For those who are obsessed with baseball statistics, Thursday was a big day.
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline -- the 4 p.m. cutoff for which trades could be made without having to go through waivers -- came and went. Twitter, sports talk radio and message boards, as well as baseball fans’ Facebook pages, were burning up with trade talk.
Left-handed pitching? A very valuable commodity sought out by a bunch of teams. David Price, a left-handed starter who began the day with Tampa Bay, became a very popular name among those talking trade in the hour prior to the trade deadline. He finished the day in Detroit as part of a three-team blockbuster -- also involving Seattle -- pulled off in the final half hour before the deadline, giving the already formidable Tigers’ pitching staff that much more depth.
Atlanta was in the market for a left-handed reliever, someone who could set up or supplement one of the best closers in the game, Craig Kimbrel. With the Braves right in the middle of a tight race for the NL East title or a wild-card berth, getting an extra arm in the bullpen definitely wouldn’t have hurt.
The Braves found a lefty right at the deadline in 28-year-old James Russell. The Chicago Cubs reliever, as well as utility player Emilio Bonifacio, were acquired in exchange for minor-league catcher Victor Caratini.
Russell isn’t a headline name, but the Braves didn’t need a headline player. And the Braves didn’t need to sell the future in exchange for a one-time shot at the playoffs.
On the whole, the Braves are a young team. None of the Braves’ starting position players are older than 30 (B.J. Upton turns 30 on Aug. 21), and the only non-pitchers on the active roster older than 30 are reserve catchers Gerald Laird (34) and Ryan Doumit (33). The Braves do have a pair of older starting pitchers in Aaron Harang (36) and Ervin Santana (31), but both are on one-year deals done in the wake of offseason and spring training elbow injuries.
That youth means this team should be able to stick together for awhile, assuming the Braves can get things done when it comes to contract negotiations. This team will have its chances to do some damage in the postseason for several seasons to come, as long as the Braves’ starting pitching can continue to be as strong as it is now.
Any move to dismantle that lineup in exchange for that one star in a one-shot effort to get the Braves to the World Series would have been folly.
Put it this way: Do you give up the next John Smoltz to get this generation’s Doyle Alexander? Alexander finished the 1987 season strong for Detroit, allowing the Tigers to catch Toronto on the final day of the regular season to claim a spot in the ALCS. But it was at the cost of selling out on any sort of pitching to go along with Cecil Fielder’s big bat three or four years later.
For a one-time shot, it wasn’t a bad deal for Detroit at the time. The 1987 season was really the final shot for many of the players who were on the World Series-winning 1984 team. Kirk Gibson went to the Los Angeles Dodgers the next season, and other mainstays from that team (Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Darrell Evans and Chet Lemon, among others) didn’t have much time left with the Tigers, either. But the Tigers completely sold out their future in the process, much to the benefit of the up-and-coming Braves.
The Braves didn’t sell the farm to fill the hole on its roster this year. The organization is stocked at catcher, starting with Evan Gattis, so giving up Caratini -- who began the day at Single-A Rome -- isn’t going to be that big of a loss. Sure, Caratini was a high draft pick, going in the second round of the 2013 draft, but he was selected before Gattis proved himself at the big-league level.
Sure, the Braves’ move wasn’t the biggest of the day. But bigger isn’t always better. And the Braves didn’t need big this time around.
We’ll know in two months whether the Braves made the right move.
Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org