Dansby Swanson has played 27 big-league games. Per Baseball-Reference, he has a WAR value of 0.6. Extrapolated over 162 games, that’s a WAR of 3.6, which wouldn’t quite be All-Star caliber but wouldn’t be far off. (I know, I know. Almost nobody plays all 162 games. Hear me out.)
Ender Inciarte has a WAR of 3.4, which is third among Atlanta Braves behind Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran. That puts Inciarte in the “solid starter” classification of WAR, and there’s your Shelby Miller trade right there — a starting shortstop, a starting center fielder and Aaron Blair, who won his first MLB game last night.
Swanson is 23. Inciarte is 25. Blair is 24. I guess it’s possible to make a better trade, but realistically I don’t see how.
We knew when it happened this had the potential to be a coup of coups, but nobody had any idea Miller would have such a year. (He has returned to the majors after a demotion to Class AAA but has gotten no better. He has an ERA of 6.90 and a WAR of minus-1.3.) And nobody knew if Inciarte would ever hit here after a damp squib of a start, and nobody could say for sure that Swanson wouldn’t struggle on arrival. But here they are.
The Braves, who weren’t really trying to win, have won 59 games. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who fancied themselves a playoff contender, have won 63. Three of their past four Round 1 picks — Swanson, Blair and Touki Toussaint — now work for the Braves. Which organization would you rather be?
For all the hand-wringing done over the Braves’ shambolic start, this could wind up as just a garden-variety bad season. (They’re on pace to finish 64-98.) As R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports notes, the team that didn’t hit a lick for nearly four months has amassed — pause for effect — the second-best WRC+ (weighted runs created adjusted for park and league averages) in the majors since the All-Star break.
We’ve asked where the Braves would find hitters. Well, they promoted Swanson and traded for Matt Kemp and resisted the urge to flip Inciarte and/or Nick Markakis at the deadline, and Monday night they hung five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings on the God of Thunder. (The Mets’ Noah Syndergaard is known as Thor.) That made three consecutive wins against playoff-level competition.
For most of the past two summers, it has been easy to file the Braves under the heading of “They Stink.” Because they did. But they had a plan, and they’ve stuck to the plan. And they’re not going to stink much longer. They’ve got a real chance to be halfway decent come Cobb County.
Further fun reading: The Braves’ rise from oblivion has begun.