As you may have heard by now, the Atlanta Braves traded starter Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for Brandon Walden. If you are like me, you read that last sentence for the first time and let out a resounding, “what the fuck?” Atlanta GM, Frank Wren, must have lost his mind. You’re letting a young starting pitcher, under two more years of team control, who has won at least 10 games in every season he’s pitched go? And for a young, middle reliever with control problems and arm issues?
I found myself so perturbed that I had to contact the smartest baseball fan I know (despite being a Mets fan), Tyranny of Tradition founder, Keith Spillett. Keith and I have been baseball sparring partners going on ten years and can literally get lost in a two day long debate over the merits of Jason Bay in a pitcher’s park….no I’m serious, this really happened. I told Keith that Wren must know something we don’t, if he made this trade, you know, like Hanson is sleeping with his wife, or is the spawn of Satan, or lost his right arm in the offseason. I knew Keith would back me up, we’re buddies right? Wrong…Keith said (and he’s probably right), that it doesn’t matter…you don’t trade a starter of Hanson’s status for a reliever no matter what. I could only argue that Wren has had a lot of success and that I trust him. Keith only responded that “he hasn’t had a Bagwell, but then again, most general managers haven’t either.”
This got me to thinking? How has Frank Wren done on his trades so far? I think back to a lot of his moves and they always seem work out for us. Is this just a perception swayed by my hometown bias? Is Wren truly a mediocre barterer of baseball players? Then I knew what I had to do. I would go back and look at every trade Frank Wren has made as a GM and see how the Braves came out. In doing this, I am using the following criteria:
1) I will evaluate each trade using WAR (Wins Above Replacement) that each player obtained during his tenure with the Braves or the team the Braves traded him to. I will not give another team credit or harm Wren if a player moved on further and excelled with another team. Conversely, if a player came to the Braves was moved again and produced, Wren will not get credit.
2) I will only count the trade if at least one player made the majors. Teams make dozens of minor moves each year, where a Single A guy will get traded for a basket of salmon. I am not concerned with those deals….only those deals involving players which made the majors.
3) I am only looking through the 2011 season. Trades made in 2012 and beyond have had such little time, that we cannot honestly know the full ramifications of them yet.
4) Negative WAR will be represented with () around them.
5) I used Baseball-Reference WAR and am using transactions found on mlbtraderumors.com
And so, we will now take a trip through the Frank Wren time machine and see how our old pal, with the great hair has done for us.
1) Braves trade SS Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers for SP Jair Jurrjens and OF Gorkys Hernandez – 10/29/2007 – Wren took over the GM job in October of 2007 and started by trading the Braves incredibly successful and popular shortstop Edgar Renteria. Initially, Hernandez seemed to be the real target of this deal, as he was one of Detroit’s top prospects. Yet, it was Jurrjens, the young starting pitcher from Curacao who turned out to be the real prize of the deal. Jurrjens would go on to win 50 games for the Braves over 5 seasons, while Renteria would spend one season on Detroit, which would see his OPS fall 160 points. Hernandez would later be traded to Pittsburg in the Nate McClouth deal.
Value for Braves – 10 WAR Value for Detroit – 1.3 WAR Braves Net Gain/Loss – 8.7 WAR
Frank Wren 1 Baseball GMs – 0
2) Braves Trade SP/RP Oscar Villareal to the Houston Astros for OF Josh Anderson – 11/16/2007 – Oscar Villareal proved to be a valuable utility arm out of the bullpen in the injury plagued 2007 Braves season. He was a poor man’s Kris Medlen, starting games, doing long relief and even running and hot dog stand during off days. Yet Wren flipped him for speedy outfielder Josh Anderson. Both players would go on to only play one season for their respective teams, but while Josh Anderson played a good outfield and hit well enough to justify a positive WAR in 40 games for the Braves, Villareal pitched terribly in 35 games for the Astros in what would turn out to be his final season.
