropping to only .233, but did set a new career high in homers with 36. Uggla's overall line doesn't tell you the whole story though, as he hit .185 with 15 homers in his first 92 games with the Braves, but .296 with 21 homers in his next 69 games.
Moving Infante was a smart move because Wren knew he would be selling high on a guy unlikely to replicate his 2010 numbers. Wren appeared to be correct as Infante's average dropped from .321 to .276 and his on-base percentage dropped from .359 to .315. Dunn is a power-armed reliever capable of pitching in a late inning role, and he succeeded in his first year in Florida, but he was an extra piece to the Braves who already had better options in Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and Peter Moylan.
Despite an up and down year by Uggla, this deal was a steal. Getting a middle of the order slugger for an average starter at second base and an extra bullpen arm is always a deal you have to make. Wren may have made a mistake in giving a 31-year-old Uggla a five-year extension, but the trade itself grades high.
3. Getting Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan from the White Sox for 4 Prospects
It's hard to believe that just a short time ago the Braves were desperate for starting pitching. In December, following the 2008 season, Frank Wren sent top catching prospect Tyler Flowers along with Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez to the White Sox for aging Javier Vazquez and reliever Boone Logan.
Javier Vazquez lasted only one season in a Braves uniform, but he made it count. In 32 starts, he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and a fourth place finish in the National League Cy Young voting. Logan appeared in 20 games with the Braves and had a 5.19 ERA, not doing much of anything in his short stay.
Vazquez was dealt to the Yankees along with Logan following the season in the deal that brought prized prospect Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves, one of the deals that just missed the top five. Considering the Braves turned Vazquez into Vizcaino, that only helps their return in this deal.
Flowers was the key piece the Braves gave up, and he has seen action in all three seasons with the White Sox. He received his most extended playing time this season, playing in 38 games and hitting .209 with five homers. Lillibridge is a player the Braves had given up on, and the White Sox may have come close to as well after not doing much in his first two seasons with the club before finally breaking out this year. Lillibridge turned in a fine season in a utility role this year and hit .258 with 13 homers, 29 runs batted in and 10 steals in only 216 plate appearances.
Gilmore, a third baseman, is still a lower-level prospect that may see Triple-A in 2012. The final piece of the deal was Rodriguez, a now 23-year-old who has spent the past two seasons as a reliever in High-A ball.
The players the Braves gave up haven't done very much to date, while the Braves ended up with one of the best pitchers in the game for a season and now one of the top prospects in the game. Wren did another excellent job here in protecting his best prospects, while getting a very good veteran back.
2. Acquiring Omar Infante and Will Ohman from the Cubs for Jose Ascanio
One of the first moves that Frank Wren made when he took over as general manager was to deal an extra bullpen arm, Jose Ascanio, to the Cubs for a utility man and a left-handed reliever. The deal at the time was considered as a decent move for the Braves, but then the unexpected happened.
Jose Ascanio pitched in 13 games for the Braves as a 22-year-old reliever in 2007, but Frank Wren thought he may be better off dealing the youngster with potential away and picking up a pair of quality role players. Ascanio never lived up to his potential, and for his career has a 1-3 record with a 5.28 ERA in 43 games.
Ohman appeared in 83 games for the 2008 Braves as a left-handed one out guy. He went 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA over 58.2 innings. Ohman only went on to spend that one season with the team before signing with the Dodgers as a free agent, but was a very useful pitcher who stranded 29 of the 35 base runners he inherited.
Infante was traded by the Cubs less than a month after the team acquired him from the Tigers for Jacque Jones. In his first two seasons with the Braves, Infante was a solid utility player who hit for a good average. Then came his breakout 2010 season where he was in the thick of the race for the National League batting title before eventually finishing third with a .321 mark. Following the season Wren decided to sell high and move Infante to the Marlins in the deal for Dan Uggla.
This was a great trade for Wren. He gave up an extra arm in the bullpen who ended up not amounting to much and was able to land a strong reliever and very talented utility player who was a big part of the team's 2010 playoff team.
1. Sending Edgar Renteria to the Tigers for Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez
In his first move as Braves general manager Frank Wren dealt starting shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Tigers for young pitcher Jair Jurrjens and prospect Gorkys Hernandez. The deal was possible because the Braves had Yunel Escobar ready to take over at shortstop, but still the deal was unpopular at the time to Braves fans.
Renteria just finished his second season with the Braves and put together a career year, hitting .332/.390/.470 with 12 homers, 57 runs batted in and 11 steals as a 30-year-old, following an All-Star season in his first year with the club. He was expected to help lead the Tigers to a strong season, but it's safe to say Renteria was a flop in Detroit, as he hit only .270 and his OPS dropped from .860 to .699.
Jurrjens made his major league debut with the Tigers in 2007 as a 21-year-old, going 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA in seven starts. He was expected to be a back end of the rotation starter for the Braves, but after going 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 2008, the expectations were suddenly higher. In four years with the Braves he has gone 47-32 with a 3.34 ERA, including a dominant first half of the 2011 season before battling injury.
Hernandez was a hot prospect after a huge season in Low-A as a 19-year-old for the Tigers in 2007. He hit .293 with four homers, 50 runs batted in and 54 steals that season, but never performed like that in the Braves' system due to nagging injuries slowing him. He was eventually shipped to Pittsburgh in the Nate McLouth deal, where he's a lower-tier prospect mostly due to his defensive ability.
It's interesting that this article is written because Jurrjens may end up being traded again this season since he was the prize of Wren's best deal with the Braves. The Braves dealt an aging, expensive player coming off a big year and landed a very strong starting pitcher in this deal.