Earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves fired their general manager Frank Wren. Wren, who was in the position for seven seasons, was cut after the Braves were eliminated from playoff contention.
From 2008 to 2014, the Braves made the playoffs three times and as recently as 2013, the team boasted a 96-win season (second best in the majors). But in 2014, after a hot 17-7 start, the team lost control of the division to the Nationals by mid-season. At this moment, they have a 76-81 record - tied with the New York Mets for second place.
Even though Wren's dismissal marks a poor end to his tenure with the Braves, he pulled off several beneficial moves for Atlanta. Here are three of them.
Acquiring Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill and Brandon Drury
A trade that stands out the most, by far, is the acquisition of OF Justin Upton. As a Brave, Upton has combined for a 6.7 fWAR in two seasons - a solid production. Even though he was traded from Arizona after a relatively down 2012 season (2.1 fWAR), his pedigree, age, the MVP-caliber 2011 and the six-year, $51.2 million contract running through the 2015 season garnered him one of the highest trade values of the league.
Chris Johnson, though not as sexy a name as Justin Upton, showed in 2012 that he can be a solid big-league regular. With the Astros and Diamondbacks, he hit .281/.326/.451 with 108 wRC+. Even though he was not a hyped prospect, the Braves liked the bat. In 2013, they were rewarded with a 2.7-fWAR production from the third baseman.
More on Atlanta's GM situation
More on Atlanta's GM situation
Credit to Wren for selling high on... Martin Prado. The infielder was coming off of his best season in 2012 with a 5.6 fWAR. Besides his down 2011 (1.3 fWAR), Prado had made name as one of the most solid infielders of the National League.
However, being the centerpiece of the trade that sent away a young star outfielder on a cheap six-year contract? That did not end up looking good for Arizona. Prado still had a solid 2013 (2.4 fWAR) but did not match up to the previous season's level.
RHP Randall Delgado, one of the top pitching prospects in the leagues then, converted to bullpen for the 2014 season and he has not blossomed yet (5.20 ERA in 72.2 IP this year). SS prospect Nick Ahmed had a nice 2014 season at Triple-A but has yet to establish himself as a big league starter, and RHP Zeke Spruill pitched to a 6.04 ERA in 79.0 IP in Triple-A.
Third baseman Brandon Drury, however, has had nice 2013 and 2014 (128 wRC+ in High-A and Double-A this season) but still, it does not change that the Braves got a much better end of the deal. They acquired a young 3-fWAR outfielder (with potential for more) that is kept for a cheaper cost than market indicates.
Acquiring Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez for Edgar Renteria
Many forget that Jurrjens was one of the best young starters in National League in 2008 and 2009. For those two seasons, the young righty amassed 7.1 fWAR while Edgar Renteria spent only a season with the Tigers, posting a 1.2 fWAR. Renteria's down 2008 indicated the downturn of the shortstop's career, as he never produced to his 2007 levels again.
Another plus for the Braves then: making a starting spot for the young shortstop Yunel Escobar, who, if you also don't remember, was one of the best young shortstops (109 OPS+ in 2008 and 2009 combined) until having a subpar start to 2010 season and being traded to the Blue Jays.
Gorkys Hernandez, meanwhile, was actually considered as one of the top centerfielder prospects in baseball. Take a gander at other names in the list - Jacoby Ellsbury, Austin Jackson, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus... Hernandez never blossomed as a major leaguer. He was shipped to the Pirates in the Nate McClouth deal quickly and only saw 70 games of big league action in 2012.
Acquiring Michael Bourn and cash for Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Juan Abreu and Paul Clemens
Well, the Astros now have Oberholtzer as a 2.4 fWAR starter in the 2014 season so they got that going for them.
For the Braves, however, they acquired one of the best centerfielders in the league for a four-player package in which only two are now seeing a big league action (Oberholtzer and Schafer), neither of whom has come close to Bourn's production.
After posting a 3.7 fWAR in 2011 for Astros and Braves, Bourn put up his best season in 2012 with 6.1 fWAR, playing a big part for the 94-win Braves that year. Unfortunately for the outfielder, after signing with the Indians for a four-year, $48 million deal, Bourn has not performed to that level at all, but the benefit that the Braves received from the outfielder is undeniable.
The head-scratching part: it did not seem like Astros were underselling Bourn at the 2011 trade deadline. He was hitting .303/.363/.403 at the time of the trade while his speed prowess was well-known throughout the leagues. Schafer, who was slated to replace Bourn's spot in Minute Maid Park's center field, had never come close to replacing that type of production in career, and he still has not.
The other three prospects that the Astros acquired were not all that highly regarded either. In the 2011 pre-season Braves top prospect list by Baseball America, only Oberholtzer made the top 10 list. Juan Abreu was a 26-year-old minor league reliever and Clemens was not known for his upside, at all.
To give up an outfielder that had put up a combined 8.9 fWAR in the previous two years for a below-average centerfielder with three non-highly regarded prospects is a very questionable move in the Astros' part - but it also highlighted Wren's history of beneficial trades during his tenure as a general manager.