Best Trades in Braves History: John Smoltz

He spent 21 years in a Braves uniform (20 on active roster) and accumulated 210 wins, 154 saves, a 3.26 ERA, and 78.2 fWAR. However, when it was time to make a decision to send Smoltz or Steve Searcy, it was about as decided as a coin flip. Today’s topic, Best Trades in History: John Smoltz.

On August 12, 1987, I turned 9 years old. Zane Smith was toeing the rubber that day and ended up throwing a complete game 2-1 victory against the Padres. Pretty good day for the Braves. Little did we know, that it was actually a great day for the Braves as a trade that would impact Braves baseball for the next 2 decades went down before first pitch.

Best Trades in Braves History, John Smoltz: A Defining Deal

The Detroit Tigers were in the thick of a pennant race, needed a pitcher to slot into a rotation that already boasted 3 above average starters, and they had eyes for only one guy: Doyle Alexander. As Doyle was having a solid, yet unspectacular year for the Braves, Detroit sent a low-ball offer to the Braves consisting of 4 guys to choose from. The Braves shot the initial offer down. Detroit countered with a choice between 2 pitching prospects: Steve Searcy or John Smoltz. However, a “discussion” between the Tigers GM and President went down and the President made an executive decision to pull Searcy from the discussion as he was closer to being Major League ready than Smoltz.

Doyle Alexander ended up being the best pitcher for Detroit down the stretch, going 9-0 with a 1.55 ERA. He started 11 games and the team went 11-o…remarkable. In this way, the trade feels like the Tigers version of the J.D. Drew/Adam Wainwright deal as the Tigers likely lose the division had they not traded Smoltz for Alexander, and the Braves likely lose their division streak without J.D.Drew.

John Smoltz, Hall of Famer, Cy Young Winner

We all know that John Smoltz was part of one of the bests starting pitching trios in baseball history. For 7 years, opposing teams didn’t stand a chance as 60% of games were started by future Hall of Famers. But, if you only got to pick 1, who represents the Braves the best during this era?

We recently discussed a topic that’s been floating around during the lockdown: Who is on the Braves Mount Rushmore? The 4 faces that have defined the franchise.

However, that leaves only 1 spot for Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz. Sure, call it a cheat and put all 3 as weird little mini-heads beside the other 3 giants. Nah…that doesn’t work. It ruins the exercise. Who’s it going to be? Maddux? Yes, he’s the best pitcher, but spent 1/2 his career wearing other uniforms. So, it’s between Glavine and Smoltz. There’s one thing Smoltz has that gives him a leg up: He was the only Brave that was there for the beginning and end of the 14 straight division streak. Number 4 goes to Smoltzie.

What a trade!

What a career!

Thanks for reading on Best Trades in Braves History, John Smoltz. Check out our entire catalog of Best/Worst Trades in Braves History here.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

20 thoughts on “Best Trades in Braves History: John Smoltz”

  1. JC’d

    Braves14:
    May 15, 2020 at 6:20 am
    I remember the Simmons trade being pretty universally hated among Braves fans even at the time it was made.

    Newcomb has been a useful piece, but damn it would have been nice to have Simmons.

    Braves14:
    May 15, 2020 at 6:32 am
    Since the expansion draft would take place in the offseason, the Braves would presumably not resign Markakis until after the draft takes place.

  2. I was today years old when I learned that Nick Markakis was a 10 and 5 guy. In my mind, I always think that 10 and 5 guys are elite players. After all, why would a team let a mediocre player gain those rights? But if you’re almost going year-to-year with a guy like Markakis anyway and you’re basically paying nothing, what’s the harm? I would doubt the Braves would be looking to trade him this year, and if they were, it’d be because we were out of contention or he wasn’t getting playing time. And if either was the case, he’d probably approve a trade. And if he didn’t, then just release him.

  3. As I recall, a reporter asked Doyle Alexander in the middle of his winning streak with the Tigers what the difference was pitching there as compared to Atlanta. “The ground balls don’t go through, and the fly balls don’t drop,” Alexander said.

  4. @2

    Can you just unilaterally release a 10-and-5 guy because he refuses a trade, as is his right? Not sure on that, and even if you can, you’d definitely owe him the rest of his money in its entirety, so there’s really no point unless he’s tearing up the clubhouse or something, which Markakis would definitely not be.

  5. This wasn’t intentional as I had no idea but today just so happens to be Smoltz’s birthday. What a wonderful happenstance.

  6. Is it weird to anyone else that Hector Olivera has never resurfaced again, even in foreign leagues? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sad/mad…good riddance, but many baseball players have committed domestic violence, half-heartedly apologize, and continue their careers. But Olivera? Poof. And he was considered a real talent.

  7. @7,

    My web search indicates he played for the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2017 and then retired at age 32 following that season.

    He has the lifetime MLB health insurance and if he wasn’t a total idiot, several million in investments, so why bother?

  8. Sad news about Bob Watson. I became a Braves fan in 1983, and I can remember with precision the first time I ever screamed my head off in joy because of a play in baseball: Bob Watson’s game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth against the Dodgers. I was pleased that YouTube actually has this moment tucked in a Braves video from 1985 with Kirk Douglas hosting.

    RIP Bob Watson.

  9. I’m not sure how corollavirus affects things, but Olivera was due $13,166,667 this year, the final year of his $62.5M contract with the Dodgers. I imagine he’s getting the full sum since he was released from the contract. Obscene. Just an obscene amount of money he got for absolutely nothing.

  10. @10

    Any corolla virus need not have concerned Olivera, being the bottom end of the market. Did he not arrive with his Pimpmobile in play from Day One and then have it further pimped to the tune of $200/250K? We should have known then.

  11. Ain’t nothing wrong with having a nice ride.

    Yeah, Olivera was already on the wrong side of 30, and he already banked a tremendous amount of guaranteed money. I’m not sure there’s been a lot of guys released for disciplinary reasons with that much guaranteed money remaining to compare him to.

  12. @4 Right, that’s my point. There’s not much downside to him becoming a 10-and-5 guy. Worst case, you would just release him and pay him his salary, and you’re probably not going to do that.

    It’s interesting about Markakis. At some point, his bat speed is not going to be there, and he’s going to be a completely useless player. And it seems like bat speed is something where it just goes quickly and it’s gone. Fortunately, his walk rate has increases significantly, which Mac considered to be an indication that your bat speed decreased and you’re just trying to get on base any way that you can.

    Random, but it’s very interesting how crazy consistent his walk % has been as a Brave: 10.2, 10.4, 10.1, 10.2, 10.0. It’s like he’s checking it daily. “Well, getting a little high; better swing at the first pitch in all my at bats today,” as he stares blankly into the mirror.

  13. I meant to say “his walk rate has not* increased* significantly”. I really gotta proofread.

  14. Thanks to BraveMarine for his purchase today. Anyone else want to buy one? I’ll be visiting the post office tomorrow.

  15. Here’s my overly simplistic solution:

    Give players 75% of their 2020 salary.

    Pay 45% in 2020 and defer 30% and spread payments at no interest over the next three years.

    So the Braves would be on the hook for about $65M in 2020 and about $14M in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

  16. The back-of-the-envelope analysis that Passan did suggests not, but I suspect it’s probably a little less rich than that, or it wouldn’t have been offered. The precedent of a full opening of the books, which would be a necessary adjunct to this would be a big deal, though.

  17. @9 Wow, that really takes me back. Brad Komminsk as a star-in-waiting, Bruce Benedict quoting “Bull Durham” before it was made, and the aforementioned Bob Watson heroics.

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