Worst Trades in Braves History: Hector Olivera

In late July of 2015, John Coppelella agreed to a 3 team trade involving 13 players in total. This trade resulted in negative WAR for Atlanta while sending over 10 WAR worth of future value in the coming years. Today’s topic, Worst Trades in Braves History: Hector Olivera.

Worst Trades in Braves History, Hector Olivera: The Return

I vividly remember not understanding this move from the minute it happened. The Braves traded several players in the middle of a rebuild for the 30 year old Cuban “prospect” Hector Olivera as the centerpiece of the deal. He was not proven, but clearly impressed one Braves scout. The Braves also received Paco Rodriguez, Zachary Bird, and a competitive balance pick that landed them Joey Wentz

Worst Trades in Braves History, Hector Olivera: The Cost

The Braves gave up Alex Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan, and top prospect Jose Peraza. Alex Wood has since accumulated over 5 WAR as a middle of rotation starter. He broke out in 2017 by going 16-3 in an All Star season. Arroyo was nothing more than a salary dump. Jim Johnson was a decent bullpen arm at the time, but was mostly unsuccessful in his time with the Dodgers. Luis Avilan was a promising 25 year left handed reliever who has turned into a reliable arm to this day. Finally, Jose Peraza posted a 2.5 WAR season in 2018 and has continued to be a quality utility piece.

The Breakdown

Atlanta gave up a lot in this trade and expected Olivera to bloom into the next Cuban superstar after being signed to a lofty 6 year 62.5 million deal only four months prior. Hector Olivera played in only 30 games for Atlanta posting a negative .4 WAR in 2 seasons. He grounded into more double plays than he hit homers. His bat speed and mechanics were nowhere near major league caliber. Olivera was arrested on April 13th, 2016 for domestic abuse leaving a black eye on the organization.

The Aftermath

In a “you take out my trash, I take out your’s”, a mere 3 months after the domestic violence charge, the Braves traded Olivera to the San Diego Padres for Matt Kemp. If the NL had a DH, Kemp would’ve been serviceable, but alas there wasn’t and he wasn’t as he put up -26 Defensive Runs Saved in about a season’s worth of games between 2 years while hovering around an .800 OPS. To undo all this mess and to consolidate salaries to 1 year, when Alex Anthopoulos took over in 2017, he traded Kemp and his 2 year commitment to the Dodgers for Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Adrian Gonzalez, and Charlie Culberson. Gonzalez was immediately released, Kazmir never played and hasn’t since, McCarthy was less than league average for 78.2 innings before getting injured, and the least likely piece to have real value in the entire trade, Charlie Culberson, became Charlie Clutch, a real Braves folk hero, aiding the Braves in an unexpected division championship in 2018.

Thanks for reading “Worst Trades in Braves History: Hector Olivera. Check out our entire catalog of Best/Worst Trades in Braves History here.

19 thoughts on “Worst Trades in Braves History: Hector Olivera”

  1. sdp:
    May 15, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    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.

  2. JonathanF:

    May 16, 2020 at 7:30 am

    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.

  3. Very well written about a subject matter that’s hard to relive. Good gosh, what an awful trade.

    We probably win a playoff series last year if we don’t make this trade.

  4. @3
    It’s crazy that it took 2 trades and a lot of money shuffling to just get rid of a terrible trade, and a more remarkable feat that the Braves landed Culberson, who single-handedly won 3 games for them in 2018.

  5. I also think that this Olivera signing was the end of signing players from the Cuban league for big money.

  6. Are the players getting hosed with a 50-50 split? When looking at only this season, I don’t really think they are…maybe they are if the season has to stopped and never finished because of a second wave. And if they can get the owners to open their books to them, it would probably be worth it.

    I actually think a 50-50 revenue split going forward would be a good deal for them if they could get it. However, I also think that a salary cap wouldn’t be the end of the world…and they would vehemently disagree with that notion. When you have most of the teams already enforcing a kind of de-facto, unstated salary cap, though, I think it would be better to have an actual salary cap that everyone spent up to.

    The players would disagree with me wholesale on that, though, and given that, I do see their point that a revenue split is tiptoeing up towards the line of salary-cap-like substance.

  7. Was the Olivera trade a disaster? Uh…yeah. The single worst trade of the rebuild, by far. It took the entire philosophy of the rebuild (accrue young pitching) and did completely the opposite. We’re accumulating young pitching, but we don’t need Alex Wood. Made absolutely no sense.

    And then Olivera immediately turned into a complete trash fire.

  8. The Olivera trade was certainly a disaster for a lack of coherent organizational direction as noted above but in the end because Olivera turned out to be neither a ml caliber player nor a good person. How Braves player evaluators completely whiffed on BOTH of those is a real indictment.
    On another topic. I don’t subscribe to The Athletic. (I know i know). And Bowden is a lousy judge but does anyone know where Albies ranks in his new list of 2B?

  9. @8

    He’s 4th.

    Top five:
    1. Jose Altuve
    2. DJ LeMahieu
    3. Ketel Marte
    4. Albies
    5. Keston Hiura

  10. I would have to think that the Olivera trade will go down as one of the top 5 worst Braves trades of all time. It may be in the top 5 worst trades of the 21st century so far in all of baseball.

