It’s difficult to sum up the decade of the 2010s for the Atlanta Braves in one word. They made the playoffs three times from 2010-13, missed the playoffs the ensuing four seasons, and have been back in the fall dance in each of the last two seasons.
However, the 2019 playoffs ended in flames for the Braves, as they surrendered 10 runs in the first inning of their Game 5 National League Division Series matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals en route to a 13-1 loss at SunTrust Park. That said, the Braves made a handful of trades in the middle of the decade that helped lay the foundation for their current core, albeit some trades from beforehand have panned out to be regrettable.
Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Atlanta Braves have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the Atlanta Braves Have Made Since 2010: Atlanta Acquires Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and Aaron Blair From the Arizona Diamondbacks for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier (December 9, 2015)
One year into a rebuild, the Braves were more than willing to listen to trade offers on some of their more compelling players. Doing so resulted in them pulling off one of the biggest heists in recent memory.
Shelby Miller was coming off a spectacular 2015 campaign where he recorded a 3.02 ERA across 33 starts. He was a starter on the rise, and the D-Backs envisioned stardom for the right-hander. Therefore, they dealt 2015 number one draft pick Dansby Swanson and blossoming outfielder Ender Inciarte to acquire Miller’s services.
Miller’s career quickly went off the rails in Arizona. He posted a 6.15 ERA and 1.67 WHIP across 20 starts, was sent down to Triple A, and later dealt with recurring elbow pain. Miller has made just 16 starts since his debut year in the desert (2016). Over on the East Coast, the Braves have been getting considerable production from Swanson and Inciarte.
It has taken some time for Swanson to come along, but the shortstop put together a productive 2019 campaign. Totaling 17 home runs and 65 RBIs while posting a .748 OPS he was an underrated source of offense for the Braves. The one constant for Swanson has been his defense. He has held a sound glove at shortstop and forms one of the best middle infield duos in MLB with Ozzie Albies.
Inciarte continued to put the ball in play at a high rate from the outset of his Braves’ career. A proven contact hitter, Inciarte totaled a remarkable 201 hits in 2017. Meanwhile, he can wreak havoc on the basepaths and is a reliable outfield commander; Inciarte stole 66 bases from 2016-18 while serving as the Braves center fielder.
Sure, Swanson has grown at a tedious rate, Inciarte is coming off an injury-riddled season, and Blair didn’t make much of his brief time in the big leagues. On the other hand, two of the three players they got for Miller have been consistent contributors. That’s a plausible outcome, as Swanson and Inciarte have been part of a Braves team that has reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Would Miller have fared differently if he stayed in Atlanta? Would Swanson be the elite shortstop he was drafted to become in Arizona? One can only wonder, but one thing is for sure: the Braves got a young, starting shortstop and a savvy-hitting outfielder for a pitcher who would fall off a cliff and a reliever who wouldn’t even make his big-league debut with the D-Backs.
The Braves demolished the D-Backs in this trade.
The Worst Trade the Atlanta Braves Have Made Since 2010: Atlanta Acquires Justin Upton and Chris Johnson From the Arizona Diamondbacks for Brandon Drury, Nick Ahmed, Martin Prado, Zeke Spruill, and Randall Delgado (January 24, 2013)
Yes, the best and worst trade of the decade for the Braves involves the D-Backs.
The Braves made a flurry of moves in the 2012-13 offseason in hopes of winning the NL East and, bigger than that, contending in the NL. Among those moves was trading for Justin Upton, who helped Atlanta claim the NL East in 2013. However, there’s close to nothing to write home about with this trade for the Braves past 2013.
Sure, Upton was more productive in 2014 than he was the year prior, posting an .833 OPS, a 133 OPS+, and 102 RBIs. However, the Braves lost the division to the Washington Nationals and proceeded to blow up their roster the ensuing offseason, which included trading Upton to the San Diego Padres.
The Braves gave up three quality infielders in Drury, Ahmed, and Prado for two years of Upton.
Drury became a fixture in Arizona’s lineup in 2016. Totaling a combined 29 home runs and 116 RBIs from 2016-17 while posting an OPS over .760 across both seasons, he was a steady source of offense. Meanwhile, Drury provided defensive versatility, taking reps at second and third base and both corner outfield positions.
Ahmed has gradually improved over his career and is quietly coming into his own as one of the best shortstops in baseball. Last season he totaled a career-best 19 home runs and 82 RBIs while posting a .753 OPS (another career high). Meanwhile, he finished 2019 with 17 DRS, which was third among MLB shortstops.
Prado has been a steady hitter his entire career. He’s a contact hitter who’s difficult to strikeout and has extensive experience starting at first, second, and third base, as well as left field. While nearing the 18th green, Prado can still make a difference for a contending ballclub.
Is this trade holding the Braves back? No. Could the infielders they traded give manager Brian Snitker more depth around the diamond and general manager Alex Anthopoulos the chance to fortify their starting rotation in free agency? Yes.
Had the Braves kept and re-signed Upton, perhaps this trade doesn’t go down as such a downer.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.