Trade Retrospective: Craig Kimbrel

I’m hoping to do a little series on the “big” deals of the rebuild. The roster-gutting ones of Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, and Craig Kimbrel/Mudge. The Andrelton one might be the most painful, but trading Craig Kimbrel partly to rid yourself of the Mudge contract was right up there, so I’m going to get this one out of the way first.

First, a quick note. I will not be using Mudge’s name. In fact, as God as my witness, I endeavor to never use his name for the rest of my life. He is Mudge. The man’s a menace, a nuisance to the game. The single-most unlikeable Braves player of recent memory, as far as I’m concerned. His smug attitude towards the umpires as they rang him up for taking a pitch down the pipe would disgust me. In fact, this paraphrased quote by Newman on Seinfeld accurately describes my feelings towards the man:

“You are nothing but a piece of crap. A piece of crap. I find you extremely ugly. You emit a foul and unpleasant odor. I loathe you.”

Sorry, I got a little carried away. At any rate, this was the trade that truly sent them into full tank mode. They traded their All-Star closer, which of course they would not need as they didn’t plan to be contending for a while, and they wanted to clear as much of the remaining $45M or so on Mudge’s deal as they could so they could, I dunno, sign Kevin Maitan and lose him too.

But they couldn’t clear Mudge’s entire contract. Not even Kimbrel could offset that amount of rotting carcass of a contract. So they traded Craig Kimbrel and ole Mudge to the Padres for Jordan Paroubeck, Cameron Maybin ($7M), a portion of Carlos Quentin’s own carcass of a contract ($8M), Matt Wisler, and a 2015 competitive balance round A pick (Austin Riley). So they got rid of about $34M of bad Mudge, and they took back Paroubeck, Matt Wisler, and the pick that led to Austin Riley. I say only $34M because Maybin was really only worth a portion of his contract, and I will show my math in a second.

Paroubeck did nothing, so we’ll skip him. I’m going to say that Maybin was worth maybe around $4M, so I’m going to say that we took back about $3M of Maybin’s dead weight, so that’s how I got to $34M ($45M owed to Mudge minus Quentin’s $8M minus Maybin’s $3M = $34M in savings). So after the salary swaps, it was Kimbrel for Matt Wisler, Austin Riley, and $34M.

We have to acknowledge that we didn’t get the Austin Riley of today, a 21-year old top prospect in AAA knocking at the door of big leagues; even a 1st round competitive balance pick has decent enough likelihood of failure. With that said, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to Coppy that he did draft very well in 2015, so him trading for another crack at that draft was a smart move. This was the same draft that saw him take Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Riley, and A.J. Minter in the first five picks.

Matt Wisler had a less than stellar career with Atlanta. He was a top 100 prospect in 2014, so it wasn’t a bad bet to take him back in a deal. And you can make the argument that after only making 34 starts in AAA — only 12 of which were for Atlanta’s AAA team — he wasn’t given the opportunity more recent prospects have been given to develop. But excuses aside, Wisler was replacement level in his 4 seasons in Atlanta. Put him in the camp that justifies the acronym TINSTAAPP.

But they also saved $34M, and that means nothing to you nor I. I know I didn’t get a check. So it can be hard to tie money savings from a particular deal into an end result with which to evaluate. But this trade was different. It was made on April 5th, 2015. They made a trade to take back salary on June 20th — a little over 2 months later — for Bronson Arroyo’s salary, and the player we got along with him was Touki Toussaint. Of course, I’m attempting to make a financial connection here, but this may be one of the few times you actually can. The season had already started, player payroll may have been locked in, etc. etc., so perhaps making the Kimbrel deal allowed them to make the Touki deal.

If you can make that connection, the trade actually looks really good. If you can’t make that connection, then you have to say that we traded Craig Kimbrel for Matt Wisler, a 1st round comp pick, and $34M, and you have to decide what that means to you. I think it was a good trade, all things considered. Oh, other than the fact that we lost an All-Star closer because Mudge mudged his filthy mudging ways all over the mudging field.

