Atlanta Braves: Ranking the 5 Worst Trades of the Frank Wren Era
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Considering I recently wrote an article on the best trades that Frank Wren has made with the Atlanta Braves, it's time to take a look at the five worst deals he has made during his time in control. All of these deals are bad, although the only one that was truly awful was a product of necessity.
It's important to note that the deal that sent Rafael Soriano to Tampa Bay for Jesse Chavez after the 2009 season does not count because the Braves were not going to be able to afford Soriano and were willing to take back any warm body in return.
5.The Deal Where the Braves Acquired Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel from Royals
Rick Ankiel hit only .210 after being acquired from Kansas City.
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At the trading deadline in 2010, the Braves had some minor needs and thought that adding a power-hitting reserve outfielder and bullpen arm could help the team make a playoff run. When neither player contributed much, this deal instantly went bad.
Ankiel was hitting .261 with four homers in 101 plate appearances for the Royals before the trade, so on paper he looked like a player who could help. Ankiel did give the Braves a pair of home runs, but hit only .210 with 42 strikeouts in 139 regular season plate appearances and went just two for 12 in the Division Series loss to the Giants.
Farnsworth pitched well in his first stint with the Braves in 2005 and had a 2.42 ERA in 37 games for the Royals before the trade. After the trade, he fell apart, posting a 5.40 ERA in 23 sppearances.
The players the Braves gave up may have been able to help more than the players they acquired. Gregor Blanco is a strong defensive outfielder who was hitting .310 in 66 plate appearances for the Braves and could have offered more than what Rick Ankiel gave. Tim Collins, who was recently acquired in the deal that brought Alex Gonzalez to the Braves, could have potentially been a long-term fixture in middle relief. Jesse Chavez was also involved, but he didn't do much before or after the deal.
There weren't too many bad deals that Frank Wren made, so that's why this deal makes the list despite not being a terribly bad one. If the Braves held on to what they had, Blanco could have potentially made the same impact that Ankiel did and Collins, who may not have been ready for the Majors last year, would give the Braves another power arm out of the bullpen.
4.Acquring Nate McLouth from the Pirates for Charlie Morton and 2 Prospects
Nate McLouth was a total bust for the Braves.
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When the Braves acquired Nate McLouth in June of 2009, Frank Wren thought he landed the Gold Glove winning center fielder who was an All-Star the year before. McLouth was 27 years old at the time and coming off a season where he hit .276 with 26 homers, 94 RBI and 23 steals in 26 attempts.
McLouth was hitting .256 with nine homers, 34 RBI and seven steals in 45 games with the Pirates before the deal and continued to produce around that level in Atlanta. In 84 games, he hit .257 with 11 homers, 36 RBI and 12 steals. That was the end of the productive McLouth, as he showed up to spring training in 2010 unable to make consistent contact and battled that as well as injuries the last two years.
Overall in 250 games with the Braves, McLouth hit .229/.335/.364 with 21 homers, 76 RBI and 23 steals.
The Pirates didn't get much back from the deal, as Charlie Morton was the most productive player after going 10-10 with a 3.83 this season. Jeff Locke only made his Major League debut this season, and was hit hard in four starts. Locke could still potentially end up in the Pirates starting rotation in 2012. The final piece of the deal was Gorkys Hernandez, who is yet to debut in the Majors. Hernandez is a very good defensive outfielder who may be best as a fourth outfielder.
The Braves didn't give up too much for McLouth, but his salary and complete lack of production the last two years certainly hurt. If the Braves could redo this deal, there is no chance they would make that mistake again.
3.Trading Jeff Francoeur to the Mets for Ryan Church
The Braves gave up on Jeff Francoeur, but he continued to work and snapped out of his slump after being dealt.
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Hometown hero Jeff Francoeur had quickly fallen from young star status by the summer of 2009, so much so that the Braves had given up on him and were ready to deal him to help him along in his career and pick up a new player for their team.
When the Braves found an interested team, they quickly jumped on the deal even though they knew they were not getting equal value back.
Francoeur hit 62 homers and 253 RBI during his first two-and-a-half seasons with the team from 2005 through 2007, but struggled badly in 2008 and 2009, Yet immediately after being dealt to the Mets, he started to hit again, hitting .311/.338/.498 with 10 homers in 75 games. After struggling a bit in 2010, he broke out in 2011 hitting .285/.329/.476 with 20 homers, 47 doubles, 87 RBI and 22 steals for the Royals.
