Where Are They Now?: The Melvin and Kimbrel Trade

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 (didn’t 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. He’s 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. He’s 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.

So what?

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 “€œwinner”€ or “€œloser”€, 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?

36 thoughts on “Where Are They Now?: The Melvin and Kimbrel Trade”

  1. what a great write up. Fair and balanced, and i agree that the only real troubling aspect is the resurgence of BJ/Melvin and wondering if this is related to the perceived lack of bats in our pipeline, i.e. are there really or are we just unable to cultivate same?

  2. Excellent write-up.

    Derian Cruz is raking at GCL: .358/.368/.507 (.875). Yes, that reflects a walk rate of 1/68.

  3. Great trade recap. Look forward to one breaking down the Justin Upton deal, perhaps?

    And while I’m doling out the requests: Can someone do an explanatory piece on all this slot money stuff? I have to confess, I don’t know how any of that stuff works. All I know is it’s a thing. Slot money to sign players, trading players to get slot money, slot money, slot money. Goes over my head. If someone explains it to me like I’m a five-year-old, I think I can get it. Also, the international slot money, too. Thanks in advance. No rush.

  4. @9

    That’s why I would lean towards this being a good-to-great trade for the Braves. Craig Kimbrel is, ultimately, an expensive ticking time bomb, and his numbers have consistently declined in the last two years, and now he’s battling injuries (admittedly not arm-related injuries).

  5. With Melvin, I think it was more of mental thing that we couldn’t help him with than a player development thing. It’s not like he was a prospect when he got here.

    That 1) is still troubling and 2) moves Wren a little closer to exoneration for strictly scouting failures? Eh, probably not.

  6. No surprises there. I’m wondering if we’ll get 8 in the top 100 next year. Austin Riley, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, AJ Minter, Derian Cruz, as well as Whalen/Sims/Ellis could all make a case.

  7. Speaking of prospects, Martin Gandy’s mid-season list is out. Great read for those of you who, like me, don’t follow the farm too closely.

  8. @16, that list is here: http://www.gondeee.com/2016/07/13/braves-2016-mid-season-top-35-prospects/

    For those of you unfamiliar with Martin’s prospect rankings, he basically uses letter grades to compare the Braves’ top prospects with other prospects in the Atlanta system, rather than comparing across all prospects in baseball. So if you were to compare his grades with a grading system like John Sickels uses, it would seem wildly inflated. That’s essentially because they’re on different baselines.

  9. Glad to see Gondeee making his monthly post. He always does a great job. I forgot Mike Soroka who slots ahead of a few of those pitchers.

  10. Gondee is right on the money with most of his picks. I’d have Allard higher, but I understand why he has him where he is.

    I think he nailed Davidson. Everyone has him ranked much too high.

  11. Just saw Jason Groome is getting close to a deal with the BoSox. They’re saying it’ll be “north” of $3.5 million.

    I think I saw Ian Anderson signed with us for $4 million. Acknowledging that while it’s not at all a given if the Braves had taken Groome at #3 his price would remain constant, it does make you question who would they rather have financials aside.

  12. @21

    I think the Braves may have liked Anderson more than Groome too. I wonder where he would have been slotted if he wasn’t hurt and pitched in the south?

  13. 21—They’d rather have Anderson. And, yeah, Groome would have cost more than Anderson signed for had the Braves taken him third.

  14. Just throwing this out there: The term “WFF” is grating on me, greatly. It’s a constant poke in the eye, a stink bomb, a big dump on the following of this team, and in the current times we’re living in I don’t see the “positive value” of racially-charged snark coming close to equalling the corrosive usage of that term. I can’t see why anyone who has an interest in supporting this team into the future also indulging in a term so at odds with building spirit around said team.

  15. @25, Blame the people who decided to gentrify the franchise, not the people are calling them out for it.

  16. @27, Cut off my nose to spite my face to indulge in asserting a very debatable premise as a fact? I guess I’m wondering where the snarky usage of this term among fans of the Atlanta Braves will lead that is positive. I guess I am also wondering: Why would anyone want to follow a team if that’s what you generally believe?

  17. @28, I’d hope that the ceaseless flood of negative and frankly embarrassing coverage of the whole stadium debacle will deter future owners from repeating the Braves’ mistakes. That, to me, would be a big positive.

    I actively dislike people who base their sports allegiances on politics. IMO they’re doing it wrong. That kind of compartmentalization is part of being a functioning adult and is probably good for you. That said, I like that it creates a hedge on my fandom. If the rebuild fails, then good, because they kind of deserve it.

  18. @25

    It’s all fine for now, I suppose. I’m not happy they’re moving where they are, either, though it’s not so much that they’re moving out of the city limits as that they’re moving to a difficult-to-get-to traffic catastrophe. If they had moved over to the site of the old GM plant in Doraville, for instance, I’d feel much better about it, as you can actually get there using mass transit.

    That having been said, there is a shelf life on this. Anybody still bitching about them moving in, like, 2018 should probably ask themselves some of the questions you’re suggesting there.

    @29

    You are absolutely correct about that kind of compartmentalization. It’s not particularly healthy to closely intermingle your political/religious choices with your choices as a sports fan. That road eventually leads to sectarian fan violence and the like, e.g. European soccer riots.

  19. “That having been said, there is a shelf life on this. Anybody still bitching about them moving in, like, 2018 should probably ask themselves some of the questions you’re suggesting there.”

    Isn’t that the way these teams keep getting away with these things though?

  20. If “White Flight Field” rubs you the wrong way and stops you from embracing the bigger point, I humbly suggest “SoDoSoPark.”

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