Value for Braves – 1.2 WAR Value for Houston – (.3) Braves Net Gain/Loss – 1.5 WAR
Frank Wren 2 Baseball GMs 0
3) Braves trade RP Jose Ascanio to the Chicago Cubs for IF/OF Omar Infante and RP Will Ohman – 12/4/2007 – In looking to bolster his bench and acquire a loogy to beat down the lefty dominant Phillies, Frank Wren traded promising young reliever Jose Ascanio to the Cubs. Infante would turn out to be one of the best utility players in the game during his three seasons in Atlanta, playing five positions and making an all star team. Ohman pitched well in his one season in Atlanta, posting a positive WAR and serving as a clubhouse jokester. As for Ascanio, he never really did anything with the cubs and is still trying to find his way in the Big Leagues.
Value for Braves – 6.0 WAR Value for Chicago – 0.2 WAR Braves Net Gain/Loss – 5.8 WAR
Frank Wren 3 Baseball GMs 0
4) Braves trade RP Joey Devine and SP Jamie Richmond to the Oakland A’s for CF Mark Kotsay – 1/14/2008 – Following the loss of Andruw Jones, Frank Wren decided to go with a salty veteran in the form of Mark Kotsay, as his starting centerfielder. Kotsay performed reasonably well in his partial season in Atlanta, hitting .289 and hitting for the cycle(I was in attendance!). However, Joey Devine went to Oakland and put together one hell of a 2008 season, posting a 0.59 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. Devine has since suffered a series of injuries, but that one magical season gives this trade to the Moneyballs. If this turns out to be Wren’s worse trade, you could do a lot worse.
Value for Braves – 0.9 WAR Value for Oakland – 2.2 Braves Net Gain/Loss – (1.3)
Frank Wren 3 Baseball GMs 1
5) Braves trade RP Jeff Ridgway to the Tampa Bay Rays for 3B Willy Aybar – 1/17/2008 – This one turned out to be an exact tie as each player on spent one partial year with each team and barely produced much for either team. On the bright side, Willy Aybar went nuts and into rehab before his second season with the Braves, which provided for some great reading.
6) Braves trade 1B Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels for 1B Casey Kotchman and RP Stephen Marek – 7/29/2008 – After realizing that “Big Tex” would take the money and inevitably sign with the Yankees, Wren decided to dump him for a half season and get whatever he could for him. Whatever turned out to be former top prospect Casey Kotchman and a reliever who never made the big league club before getting traded again. Looking back, Wren would have done better to have held onto Teixeira and received the draft pick compensation, but hey, you win some, you lose some.
Value for Braves – 0.5 WAR Value for LA – 3.6 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves – (3.1)
Frank Wren 3 Baseball GMs 2
7) Braves trade CF Mark Kotsay to the Boston Red Sox for OF Luis Sumoza – 8/27/2008 – Another trade which would have minimal impact on both teams. Kotsay produced a negative WAR for the Red Sox in his season and a half there and Sumoza never made it above Single A. This is one of those trades where no one really won or lost.
8) Braves trade SS Brent Lillibridge, C Tyler Flowers, 3B Jon Gilmore and RP Santos Rodriguez to the Atlanta Braves for SP Javier Vasquez and RP Boone Logan – 12/4/2008 – With some money to spend and a rotation which needed a serious overhaul, Wren made a big splash in the 2008 offseason by trading for Javier Vasquez. Vasquez pitched wonderfully in his lone season in Atlanta, before he was traded in a salary dump the following offseason, going 15-10 with a 2.89 ERA. Despite this and the fact that Logan never produced for the Braves, the slew of prospects still could not add up to the fantastic season that Vasquez put together, making this another win for Frank Wren.
Value for Braves – 5.6 WAR Value for Chicago – 2.5 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves – 3.1
Frank Wren 4 Baseball GMs 2
9) Braves trade CF Gorkys Hernandez, RP Jeff Locke and SP Charlie Morton to the Pittsburgh Pirates for CF Nate McClouth – 6/3/2009 – After realizing the Jordan Schaeffer project would not be the long term solution in CF for Atlanta, Wren made a move for All-Star Nate McClouth. And to quote Dave Chapelle, “what can be said about this trade that hasn’t already been said about Afghanistan?” In the end McClouth really sucked in his two and a half seasons with the Braves, while the slew of players sent to the Pirates sucked even more. This one goes as a win for Frank Wren…but much like Big Ten football, its ugly.
