The Braves say goodbye to Chris Johnson, hello to more creativity

Cleveland Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall, right, is congratulated by Michael Bourn (24) after hitting a home run off Oakland Athletics’ Aaron Brooks in the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Cleveland Indians' Lonnie Chisenhall, right, is congratulated by Michael Bourn (24) after hitting a home run off Oakland Athletics' Aaron Brooks in the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Braves fans, prepare to greet Michael Bourn — again. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Another day, another tantalizing Atlanta Braves trade. (That’s three in 15 days, each dispensing with someone named Johnson.) This one was even more exotic, seeing as how the three included players had to clear waivers. When you read the names of the players, you’ll understand why nobody claimed them.

Chris Johnson, that famous counter of outs, is going to Cleveland. The Braves were desperate to get rid of him, and not only because he’s scheduled to make $16.5 million over the next two seasons.

Michael Bourn, once a much-liked Brave, is coming back here. He’s due to make $14 million next season, which would make this deal a near-wash, if it weren’t for the inclusion of …

Nick Swisher, who’s due to make $15 million next season.

Swisher and Bourn were essentially the Uggla and Upton (Melvin, not Justin) of Cleveland, though not quite that bad. Swisher signed with the Tribe for $65 million over four seasons in January 2013 and has produced a cumulative WAR value of 1.5. Bourn signed with Cleveland for $48 million over four years in February 2013 and has generated an aggregate WAR value of 3.7, which pales alongside his 6.1 WAR value of 2012, his final season as a Brave.

Bourn is 32, Swisher 34. Neither has aged well. Bourn is hitting .246 with an on-base percentage of .313. (Remember, he never did walk much.) Swisher, once a consistent 20-homer guy, is hitting .198 with two homers and eight RBIs.

The Braves didn’t acquire these two because they woke up this morning and thought, “Know what? We really need Bourn and Swisher.” This trade was made to shed the hugely unwanted Johnson and, as a decidedly secondary consideration, to add a bit of depth (meaning Bourn) in case someone makes a windfall offer for Cameron Maybin over the winter. Taking on Swisher’s salary seems the price the Braves had to pay to make Cleveland say yes.

This is another of those NBA-type trades the Braves have learned to swing: “We’ll give you our bad contract for your bad contract.” Just going by sticker price, the Braves will end up paying $13.5 million for one year of Bourn/Swisher — each has a vesting option for 2017, but neither will accumulate the 500-plus plate appearances needed to trigger it — than Cleveland will fork over for two years of Johnson’s services. But here’s where the fine print looms large: The Indians are also sending along “cash considerations.”

Esteemed colleague Dave O’Brien reports that the Braves will receive $10 million from Cleveland, which brings it back to our original thought — a wash, give or take. Neither side will get well from this trade. Neither side will expect this deal to do much of anything, standings-wise. (As fate would have it, both the Braves and the Indians have won 49 games.)

This is a mutual salary dump, which mightn’t make much sense on its face but seems yet another creative wrinkle cast our way by John Hart and John Coppolella. The Braves’ baseball product mightn’t be much at the moment, but the machinations of this front office have become worth the price of admission.

Reader Comments 0

86 comments
JeffCriswell
JeffCriswell

Acquired in a trade from the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 7, Johnson has hit .429 in six games for the Indians     Johnson is apparently playing for a manager who knows how to handle players. Gonzalez ran Johnson out of town - Johnson will thrive now that he's no longer playing for Gonzalez. Heck, the player hit .320 just a few seasons ago. Huge waste of talent. IMO

Brrr8769
Brrr8769

  1. Fredi is just the piano player, the extra year contract was to keep him quiet. Atlanta is still the place where players for the Braves and Falcons come to collect their pensions. 

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

Chris Johnson went four for four in his debut with the Cleveland Indians.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@HUDDYS1FAN I was about to say the same thing about Chris going 4 for 4(including 2 doubles) with Cleveland but you beat me to the punch. Wonder what that is all about? Don't think Chris got 4 hits in a month with the Braves?

JeffCriswell
JeffCriswell

@HUDDYS1FAN He's playing for a manager who knows how to handle him. Gonzalez wasted this player. IMO. 

Buckhead Vol
Buckhead Vol

you know, maybe wren will trade fredi fo a bag of balls and a prospect.  he sucks.  


oops, hart

JackPod
JackPod

The Braves suck from top to bottom. They will continue to wallow in mediocrity for years to come.  

Tallcarl
Tallcarl

@JackPod Hey man, I have a pistol with only one bullet but I would be glad to let you play  Russian Roulette since your outlook is so bad. You might as well give up and die.

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

Geez dude that's a bit dark to tell a guy to kill himself because he doesn't like what the team has done with its personnel moves. I like some things Hart has done not all of them like giving Fredi and extension and trading wood but you shouldn't tell a guy to kill himself.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

This team just gets curiouser and curiouser! First, they dump salary (and some competent pieces in the process). Ok that's a strategy. Then they acquire salary (ok what's that new strategy?). Then they acquire nothing but pitchers. Then they trade old tired position players for more old tired position players.