  11. Thanks Nick! That’s where I would rate him too actually. The 1st two are in the waning yrs of their prime. Marte may move to CF and he’s a great player but it’s also hard to really know his true offensive upside as he plays in a very hitter friendly park. Considering these plus Albies youth it’s not hard to see Ozzie going on a long run as the best 2B in baseball. I love Acuna’s prodigious talent, but like others on here Ozzie is my favorite young Brave.

  12. I think the dreadfulness of the Olivera trade is entirely down to the complete and utter failure of the Braves’ evaluation of the player they acquired, as the talent we gave up, while good, was not untouchable and shouldn’t have been considered so.

    I wrote the trade up at the time, and gave it a partially positive spin because I thought the reports coming out of Braves state media about the quality of Olivera’s bat were credible. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

    The key to all of this is Olivera, who just might be an impact player at third base. If he is, then he’s cheap at the price, and the Braves won’t regret trading one of their best pitchers and one of their best prospects for a 30-year old Cuban player who hasn’t played a day in the majors and who has been dogged by injury concerns for the past three years. However, as Martin Gandy says, this is clearly “the riskiest trade the Braves have made yet.”

    Olivera’s calling card is his broad base of skills: he’s basically average to above-average in every tool…
    Essentially, he has no weaknesses. Except for his health. … he has barely played the field in the last four years.

    So, this is a leap of faith, and it’s much more of a leap for us fans than it is for the Braves front office. Olivera did a private workout for the Braves in late January, and they were known to be one of the chief teams pursuing him in the offseason… Here’s hoping the guys in charge know what they’re doing.

    The fact that the Braves moved Olivera from third base to outfield just months after the trade indicates just how profoundly they screwed up

  13. We didn’t really talk about the owner’s proposal on here, so I wanted to go ahead and throw it out there. I was starting to get annoyed with the Pavlovian response from Twitter that if a player wants more than an owner is looking to provide, they must rush to the defense of the player because billions.

    I’m all about negotiations. I’m all about a work stoppage if it can lead to longterm labor peace. I’m not pro owner; I’m not pro player. There’s no such thing because neither party is always going to be fair. Let the best man win. But I do think that it would be asinine for players to balk at what has the perception of being a fair deal. When it comes to how the average human interprets fair, then 50/50 almost always looks good (and almost always is never actually fair). So if the owners got lucky and 50/50 made sense to them, then it’s going to look absolutely horrible for the Blake Snell’s of the world to cry that they’re “risking their lives” and “they need to get mine”. True or not (probably more true than not), but it just doesn’t compute right now with normal humans. I think there’s a much more productive way of controlling the public narrative of the negotiation than for those shenanigans to go on.

    I say this every time there’s labor unrest, but I want the players to make as much money as humanly possible, but if they suck at negotiating, then they get what they deserve. And when it comes to being good negotiators, they’re really good baseball players. (Sam said that last line, sort of, so I’d like to give credit where credit is due.)

  14. Once you get over the stench of the original trade, Olivera for Kemp was a good trade. What do you think the Padres were thinking?

  15. Alex, that positive evaluation by Gandy of Olivera’s “broad base of skills” as it’s basis is almost exactly the description by Baseball Prospectus when they proclaimed Andy Marte the top prospect in baseball in 2005. We know how that worked out. Both nominally third basemen that never remotely achieved ML success. It’s just two players but maybe it’s a point of data in evidence that a prospect should have at least one well above average skill in order to have a good chance of success.

  16. @13

    Tony Clark has always struck me as being truly wretched at the game of PR optics, which is a big issue when it comes to how fans perceive each side. He stepped in it again last week when he took the bait and put out a quote about how the players would never accept a revenue sharing agreement because it was, by definition, a salary cap and the owners knew this and were being disingenuous and blah blah blah without saying anything whatsoever about health, which seems to be the players’ actual top concern right now. He always falls for that kind of crap, and it always gives the owners a leg up in the PR game. And that’s an issue when the default positions of most people seem to lean slightly pro-owner, anyway.

  17. @12, that was what surprised me the most about Olivera. I figured that there was always some uncertainty in projecting from private workouts how anyone would hit (different age, but remember the great Kevin Maitan?), but I thought the scouts should have been able to see whether or not he was a MLB-caliber fielder at 3B pretty easily.

  18. @15, the scouts aren’t perfect. I wouldn’t draw any broad lessons from the prospect busts of Olivera and Marte, especially because their cases are so different from one another. With Marte, the whole idea was that he was holding his own at an extremely young age, which meant that if he developed like most prospects do, he’d be a star. As it happened, he never developed.

    With Olivera, he was older, had had his experience in a league that was much more closed to outside scouts, and he’d had a series of health issues that made it anyone’s guess as to what his physical capacity would be in the majors.

    The scouts missed badly on both guys, but lots of guys bust — I don’t think that there are necessarily any broader lessons to draw from the fact that scouts missed on Marte, or Olivera, or Kyle Davies, other than the usual stuff like TINSTAAPP and prospects are lottery tickets. Anyway, that’s just my two cents, your mileage may vary!

    @16, I agree with you — at least from the outside, it has always felt like Clark is in over his head, but he certainly is no master of the PR game.

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