If you’re going to get really good after being really bad, this is the trade you have to make: A sell-high offloading of a good player for three guys who might be better than good. Ender Inciarte had a 5.3 WAR value last season, and he’s the least impressive part of this Atlanta Braves’ haul.
That’s correct. A guy with a 5.3 WAR — the 2015 Braves had nobody above a 4.0 — is a ride-along in this stunning trade. Stunning not because the Braves made it; they make a lot of trades, as we know. Stunning because they could get this much for Shelby Miller. Of all the moves the New Braves have made, this is my favorite.
The Braves got Dansby Swanson, who’s a shortstop — there’s your eventual Andrelton Simmons replacement, assuming Ozzie Albies isn’t — and who was the No. 1 pick in the June draft. Not the June draft of 2009. The June draft of six months back. The Braves just got one of the best young talents in the game without having to draft him themselves.
The only reason the Diamondbacks would trade such an asset so soon is because they’re in win-now mode, which makes sense since they just sunk $206.5 million into Zack Greinke, but still: Ask the Padres, whom the Braves fleeced twice last offseason, how that win-now stuff works out.
Oh, and the Snakes didn’t just part with their No. 1 prospect. They also dispatched Aaron Blair, a right-handed pitcher who was their No. 3 prospect. (Yes, I know the Braves have a ton of pitching prospects, but this trade shows us why they’ve gone to all that trouble: You can buy a lot of stuff with young pitching.)
Braves general manager John Coppolella and I have discussed at length these sort of deals, and the two we’ve hashed over the most involved Greinke going from Kansas City to Milwaukee for Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, who became the starting center fielder and shortstop on the team that almost won consecutive World Series, and the Mets sending R.A. Dickey to Toronto for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud, who would be the New Yorkers’ starting battery in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series. That’s the kind of yield this trade could produce, and here we note the difference:
The Royals traded Greinke a year removed from a Cy Young season. The Mets traded Dickey coming off a Cy Young season. The Braves traded Miller off an All-Star season, but that’s it. Miller was 11th among National League pitchers in ERA, 19th in WHIP and 18th in FIP (fielding independent pitching). He also was the ninth-worst in xFIP, which factors in home runs allowed versus expected HRs allowed and which suggests his 2015 season mightn’t be replicated. As good as Miller was, he wasn’t quite great.
Arizona just paid a price normally reserved for a bona fide great pitcher. Kudos to Coppolella for making it happen. You can carp all you want about the Braves selling off everybody who’s any good, but you can’t carp about this particular deal. This was a beauty.