Value for Braves – (1.2) WAR Value for Pittsburgh – (1.5) WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves – 0.3
Frank Wren 5 Baseball GMs 2
10) Braves trade RF Jeff Francoeur to the New York Mets for RF Ryan Church – 7/10/2009 – We all know the story of Jeff Francouer in Atlanta, so we won’t waste space re-hashing here. I will only say that by 2009, it was time for Jeff Francouer to leave Atlanta. Wren settled on Ryan Church. If you look up “eh, decent major leaguer” in the dictionary, you’ll see Church’s picture there. After getting a late start to his career in Montreal (made his debut at age 25), Church put up solid, but not spectacular numbers for his entire career, finishing with an OPS+ of 103. Frenchy had a solid run in New York, playing great for the rest of 2009, before washing out and becoming bad Jeff Francouer again in 2010. Church played well enough to be worth a win in his half season in Atlanta, but the Mets win this one by the sheer fact that Francouer played an extra year for the Mets.
Value for Braves – 0.9 WAR Value for New York – 2.4 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves (1.5)
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11) Braves trade 1B Casey Kotchman to the Red Sox for 1B Adam Laroche – 7/31/2009 – After a terribly mediocre stint in Atlanta, the Braves decided to upgrade at first base. This happened in the form of brining back former Braves, Adam Laroche. Laroche had been traded to the Pirates in 2007(pre-Wren) and as always put in an underrated performance. As an aside, I have never cared for Laroche, despite his solid production. Maybe it is his lazy attitude, uni-brow, or ability to seemingly only hit home runs in extremely irrelevant situations. That being said, Laroche put up a great half season for the Braves, before the Braves let him go to let try the Troy Glaus experiment. Kotchman performed pretty poorly in Boston, before finally having a breakout season with the Rays two years later.
Value for Braves – 1.9 WAR Value for Boston – 0.1 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves 1.8
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12) Braves trade RP Rafael Soriano to the Tampa Bay Rays for RP Jesse Chavez – 12/11/2009 – This one is a strange one. Following the 2009 season, the Braves decided to go part ways with Rafael Soriano and sign Billy Wagner. In order to receive a draft pick, the Braves offered Soriano arbitration and in a very unusual move, he accepted. With no other play, due to payroll restrictions, the Braves had to unload Soriano with a gun against their heads. Chavez didn’t pitch well in his lone partial season in Atlanta and Soriano pitched fantastically for the Rays, leading the league in Saves. I’ll give Wren a pass on this one, but you know, he got fleeced here.
Value for Braves – (0.4) WAR Value for Tampa Bay – 2.0 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves (1.6)
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13) Braves trade SP Javier Vasquez and RP Boone Logan to the New York Yankees for OF Melky Cabrera, RP Arodys Vizcaino and RP Michael Dunn – 12/22/2009 – The Braves decided to shed some salary after the 2009 season and tried to maximize the value of Vasquez, following his fantastic season. The Braves received a top pitching prospect in Vizcaino, a solid loogy in Dunn and a seemingly high potential young outfielder in Cabrera. However, this trade ended up being a steaming pile for everyone. Vasquez performed terribly in his year in New York, Cabrera showed up to camp overweight and never really played. In the end ,loogy Boone Logan ended up providing more value than everyone else in this deal combined, though he hasn’t been much more than a decent left-handed arm, he has stuck around long enough to swing this trade in favor of the Yankees.
Value for Braves – 0 WAR Value for New York – 1.5 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves (1.5)
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14) Braves trade SS Yunel Escobar and SP Jo Jo Reyes to the Toronto Blue Jays for SS Alex Gonzalez and SS Tyler Pastornicky – 7/14/2010 – Yunel Escobar came up as a promising young shortstop for the Braves, before perceived attitude problems forced the Braves to Toronto for aging defensive wizard Alex Gonzalez and shortstop prospect Tyler Pastornicky. So far, this has been a lopsided trade in favor of the Blue Jays, as Escobar put up two and a half good seasons there. Gonzalez proved a hair above average for the Braves, but not extraordinary. And we don’t yet know how well Pastornicky will work for Atlanta, as he is undergoing a position change in an attempt to make him into a utility player, following a disappointing rookie year. That all being said, I cannot think of a Braves fan who regrets the trade and the “team” value may actually be higher than shown here.