75 thoughts on “Trade Retrospective: Craig Kimbrel”

  1. Mudge is my least favorite Brave of all time. His crappy attitude mirrored his historically bad performance. Uggla was just as bad, but had built up some fan capital with prior good performance and always seemed like a team player. I thought it was a mistake to leave him off the 2013 NLDS roster for the simple fact that he stood a non-zero chance of running into one while Elliot Johnson brought very little to the table and did nothing in that series. It also seemed bad for morale, as he was looked up to by Freddie et al. I have to think Frank Wren shares my feeling about Mudge given the benefit of hindsight, as he was the cinder block on the feet of the 2013-14 Braves, a true black hole in the lineup.

  2. I can’t leave the fact that I thought the Mudge signing was good at the time. Part of that was that I thought it was better than resigning Michael Bourn. Hard to say who got the worst signing of a centerfielder out of those two. So, maybe this is my bias.

    But no, whether you call him Bossman, Jr., BJ, Melvin Jr. or Mudge, I do not understand how he could possibly be more reprehensible than Melky Cabrera. Mudge tried. EVERYBODY said he worked out, took extra batting practice, got with hitting coaches. He may well have been a victim of the dropping strikezone. However, he tried.

    And yes, sometimes Mudge would seem to dispute the umpire on a ball right down the middle. But, he never threw a ball from the outfield off line by 20 degrees. And, if he had done something that poorly, he wouldn’t have laughed about it.

  3. I plan to update 64 worst Braves soon, and boy, we’ve added a ton of options in the last 10 years.

  4. Have a Braves-Kimbrel rumor:

  5. Rob, what about the savings on Kimbrel’s contract? That was a large amount of money too. He was replaced by about $4M (haven’t looked it up recently) of Johnson and Grilli – pretty effectively, too.

  6. If I’m Kimbrel, I hold out to almost the start of the season. Some team will have pen issues they will pony up to address come late March.

  7. Yeah, I really didn’t bake what they saved on Kimbrel as well into the equation. It’s really hard to do that when payroll is slashed during a non-contending period. For instance, today you can say, “the money we saved in 2019 not having to pay Matt Kemp went to Josh Donaldson”, and that’s a pretty easy line to draw. That’s why I feel like the Touki trade is a fairly easy line to draw to the Kimbrel trade. But when you recap, say, the Justin Upton trade, where he was making money they saved, where did that money go?

  8. If Aroldis Chapman is making $15M per through his age-33 season, why can’t Kimbrel make more than that? He’s a better closer.

    But in today’s market, how much more valuable is Craig Kimbrel than David Robertson (2yr/$21M, $12M club option with $2M buyout), Andrew Miller (2yr, $25M, $12m vesting option), or Joakim Soria (2yr, $15.5M)? Would you look at all that and say Kimbrel is worth 3 years, $50M? Is his 1.5-2 fWAR per year for the 60 innings on average he gives you significantly more valuable than the 1.3-1.5 fWAR, 60 innings on average David Robertson is going to give you? Really, how much better is Kimbrel than other really good closers?

  9. When I looked at this trade, not only was Wisler a top prospect, he was the Pads #1. And Paroubeck was in the top 20. The draft pick was before the second round so whatever it turned into, it was a fairly high pick.

    I wouldn’t gloss over Maybin either. The Braves got essentially equivalent (or better) performance in CF for a lot less money. Maybin is still an active ML player today.

    Honestly, without the money part, this trade seems very reminiscent of what a Realmuto trade would look like. Kimbrel for Wisler, Paroubeck, and a first round pick. We expect Realmuto to get two top prospects and a lesser one with one being ML-ready.

    As I’ve said before, I don’t think the Braves ever really intended to make this trade, but they were blown away by an offer from the Pads.

    In 2015, Wisler was a decent innings eater. Good moments and bad moments. We got what we could have expected for a top prospect in their first year. He just failed to improve. If either Wisler or Paroubeck had turned into at least replacement level ML players, we wouldn’t grumble about this deal as much.

    The Pads didn’t see the value of keeping Kimbrel for more than a year, either. We place way too high a value on an elite closer. Likely one reason he isn’t signed yet. Not withstanding the money, is Kimbrel worth the draft pick? And with that, I’m not singling him out, but saying is any elite closer worth the draft pick?

  10. @7 But Bronson didn’t cost that much. He had about $23M left on his contract. And, of course, that $23M was turned into Olivera but that’s a different discussion (and Olivera was turned into Kemp who was turned into Donaldson – I’m not sure the syllogism really takes you anywhere). If you do want to say that the Kimbrel trade led to Touki then it just means the trade was that much better.

