The subject of our Worst Trades in Braves History, Len Barker, had made a pretty big name for himself by the time he was traded from the Indians to the Braves on August 28, 1983. The righthander had won 19 games in 1980, led the American League in strikeouts in ’80 and ’81, and threw the 10th perfect game in Major League history on May 15th of ’81. The Braves were 76 -54, sensibly wanted to add a starting pitcher to solidify a half game NL West division lead, and unlike a lot of Braves acquisitions gone bad, Barker was only 28 years old.
So what went wrong? Everything.
First of all, the Len Barker of 1983 was not the Len Barker of those earlier years. Barker carried a 5.11 ERA at the time of his arrival. He started 6 games down the stretch for the Braves, picking up only 1 win. The Braves fell out of first place literally the day after the trade, and never touched first again, finishing 4 games back.
After the ’83 season the Braves signed Barker to a 5 year contract. He missed the last 2 months of the 1984 season with an elbow problem, was terrible in 1985, and was released with 3 years remaining on the contract.
A HUGE PTBNL
The trade announced on August 28th was Len Barker to the Braves for players to be named later and $150,000 cash. This allowed the Braves to keep the players to be named on the roster for the playoff push. However, on September 2nd, spot starter Rick Behenna was sent to Cleveland as part of the trade. (I have some memory that Ted Turner fouled up a “player to be named later” trade by making the player’s name public. Does anyone remember this? Was this it? I can’t find any evidence this in fact ever happened, so don’t spend a lot of time on it.)
On October 21st, the remaining players were named – starting left fielder Brett Butler, and minor league 3rd baseman Brook Jacoby. Behenna pitched in only 12 more Major League games. Butler and Jacoby were another story.
Butler was 26 at the time and in his first full season with the Braves. He put up a .281/.344/.393 line that season, and stole 39 bases. A bit miscast offensively as a corner outfielder in Atlanta due to the presence of Dale Murphy, Butler spent the rest of his career as a center fielder. He spent 4 seasons in Cleveland, then found his way back to the NL West to torment the Braves for 10 more seasons with San Francisco and Los Angeles. Butler played until he was 40, putting up a career line of .290/.377/.376. He stands to this day as 25th all time in career stolen bases with 558, and was awarded 49.7 WAR.
Is there more?
This is often referred to as the Brett Butler trade, but if Butler were never included this trade would still be on the list. 23 year old Brook Jacoby was coming off his 2nd tour at AAA Richmond, where he hit .307/.373/.501 with 43 homers in 1104 plate appearances. But, the Braves had Bob Horner at 3rd base, and nobody’s ever moved a 3rd baseman to 1st base or anything like that before, probably. Jacoby went on to play 11 seasons in the Majors, with a .270/.334/.405 line, and 2 All-Star selections.
So, the Braves lost the division, signed Barker to a 5 year deal out of which they got about 4 good months, got 72 more games at 3rd base out of Bob Horner before moving him to 1st, and lost a combined potential 25 years of starting offensive production. I think we can find a spot for this trade.
Thanks for reading “Worst Trades in Braves History: Len Barker”. Check out our entire catalog Braves Best/Worst Trades in History here.