Does anybody understand what's happening here any more? At least with Frank Wren, we knew the strategy was to simply overpay for mediocre players...

Zapp
Zapp

Watch the Blue Jays and how long it took to rebuild a contender, and remember they beat the Braves in 1990s.  At this time, the Braves have the same ability to rebuild a team.  Don't look at a contender anytime soon.  Sorry Cobb County, you get the crap and you paid a premium to get it.

GaLatino
GaLatino

@Hopeless in ATL @Zapp Go where, exactly?  Would you be willing to bet on them making the playoffs any time in the next 3 years with the strongest NL field we've seen in a long time?  Thought not...

SmyrnaGeorgia
SmyrnaGeorgia

I don't have any problem with this trade. Chris Johnson made it clear he was unhappy here because he was not the full time 3B (because he was not the best at that position on the team). Bourne and Swisher are in their twilight years, but if you watched tonight's game, they are both VERY EXCITED to be here, and they both hit tonight. I think it will be a better team to watch now until the end of the year.


All you gloom and doom folks, can you dispute:


1. We are much better at center field;

2. We are much better at second base;

3. We are MUCH better down on the farm.....?????????

freezboy
freezboy

I can see I was wrong about Nick Swisher....I didn't think he would swing a bat for us... Braves serious about these players.....

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@freezboy I was pretty shocked myself to see him in the line up. I think this is more of a "let's see what he can do and if he works out it's a bonus." If he works out he could get packaged into a trade in the off season With that salary I think the Braves may have to eat a major portion of his salary (with half of the $10 million going his way it wouldn't be so bad depending on what comes back). None the less, who knows with Hart !

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

The Braves had three, 30 year old third basemen plus another third baseman on the way. The got rid of Johnson leaving three third basemen, and picked up a backup 1st baseman and an outfielder. If they trade Maybin, Bourn plays center. Otherwise, Fredi has options with his outfield.

The Braves are a work in progress, and I don't see anything happening this year but building for the future. In the meantime, they still play hard. We all want to win a title but they weren't going to do that with the old roster from last year. They are instead finding out who on their payroll will help them compete and seeking the missing parts. Bourn and Switzer are basically bridges.

Starksy
Starksy

Two wins against the worst team in baseball and Braves lap kitty Chip Caray has them back in the play-off race!

58Supersports
58Supersports

Bourn and Swisher starting tonight!!!!!  some media people ( not Mark) said Swisher was still on DL and more BS  but they here and ready to play.

ElStinko
ElStinko

this deal was made because Chris Johnson was one of the players that Frank Wren signed.  I think he is the last of them and no i am not counting players that came up with the Braves Farm System.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@ElStinko  right and FG didn't like and didn't play him...I would have ask to be traded also.  nothing for nothing equal nothing...let the young kids play.

Dman
Dman

Johnson was a good Brave and was not treated well. Good luck Chris in Cleveland...

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@Dman I say good luck too. He was okay in my book considering his playing time. None the less, he wasn't the same player as when he hit .321 so it was hard to justify playing him much.

Biff_Pocoroba
Biff_Pocoroba

At least these deals give fans something to talk about other than the unnecessary suburban stadium under construction.

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@Biff_Pocoroba I agree with RaleighBraveFan... The Braves NEEDED this stadium and it has nothing to do with it being "suburban". It simply has to do with being in a location that is convenient for the fans and where ownership can get the best bang for their buck. The Braves don't have a good TV contract so this will help bring in the $$$ (and yes that's the name of the game). If you want a competitive team then you SHOULD BE IN FAVOR OF THE STADIUM. GO BRAVES !!


DrPhill
DrPhill

Maybe Liberty Media will return some of the money that Hart is saving to the taxpayers of Cobb County whom they stiffed on the new stadium.

kevkat
kevkat

Don't really care anymore and too bad you must write on these transactions. This building has been burned from the ground up and I'd rather visit it again when it's ready to open than waste time watching it be rebuilt. Bring on football.

AudubonPark
AudubonPark

Wow - I guess young fans of the B raves can hang contracts on their bedroom walls - I don't think they can get them in Fatheads - yet.  Does everyone who questions Fredi on most everything somehow agree with him that Johnson deserved to be in his doghouse?  People keep saying that he wasn't a good fielder - FA of .978 last year says otherwise.  

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

I guess Johnny Gomes is next to go -- good guy but not much result this yr


Maybe his future is as a coach or special assistant somewhere


I do want to see guys like Andy Simmons and Freddie F taking the leadership roles -- not someone on a one yr deal who is in the twilight of his career hitting /190 something

satan
satan

@VeryDisgusted


Yes, so would we all. Freeman is not leadership material. He would rather give hugs and bide his time until he signs with a team in CA.  Good player..no leader. Simmons may develop into a leader someday, but he is too young. He still hasn't learned to be an effective major league hitter. 


FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

I am looking forward to seeing what Bourne has left -- having him is LF and Maybin in CF should be fun to watch defensively


I don't know how much he has lost or, if his defensive value was due to injuries, but its not like he is 38, he is only 32


Having Bourne is a good bridge to Mallex Smith in 2017 assuming he is ready


I am guessing that after 16 we will not be seeing Bourne and Maybin with the Braves but you have to play the 16 season. 


With this trade -- its safely assumed that there will be no big signs this off season


I do not expect much from Swisher


Hart must have listened to someone who really had it in for Chris Johnson -- I don't know who and we may never know -- but I will say it again -- he got his contract based on two good yrs in a row in 12 and 13, not just one flash in the pan


If he rebounds to the .284/.326 with 15 HR, 28 doubles and 76 RBI CJ is not overpaid for what players are getting today

Archangel
Archangel

@VeryDisgusted Johnson has publicly demonstrated his attitude in the past, Hart doesn't have to hear about it from someone. Not to mention, the multiple times he's given up on plays this year which is cited in O'Brien's post. Also, Johnson spoke publicly about his wanting to leave the team so this shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

I don't think Hart is as dumb as you seem to think he is.

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@VeryDisgusted You don't know who? Who is the guy who has been sitting Johnson on the bench? Clearly it was Fredi G and I can see why. He hasn't been hitting. How many chances does one guy need to have???? He hasn't hit so he didn't get to play. Period. Speaking of not hitting... I'm not expecting much from Bourne or Swisher. But you never know. Didn't think Pierzynski was going to much either but he is currently hitting .300. Anyway they will at least get a chance to get some at bats from the bench and I'm keeping my fingers crossed !

Hopeless in ATL
Hopeless in ATL

@VeryDisgusted Johnson signed the contract too.  He clearly did't buy in to the new approach and wasn't going to fulfill his end of the deal because, like BJ, he feels entitled to "his" place in the ranks .  He probably will go somewhere and give better effort again for a while.

LEWWHEEL
LEWWHEEL

Some time ago I asked why Chris Johnson seemed to be quoted quite often by the writers covering the Braves, regardless of the game hero or subject etc. I do like his last quote, "Time to move on." 

GT71
GT71

It's simply a 'make work' thing for MLB management - mostly to prove they can still fog a mirror.

It's 2 losing managements' way of saying - 'We're still here, working for the team...and our paychecks'.  Kinda like AJC columnists most days

That's what this mostly meaningless trade is about.

Oh, and getting rid of a clubhouse distraction.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@GT71 


Its about clearing out money for 2017


And getting rid of a clubhouse problem -- that is not meaningless but a good thing if he was that much of a problem


CJ seemed like he was a Hart or Freddie G problem


Now they can move on

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

At least they obtained Libertys favorite player in this trade....Cash Considerations.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Bradley: You are either going to end up looking like the biggest, Kool-Aid drinking, suck up, sports writer, cheerleader, toady who ever supported this unnecessary, self-inflicted Braves melt down (all they really needed to do was get rid of Gonzalez, BJ, and Uggla, and things would have changed),  or in a few years, you are going to look like a damned genius. Only time will tell.  

Been there
Been there

@sea8491

John Schuerholz is one of the top ten things to ever happen to the Braves franchise. Ever. Just because he's older doesn't mean he is not still very effective. He's a baseball genius and that will be proven by his HOF induction one day. How many other GM's are in the Hall?

58Supersports
58Supersports

@Been there @sea8491  Time for JS to retire his time has come and gone... HOF don't prove crap except someone voted him in like the good old boys club. One WS !

Larry1234567890
Larry1234567890

@Been there @sea8491 Baseball genius? I beg to differ..............Justice/Grissom for Lofton/Embree

The hiring of Frank Wren..........

J.D. Drew for Adam Wainwright and others 

Mark Texiara from Texas for a whole host of players that helped Texas to two consecutive Championship Series


I could go on...............The man should have retired twenty years ago. 

or at least in 1999. And let's not mention the Tom Glavine screw up over $ 250, 000. 

sea8491
sea8491

@Ficklefan  I agree with you completely but you left one main individual  off the good bye list, John Schuerholz!

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@Been there @sea8491 It's all relative people. There aren't many who have done better (14 straight division titles, 5 pennants, 1 WS). Sure its a combination of things such as good ownership and $$$ but you still have to pull off the trades and sign the right people and keep the right people happy every year. I think most Braves fans, including players, would say that Schuerholz was great.

reckingball
reckingball

At least Bourne and Swisher can count to three.

reckingball
reckingball

And remember to run when they hit a double.