  11. @8 Well, if 1.0 WAR is worth $8.5M or so then 3 years is almost exactly $50M and you are getting equal value for the money with no excess value. And that is only if Kimbrel posts three consecutive years of 2.0 WAR. Any less and that 3/50 is a net loss.

    And then there’s the draft pick……..

  12. If I’m Kimbrel, I hold out to almost the start of the season. Some team will have pen issues they will pony up to address come late March.

    The problem is “some team” has to be one of the very few willing to pay him.

    The Marlins may have pen issues in spring training, but they still won’t sign Kimbrel.

  13. I never got the impression that Upton was giving anything less than his best. It was clearly tearing him up that the hits weren’t falling, and I never heard it even implied that he wasn’t working as hard as he possibly could. You want to talk “smug,” I always felt that Uggla’s apparent belief that his hard-nosed veteran leadership should override his obvious inability to hit or field was much more infuriating, and he was at least as much a financial drain. (Extending a 31-year-old second baseman for superstar money/years before he’d ever played a game for the Braves? What could go wrong?)

  14. @9 &11

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the pick is a 2nd round pick that they’d forfeit for signing Kimbrel, right?

    I’d do it in a second, and I wouldn’t even blink.

    Honestly, I wonder how much the Braves even care about the pick; or is it more just about the slot money attached to it? Either way, you have to figure they play it pretty safe with the Stewart Comp pick, because the kid has to be sign-able. So save your bread crumbs there.

    They need Kimbrel, because they need a proven closer. It’s hard to trust Viz to stay healthy, and I just see Minter as more of an elite set up arm than a closer. The Mets and Phils both improved the back of their pens, and the Braves need to keep up.

  15. @2 Cliff, at the time I thought the BJ signing was decent, too. I much preferred him to Bourn, because signing an aging CF who’s **whole** game revolved around being able to run was a recipe for disaster. I thought BJ would be a low average guy who would maintain enough pop in the later years to at least be serviceable on the corner.

    That didn’t quite pan out, and Bourn still would eventually end up back in Atlanta to boot. Lol

  16. I’ve always felt that Mudge suffered the Reggie Sanders effect, which is that low-average outfielders with speed and pop must crater while in a Braves uniform.

  17. @14

    The draft pick goes back and forth. Depending on what week it is, it’s totally unimportant and a complete non-factor in any decision to sign a free agent or it’s an absolute deal-breaker that would keep us from signing somebody we otherwise would be about to throw a giant amount of money at.

  18. Bossman Jr was terrible as a Brave, of course, but there are several I have disliked more over the years. Including Mudge’s teammate Chris Johnson.

  19. @18 +1 On the Chris Johnson dislike train. The guy hit over .300 once, and of all the bone-headed things the Braves could’ve done, they paid him for it. I could never stand that he not only got playing time, but significant playing time.

    Interestingly enough, he looks to have finished his career in 2017, in Baltimore’s minors.

  20. @13 @18

    Chris Johnson and Dan Uggla are equally worthy of hate. Uggla was definitely smug.

    What chaps me about Mudge is how he would argue with the umpire on pitches down the pipe, which would lead me to believe he wasn’t accepting responsibility for his poor plate discipline, which while that was not the skill that ultimately eroded his career (his walk rate actually rose in Atlanta), it just further led me to believe that his issues were not physical.

    There’s also some stories about him not paying ladies of the night after a job well done, but that’s neither here nor there, and he may not be the only person to do that. Also unconfirmed, of course.

  21. Literally the only thing Melvin Jr did wrong in ATL was fail to hit. He never showed an iota of bad attitude or lack of team first attitude. Frustration at strikes doesn’t count.

  22. Unbelievable tweet on a couple levels.

  23. The modern English word for “things that happen that we don’t agree with or understand” is “collusion”.

  24. I’d rather accept “collusion” as an explanation for this offseason instead of this nonsense, @48 from two posts ago…

    According to DOB:

    “From what I hear, they plan for payroll to increase a little this season (if not at beginning of season then by end) and then move up to middle of MLB payrolls (above $140M) in 2020. We’ll see if that transpires.”

  25. Cameron Maybin was a 1.3 fWAR player his year in Atlanta. If 1 WAR is worth 7M, then he in fact was worth his contract.

  26. The fact is, teams across the league have decided simultaneously not to spend money. That stinks. And it also smells.

