Not that it wasn’t already clear what they were doing, but the Atlanta Braves just made it blatant: They care nothing about winning now. They just traded Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to San Diego. One of them will be missed.
Earlier Sunday, the Braves had released their 25-man roster for Opening Day. Their outfield included four names: Three castoffs (Jonny Gomes, Kelly Johnson and Eric Young Jr.) plus Nick Markakis. Only for this talent-challenged team could the the acquisition of Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin — both included in this trade — be considered a boon.
There were only a half-dozen names on that original 25-man roster worth underscoring, and the best of them has since been traded. I understand the logic: If you’re not planning on winning, why pay to have the best closer in the business? But the flaw in the whole Braves’ tear-down-to-rebuild plan remains, more now than ever: What if you never find players as good as the ones you’re dumping?
There’s a school of thought among the sabermetric set that closers in baseball are always overvalued, that all of them are roughly the same. But even the sabermetric set agrees that, in recent years, there have been two shining exceptions. One was Mariano Rivera. The other is Kimbrel.
And that’s where we are today: The Braves just traded away their Mariano Rivera. I’m sure they had to include the best in the business to get someone to eat Bossman Jr.’s salary, but still: This really makes you want to buy a ticket to see this bunch play, doesn’t it?