In an attempt to shed Melvin Upton and his albatross of a salary, the Braves packaged him with their otherworldly but otherwise luxury asset in Craig Kimbrel to further continue the rebuild effort. This trade has had enough time since to evaluate most of the pieces of the deal. At the time, the Braves felt like Melvin was done, and Kimbrel was a commodity that wasn’t necessary during the rebuild. By this point, the Braves had already traded Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, and Jason Heyward. After this trade, they took a break from selling off major league pieces for prospects until they traded Andrelton Simmons. The deal was as follows: Melvin Upton and Craig Kimbrel for Jordan Paroubeck, Matt Wisler, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin (subsequently released), and a 2015 Competitive Balance A Pick (later became Austin Riley).
As for what we gave up:
Melvin Upton: After an OPS+ of 105 in 8 seasons with Tampa Bay, he had a 66 OPS+ with his strike out rate exploding and home run rate plummeting in his two seasons in Atlanta (didnât it feel like longer?). After leaving Atlanta, Melvin went to the pitcher’s park Petco Park and proceeded to return to his old form: a 108 OPS+ with 21 HR in 529 ABs. His stolen bases also returned: he’s had 29 SBs against 9 CS in his year and a half with San Diego. He’s still not justifying the big contract Atlanta handed him, but he is performing more in line with his career numbers in a limited role. Why the Braves weren’t able to get this production out of him is an interesting discussion.
Craig Kimbrel: Kimbrel has moved in a different direction. After one of the greatest statistical stretches by a reliever in the history of baseball, Kimbrel has moved closer to earth, which simply means he’s in the troposphere instead of the stratosphere. Kimbrel had a 266 ERA+, an astounding 476 strikeouts in 289 innings, and averaged over 46 saves across his four full seasons. Kimbrel spent only one season in San Diego, posting a still-excellent 144 ERA+ and 87 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. He was then traded for another boatload of prospects to the Red Sox, and after another slight decline in performance, he is currently injured for the next 6 weeks. The Braves appear to have sold high with him.
And now for what we received in return:
Jordan Paroubeck: Paroubeck is a 6’2″ switch-hitter who never played for Atlanta. He was traded along with Caleb Dirks to pick up more slot money for the 2015 international signing period. The two traded prospects brought back $250K, which allowed them to acquire the likes of Derian Cruz and Cristian Pache.
Cameron Maybin: Cameron had a solid season in Atlanta, rebuilding his career. He hit .267/.327/.370 while stealing 23 bases and playing a solid centerfield. He was traded in the offseason to the Tigers for left-handed reliever Ian Krol. Krol has appeared in 28 games so far for Atlanta, mostly in a short relief role and posting a 2.55 ERA. One would think he is simply a LOOGY, but Krol has faced more righties and has established himself a more complete reliever.
Carlos Quentin: Quentin was a salary balancer and was released.
Matt Wisler: He would be considered to be the main pickup in the trade. Wisler was considered by Baseball America to be San Diego’s #1 prospect, and he started 20 games in 2015 for Atlanta and has been Atlanta’s #2 starter in 2016. Wisler was 22 when he was acquired by Atlanta, and has continued to improve. Heâs considered to have a ceiling of a #2-3 starter, but is a year or longer away from realizing that capability.
Austin Riley: He was picked with the #41 pick in the 2015 draft, which came in this trade. Austin Riley is considered to have the highest ceiling of any prospect brought back in this trade, with his power projecting to be above average for third base, and scouts think he has the glove to stick there. Riley spent the entire 2015 season in rookie ball, where he hit .304/.389/.544 with 12 HR in 217. Heâs only 19 and currently adjusting to A-ball where he has a .720 OPS. He’s the one big power bat in the system, but he’s a long way away.
All in all, the Braves packaged an elite closer with Melvin Upton‘s terrible contract to net a haul of a short-term stopgap centerfielder (who was then turned into an effective reliever), a high-ceiling starting pitching prospect, a draft pick (which produced the now-#6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline), and a middling prospect (who was traded for the ability to sign international talent). I”m not saying whether the Braves are the “winner” or “loser”, but each piece returned in the deal has accomplished what it was intended to accomplish, and it’s hard not to look at this trade as one that will continue to serve the Braves well into the future. There are questions that remain: Could they have gotten more? Does Melvin’s rebound point to a systemic issue with the Braves’ development of hitters? How valuable is the world’s best closer?