Value for Braves – 1.3 WAR Value for Toronto – 7.1 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves(6.8 WAR)
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15) Braves trade OF Gregor Blanco, RP Jesse Chavez and RP Tim Collins to the Kansas City Royals for CF Rick Ankiel and RP Kyle Farnsworth – 7/31/2010 – This trade, made at the deadline in 2010, was meant to provide the Braves a solid defensive option with some pop in center field and a power arm out of the bullpen for the stretch run. In the end, this turned out to be a dud for Wren and the Braves. Ankiel and Farnsworth combined for a negative WAR in their half season with the Braves. Meanwhile, Blanco put in a great half season in Kansas City, while Tim Collins has proven to be a solid young relief pitcher. The Braves did not forfeit any superstars in this deal, but they still didn’t get anything good out of it either.
Value for Braves (0.3) WAR Value for Kansas City – 1.5 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves (1.8)
Frank Wren 6 Baseball GMs 7
16) Braves trade three minor league relievers to the Chicago Cubs for 1B Derrek Lee – 8/18/2010 – Following injury/production problems from 1B Troy Glaus, the Braves decided to give veteran Derrek Lee a shot to propel them into the postseason. Lee gave the Braves good offense, worth nearly one win, while the pitchers the Braves gave up have yet to crack Double-A ball.
Value for Braves – 0.9 WAR Value for Chicago – 0.0 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves (0.9 WAR)
Frank Wren 7 Baseball GMs 7
17) Braves trade IF/OF Omar Infante and RP Mike Dunn to the Florida Marlins for 2B Dan Uggla – 11/16/2010 – Frank Wren decided to bring some pop to the Braves lineup for the 2011 season by trading for the Popeyed armed Dan Uggla, the slugging second baseman from the Florida Marlins. After two seasons, this trade is closer than you might think. Uggla has been solid, if inconsistent in Atlanta, and while his offense provides a nice spark, his defense has hurt his overall value. Meanwhile, Infante put together two solid seasons for the Marlins, before being traded to Detroit. Luckily for Wren, Mike Dunn and his negative WAR over the course of the deal helped swing this one in Atlanta’s favor. Not a pretty win, but Frank and his hair will take it.
Value for Braves – 4.3 WAR Value for Florida – 3.8 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves 0.3
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18) Braves trade SP Kyle Cofield to the Chicago White Sox for RP Scott Linebrink – 12/3/2010 – What can I say? The Braves got a very average year out of Linebrink, while Cofield has yet to crack the major league roster with the White Sox.
Value for Braves – 0.4 WAR Value for Chicago – 0.0 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves 0.4
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19) Braves trade CF Jordan Schaffer, RP Juan Abreu, SP Bret Oberholtzer and SP Paul Clemens to the Houston Astros for CF Michael Bourn – The Braves acquired their first solid center fielder since Andruw Jones and their first trule leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal in a prospect laden package to the rebuilding Astros. Bourn played fantastically in a season and a half in Atlanta, while Schafer played poorly in Houston and the rest of the prospects have yet to reach the majors. This one still has the potential to swing the Astros favor, but so far, Wren looks good here.
Value for Braves – 6.9 WAR Value for Houston (1.3) WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves 8.2
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20) Braves trade RP Eliecer Cardenas to the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Matt Diaz – 8/31/2011 – In a waiver wire deal, the Braves sent a minor league relief pitcher in order to get a right handed bench bat in the form of former Brave, Matt Diaz. Cardenas has yet to crack Double-A ball, but Matt Diaz more than underwhelmed in his return to Atlanta, thereby giving this trade to the Pirates.
Value for Braves – (1.1) WAR Value for Pittsburgh 0.0 WAR Net Gain/Loss for Braves (1.1)
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Overall, Frank Wren bested the other team in trades by winning out in 10 of the 18 major league deals he made between 2007 and 2011. The total WAR gained by Wren was 10.5 WAR. So, Wren and his trades have given the Braves an average of two extra wins above replacement per year. Or if you use the standard value for one win above replacement of 5 million per win, then Wren and his decisions have been worth 52.5 million or roughly 10.5 million per year.
So, overall I am quite pleased with Frank Wren’s results in the trade market, though I don’t think you can call him dominant.. Now, the ball is in Keith Spillet’s court to see if Mets’ GMs Omar Minaya and Sandy Alderson have done just as well. For this Braves fan, I’ll remain pleased that Frank Wren and his immaculate hair are on my side.