Church played 44 games in Atlanta and hit .260/.347/.402 with two homers and 18 RBI before departing as a free agent to Pittsburgh.
The Braves dealt Jeff Francoeur because the former star prospect and young hometown hero couldn't fix the holes in his game, so it's hard to say that he could have become a dangerous hitter again if he stayed with the Braves. Still, if he remained with the Braves and hit the way he did in Kansas City this season, the Braves' season could have been much different.
2.Trading Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays for Alex Gonzalez and 2 Prospects
Giving up on Yunel Escobar early was one of Wren's worst moves.
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After a breakthrough season for the Braves in 2009, Yunel Escobar struggled mightily in 2010. In 75 games, he was hitting .238 with no homers and 19 RBI—nowhere near his 2009 season where he hit .299 with 14 homers and 76 RBI.
So Frank Wren sent Escobar and spare part Jo-Jo Reyes to the Blue Jays for a shortstop in the middle of a great season.
Immediately after the deal, Escobar started hitting again and hit .275 with four homers and 16 RBI during his 60 games with the Jays. He came into 2011 ready to go and put together a line of .290/.369/.413 with 11 homers and 48 RBI, giving the Jays a productive 28-year-old shortstop under the team's control for the next couple years.
Gonzalez was hitting .259/.296/.497 with 17 homers and 50 RBI during 85 games with the Jays, but once he came over, he started to struggle a bit and finished the year by hitting .240/.291/.386 with six homers and 36 RBI during a 72-game run with the Braves.
Gonzalez came into the 2011 season as a 34-year-old and played like it. He hit only .241/.270/.372 with 15 homers and 56 RBI this year, although he did play outstanding defense at a premium position. Following the season, he became a free agent and the Braves must now decide if he is worth retaining.
The Braves also got two more pieces in the deal, although they almost immediately moved young power-armed reliever Tim Collins to the Royals in the Rick Ankiel/Kyle Farnsworth deal. Collins turned in a strong rookie year in middle relief as a 21-year-old this year.
The other piece is shortstop prospect Tyler Pastornicky, a player who could end up being the Braves' starting shortstop this year depending on what happens this winter. Pastornicky may end up being more of a utility player in the long run, however.
Wren has to regret this deal, giving up not only the better player, but the cheaper player, and the one still under control for the 2012 season. Gonzalez may be back, but the Braves would have to pay for him on the free agent market.
Unless Pastornicky shocks everyone, this is easily one of Wren's worst deals.
1.Trading Mark Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Steve Marek
Mark Teixeira had a great run in a Braves uniform before being traded for little in return.
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When the Braves dealt Mark Teixeira in 2008, the deal was out of necessity instead of trying to improve their club.
By late July, it was clear that the Braves were not headed for the playoffs, and Frank Wren was well aware that he wouldn't be able to afford Teixeira on the open market as a free agent, especially considering his agent Scott Boras wasn't likely to give the team a hometown discount to keep the former Georgia Tech star in Atlanta.
At the time of the deal, Teixeira was a star in his prime as a 28-year-old. In his 157 games with the team after being acquired at the trading deadline in 2007, Teixeira was hitting .296 with 37 homers and 134 RBI. He hit .358 with 13 homers in 54 games with the Angels, helping them reach the playoffs.
Kotchman was a defensive first baseman without much of a bat. In 130 games with the Braves during the rest of the 2008 season and part of the 2009 season, Kotchman only hit .267 with eight homers and 61 RBI. While those numbers don't look awful on the surface, they are well below average for starting Major League first basemen. The Braves dealt him at the 2009 trading deadline to reacquire Adam LaRoche.
The other piece in the deal was Steve Marek, a guy who was a C-list prospect in the Angels organization as a middle reliever—not exactly a promising player. Marek has yet to see Major League action to this point.
The Braves needed to make a deal, and there likely weren't many options available with strong returns for a rental player, but if the Mets could get Zack Wheeler for an aging Carlos Beltran this year, the Braves could have received more.
Wren would have been better off if he had just let Teixeira leave as a free agent and received Type A free agent compensation, the signing team's first-round pick and a sandwich-round pick.