Trading a player like Craig Kimbrel is never easy for a team.
He might be a Hall of Famer one day. But it was likely a situation where an executive like John Hart of the Atlanta Braves got a notepad and drew a line down the middle, with the pros of trading Kimbrel on one side and the cons on the other.
Big decisions in life are sometimes made like that, and this was a big decision for a Braves team in transition. The pros simply outweighed the cons, even if one of the negatives to trading the best closer in baseball would undoubtedly be the pain of dealing a southern boy who loved playing for the southern team.
The ability to rid itself of Melvin Upton was too much for the Braves to pass up, even at the price of trading away Kimbrel. But how much would Kimbrel be needed the next couple of seasons with the team not in championship mode?
There’s an easy way to look at this. How many wins did you think the Braves would have going into this season, before Kimbrel was traded? My prediction was 79 wins. So after the trade, how did that change? How many games will the Braves win now without Kimbrel?
I doubt it will make much difference. It might make the ninth inning of games more dramatic, but it’s not like this deal will cost the Braves a bunch of wins. Jason Grilli is not Dan Kolb, and Jim Johnson is not Chris Reitsma. Grilli and Johnson might not be Kimbrel, but they’ll be fine.
If you watched Upton the past two seasons, you know how great it will be to watch him try and hit for some other team. He hit .198 in his two years in Atlanta. It just didn’t work. It was a disaster.
Hopefully, the combination of newcomers Eric Young, Jr. and Cameron Maybin can hit above the .200 mark. That’s a low bar, but that’s all it would take to be better than Upton.
The Braves saved $53 million in this trade. Don’t think the team will simply draw interest on this money and help pay for the new stadium. They still must have talent ready for 2017 when they move into SunTrust Park. So they will take that money and invest it into the draft, into international talent and free agents.
They’ve just got to make better decisions. And the people in charge now are much better than the ones who did stupid things like give Upton a $75 million contract. Upton was a symbol of what went wrong, and that’s another reason he needed to go.
The Braves are accumulating young pitchers. There’s no better way to fix what has been broken that to do it with young arms. Matt Wisler, San Diego’s top prospect that was part of the payment for Kimbrel and Upton, will join Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos, Tyrell Jenkins, Andrew Thurman and Ricardo Sanchez as pitchers acquired in these offseason trades that now provide the Braves with depth.
The Braves are accumulating draft picks. What better way to start over than to bring new talent into the organization? And you can bet many of those draft picks this June will be pitchers.
We just have to wait on the young talent to get to Atlanta. That waiting is not easy. Look, the Braves’ fan base is spoiled. We’re not used to the Braves not being a pennant contender. We’re not used to having low expectations. That’s why this is going to require patience.
In a way, this drastic overhaul, makeover or whatever you want to label it, was inevitable. How could we expect this franchise to keep winning at the same clip? Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox are in Cooperstown. John Smoltz joins them this summer, while Chipper Jones will be there in three years. It’s not easy for a franchise to segue into a new era with a different cast of characters and expect the same historic results.
It’s time for new names, new faces. Sure, it’s a shame Kimbrel won’t be part of it. But the Braves are in a better situation now with Kimbrel and Upton gone than before. Those are decisions you have to make to get better, and the Braves did the right thing, regardless of how tough it is seeing Kimbrel wear another uniform.
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