    I didn’t think Mudge had a bad attitude — I thought it was killing him that he was playing that badly. He was just a high-paid player who literally dragged the offense down by himself.

    Robert Fick, now there was a guy with a bad attitude. And we can’t forget another all-time favorite:

  27. If either Wisler or Paroubeck had turned into at least replacement level ML players, we wouldn’t grumble about this deal as much.

    I agree. If Wisler could have simply become a reliable 1.5-2 fWAR, 4th/5th starter, the trade looks a lot different. And he’ll only be 26, so there’s still hope for him left. He had 11 K, 2 BB, 3 ER in his 13 IP for the Reds. 11 hits though, so he’s still probably flat and getting hit hard.

  28. I feel as if it’s pretty hard to defend the owners against an accusation of some type of collusion.

    According to some research I did, in 1986, only four free agents switched teams; and the majority of free agents took single year deals. Tim Raines, depending on how you value players, might’ve been the jewel of this class. He spent four months on the free agent market, at the ripe “old” age of 26, before taking a low offer from Montreal.

    Wow how does that mirror today, with two stars sitting on the market, at 26, still; and many other really talented players still not signed.

    If it smells, it’s probably rotten…

  29. @32 It’s actually really easy: in handing out less money to free agents, teams are following the incentives of the current CBA and economic conditions in the sport.

    It doesn’t take a conspiracy.

    At this point last year, J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and Eric Hosmer had yet to sign, but they each ended up with big multi-year deals. If that was collusion, ownership failed.

    I agree the current trend stinks, and I hope the next CBA addresses some of the issues. I think getting ride of revenue sharing and the luxury tax would help.

  30. I hear you, but still, Arrieta got three years, $75 million. That’s not small money, but I wouldn’t totally call it a “big multi-year deal.” Given how good he was in 2014-2016 (with a dropoff in 2017 but still real good other than two stinker first months), he was expecting much more.

    I don’t have a gut sense for what qualifies as “big multi-year,” but I’d think it would be at least $90 million, and at least 4-5 years.

  31. A collective entity that has, in the not-that-distant-past, been caught red handed colluding against their specialized labor force, who still consist of many of the exact same individual persons who were critically involved in that not-that-distant collusion, who have never acknowledged that colluding in the first place was wrong; merely that the courts found it was “illegal”; and who have spent the better part of the 30 years since those court findings attempting to break the contractual elements by which they can be said to collude at all, are now behaving in a manner extremely similar, in all available measures and metrics, to be collusory again. But the folks who suggest that the formerly convicted colluders who only ever took the lesson “don’t let them see you do it” from their last go ’round and who are not behaving precisely as you’d expect a group of colluding-but-not-saying-it-out-loud folks to behave might be colluding (again) are the crazy ones?

    Okay. Sure. Tell me more about her emails, man.

  32. I have a suggestion for a new poll. Most hated former Braves player. There are some great ones to choose from
    Dank Lob
    Garret Anderson (ACHE)

    My choice is Melky. As has been noted, Mudge seemed to at least try.

  33. Melky by a mile. He had the gall to be, like, really good after his Braves tenure too, which is just insult to injury.

  34. @37 Ha! That’s coming up. I was going to solicit ideas.

    Alright, let’s just do it. We’re going to update 64 worst and we’ll have the best (worst?) in a poll. Who are the worst Braves since Mac did the list like 10 years ago?

  35. @35 Jake Arrieta had the 4th highest salary in MLB last year! $30M!

    I’m not exactly sure why some other team should have given him more.

  36. If General Beauregard Lee doesn’t see his shadow, the Braves will acquire Realmuto today, if he does see his shadow, six more weeks of Realmuto rumors.

  37. My criteria for the most hated Brave would be they would have to have at least one characteristic other than their stats that made them utterly unlikable.

  38. Rob Cope
    prodigious output, an ever widening scope
    his prose flows as from the quill of a medieval cleric
    but preferably ones who had an early love of all things numeric.

  39. Has anyone ever done any kind of consistent gambling on baseball? Any observations? Smoldering dumpster fire or resounding success?

  40. I can’t remember the guy’s name right now, but the NYtimes had an article a while back about a famous gambler who bet on everything (mostly horses) except for baseball. He claimed the outcomes were too random.

  41. The nature of an 162 game season, no time clock and a 25 man roster make it VERY hard to predict single games outside of a very very few daily matchups.

