Unlike some trades yesterday, the long-brewing three-team blockbuster between the Dodgers, Marlins, and Braves actually happened. The deal is a doozy, with the Marlins sending Mat Latos and Michael Morse to the Dodgers and a competitive balance pick to the Braves, the Dodgers sending three minor league pitchers to the Marlins and Hector Olivera, Paco Rodriguez, and Zachary Bird to the Braves, and the Braves shipping Alex Wood, Jose Peraza, Jim Johnson, and Luis Avilan (edit: and Bronson Arroyo!) to the Dodgers.
Since there are so many moving parts to this deal, the team at BtBS is breaking down the trade by looking at each team involved individually. As luck would have it, I'm the guy for the Braves. Read about the Dodgers' perspective here and the Marlins' perspective here.
The Braves have made some really, really interesting trades over the past year, and I'd venture to say that they've been the east coast version of the San Diego Padres, but kind of in reverse. Whereas San Diego has added big-time names to their team in an attempt to be competitive immediately, Atlanta (a two-time trade partner with the Padres) has sloughed off its bigger names in the hopes of adding "the currency of baseball": young pitching prospects.
In previous deals, the team shipped off players like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, and Craig Kimbrel and brought in upside pitchers like Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, and Max Fried. Now, as some of those pitching prospects are starting to develop and may be paying off, the Braves shipped away a young starter to add what could be a long-term offensive piece. To me, the deal is risky, but we should break it down point-by-point.
Braves give up: Alex Wood, Jose Peraza, Jim Johnson, Bronson Arroyo, and Luis Avilan.
Braves receive: Hector Olivera, No. 35 overall draft pick, Paco Rodriguez, and Zachary Bird.
The big ticket item is obviously Hector Olivera. Olivera is one of the most recent players to defect from Cuba and profiles as either a second baseman or a third baseman with a high-grade hit tool. As with many players from Cuba, his ultimate ceiling and ability to adapt to the big leagues is an open question. Unfortunately, we still have precious little information to go on for Olivera, as he's played in only 19 minor league games so far this season. He's, in many ways, a cipher, but Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs has some great info from earlier in the year.
The upside here is that Olivera may be ready to step in and contribute at the major-league level nigh-immediately. He possesses average or above-average tools across the board, showing good power, bat control, speed, you name it. While none of his tools is a true plus, he's the type of guy who should be able to be a productive major leaguer right away, provided he stays healthy. He projects for decent OBP and power and should be able to handle either second or third base, with third base being his better position.
Are there concerns about Olivera? Absolutely. He's had a host of injury issues over the past few years: blood disorder, hamstring, fatigue, you name it. On top of that, Olivera is already 30 years old, making him about to start into the decline phase of his career. There's a reasonable chance that his production will start to dip almost from the jump in Atlanta, so this could be seen as a win-now move of sorts from the Braves. Olivera is under contract through 2020, so there will be plenty of time to wring value from him, but the last years of the deal are likely to be the anvil, not the hammer.
One thing about the deal that also works in the Braves' favor is the cost. While taking on Olivera is taking on money, the cost is pretty pedestrian compared to his original $62.5 million contract. The Dodgers are taking care of his signing bonus money, which makes the deal an effective $31.25 million over five and a half years for the Braves. If Olivera is a major league regular of average status, that deal could earn the team some nice surplus value.
A couple of quick notes here: I'm not much of a scout, but I could see Olivera doing a nice little Akinori Iwamura impression in the big leagues. That's not a sexy name, I know, but Olivera could provide some nice OBP (thanks to his hit tool) and power paired with reasonable defense for a little while. And, in many ways, Olivera is an electrified version of Jose Peraza, the prospect the Braves gave up to receive Olivera. Peraza's more of a speed demon, but he's a hit-tool focused infielder whose stock had dropped with an uninspiring showing in Triple-A this season. With Jace Peterson coming on as a perfectly decent second baseman, Peraza was a little bit blocked in Atlanta, and I'd probably rather have Olivera, cost and injury risk included, than Peraza going forward.
So what's the cost to upgrade from Peraza to Olivera? Oh not much, just a left-handed No. 3 starter with some upside in Alex Wood. And Wood is the point of this deal where I think it definitely swings in favor to the Dodgers and away from the Braves. Wood is -- basically -- a sinker-ball pitcher who doesn't get the extreme ground ball numbers you'd hope for from a top-end worm-burner. However, his curveball is a nasty little thing, and Wood has been able to get lots of whiffs using it over the last couple of years.
Wood's strikeout rate is down quite a bit from his breakout 2014 -- he's at a very pedestrian 17.7 percent right now -- and his peripherals are down across the board save his low, low HR rate. In some ways, it feels like the Braves sold low on the young lefty, and now the Dodgers have a cost-controlled rotation arm through 2019. To me, this appears to be an overpay to upgrade from Peraza to Olivera, as Wood could be a useful cog for almost any big league team. (And in a position where a team could help him harness his sinker, he could pull a Dallas Keuchel and see his performance start to tick up.)
Then again, the Braves have as much young pitching as any team (Mets excluded), so perhaps they are best served dealing from a position of strength such as this. But I'm not completely convinced.
The last truly importance piece here is the Competitive Balance A pick that the Braves earned from the Marlins, which is a nifty little piece of value. Picks at the end of the first round / beginning of the second don't always -- or often -- pan out, but when they do, they give their team a load of surplus value. Historically, the Braves have been a pretty decent drafting team, and adding another high-end pick is nothing but a good thing, a smart little pickup.
(Late Thursday edit! Bronson Arroyo's massive contract is heading to L.A. reportedly as well. That's some serious cash savings for the Braves, and a nice little point in the team's favor. Cash rules everything around me.)
The relievers (Avilan, Johnson, and the incoming Rodriguez), are all relatively fungible. Paco Rodriguez was good when he wasn't injured, but he's injured now. He could be a solid lefty out of the 'pen in '16 and beyond, which is better than having guys like Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson in the 'pen during a lost 2015. Johnson, in particular, did exactly what the Braves wanted him to do: rebuild value by pitching well in their bullpen, and then pay back value as part of a deal to get a long-term piece. That's exactly the type of veteran reliever rehab that teams love to do. Luis Avilan, at this point, is a lefty that's not better than Paco Rodriguez, so the team upgraded in that regard -- they just have to wait until next year to see dividends.
All in all, this deal is one that allowed the Braves to push from a position of strength (starting pitching) to shore up a weakness (overall long-term infield depth). While Wood is a bit of a risky proposition in the rotation, I still think he was a steep price to pay for someone like Hector Olivera, who is a very high-risk infielder. If Olivera proves that he can adjust to big league pitching and stay healthy, I think the Braves will be happy with deal no matter what success Wood has in Los Angeles. But if Olivera fails to find consistency, we could be looking at a team that seriously regrets this move when Olivera's contract is an albatross at the end of the decade.
(And the team saved some serious short-term money in dumping off Arroyo! Not bad there.)
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Bryan Grosnick is the Lead Writer for Beyond the Box Score, and a columnist for Baseball Prospectus - Boston -- unless he's been traded in the last few hours for a lefty. Follow him at @bgrosnick.