    In the 1980s my dad bet baseball daily as a hobby but that was about it.

  42. What I have read is that selecting specific games as part of a collective set of games that you evaluate as a whole. For instance, you bet on 7 specifically chosen games in a month where you like the match-ups. You hope you win 4 and lose 3. Sort of like how we evaluate the 162 game season except you’re trying to dial into a certain set.

  43. A quick economist’s note on collusion. You have to separate collusion from parallel incentives before you can infer collusion. What you have to show is that some particular team is not spending money which they expect to more than recoup by signing a particular player who is actually available for that sum. What makes this really, really difficult is that what players give you is wins and with the current CBA, wins are not particularly well correlated with profits. Even as imprecise as the statement 1 WAR = $8.5MM is, given the various adjustments you need to make it make sense, and the adjustment you have to make for all the pre-arb players who earn way under $8.5 MM/WAR and who are competing with more expensive players, you come to the fact that wins and revenues are only loosely connected. They aren’t unconnected: gate receipts matter. But the TV contracts are completely unrelated to wins (by being set so far in advance) and they provide a huge fraction of the money. Your law office history, Sam, is interesting, but it’s way short of proof, or even evidence if the incentives for all the clubs move in parallel.

  44. collusion
    threaten to charge it, enjoy the illusion
    panic in their ranks?
    hardly, your lawyer, he’ll be the first one who tanks.

    and, faint segue…

    the fat cat who paid $238M for a penthouse last week…brought memories of Steely Dan who insisted being interviewed in his penthouse Atlanta condo to show he’d made it. His numbers, projected vs actual, of no concern.

    Full lines, Sam, easier isn’t it?

  45. What? People are dying to beat that offer? A major league catcher, a high upside prospect, and a third player (probably nothing). Yeah, I don’t see the Braves matching that offer.

    That offer is better than Austin Riley, Tyler Flowers, and a third player. The third player would have to be a pretty good pitching prospect to beat that offer. Joey Wentz? Patrick Weigel?

  46. I’d offer Flowers, Wilson and their pick of Mueller or Wentz. Wouldn’t want to trade our top pitching prospects. If they insisted on both pitchers I’d consider it.

  47. Shoot, I would do Flowers, Wilson, and one of those two all day. Flowers really doesn’t have much surplus value, IMO, so it’s really just two pitching prospects for Realmuto and we clear Flowers’ salary. That’d be the deal you’ve been hoping to do since the rebuild started: two pitching prospects for a position player.

  48. I don’t think the offer gets done without at least one high end position player prospect, so Riley would almost certainly have to be in the deal if India is indeed in the deal with Cincinnati (which he may not be; it’s Bowden after all).

  49. Would you guys prefer to give up Pache or Riley? I don’t have real high expectations for either one, but I think I would rather lose Pache.

  50. It might make the team better, but as an organization it would not be a good look to deal Flowers right after he signed a team friendly extension.

  51. Between the two, I’d rather trade Riley, since he still has that very high K-rate, and Pache seems to have both a higher ceiling and a higher floor. (Pache has a higher floor because his glove is so extraordinary that he could play a very good major league center field right now, even if he couldn’t really hit. If his bat continues to develop the way that it has, he could be Starling Marte.)

  52. Yeah, I’m just not there on Riley. His walk and strikeout rates scare me way too much. I don’t think he has a good enough camp to make it interesting for the front office, so I’ll be really interested to see if he looks like any more of a complete hitter than he did last year at AAA. But his power is huge, so in my world, he’d have to be 70-80% of the deal for Realmuto, or I’d just say hold onto him. I guess that’s my answer for everyone with what we’re seeing with Realmuto.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to get a player while also so fearful of an overpay. India, Barnhart, and another player just seems way too high for me.

  53. @55 trying to work something up now, but I’m gonna only wager first 5 innings. hopefully taking bullpens out of the picture helps narrow down the noise

  54. Does anyone see Harper as an injury risk, or think he won’t age well? He’s got a huge frame, carries a lot of weight around.

  55. Considering we picked up Donaldson on a one-year deal, and that Harper’s similar batters charts include him, Richard Hidalgo, Andruw Jones, and Ken Griffey Jr. Yes, I’m going with the assumption that the consensus is that Harper after age 30 is not a great bet, especially since this is the anti-PEDs era and players are just breaking down fast after age 30.

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