Braves trade Justin Upton to Padres

The Atlanta Braves continue to remake their team, and have now reportedly pulled off their second blockbuster trade of this offseason by sending slugging outfielder Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres. In return the Braves receive a haul of prospects: left-handed starting pitcher Max Fried, infielders Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson (no relation), and outfielder Mallex Smith. The Braves also send minor league pitcher Aaron Northcraft to the Padres, and receive an international bonus slot, valued at $182,300, from San Diego.

mfriedIt became apparent that the Braves were not going to re-sign Upton, and with one year remaining in his contract before free agency, next year would have been his last in Atlanta. The team spent the last three months assessing the market for Upton, and we have to believe they found the best deal, but the return they got seems to be more about quantity than quality. San Diego’s best prospects were not included.

That said, the Braves have an expert knowledge of San Diego’s minor league system thanks to the hiring of Chad MacDonald as a Special Assistant to the General Manager earlier this offseason. MacDonald had spent the previous three years as the guy in charge of player personnel for the Padres. That should give everyone a little more confidence that the prospects coming to Atlanta are well thought of.

 

The Prospects

Max Fried was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft out of high school. Since then he’s ranked between 43 and 61 on various top-100 prospect lists. While his stats in the minors have yet to catch up to his scoutable talent, the tools are there for him to have three plus pitches and a top-of-the-rotation profile.

jpetersonHis debut in a Braves uniform will have to wait though, as he had Tommy John surgery in late August of this year. While that is a risk, the Braves must be confident that he can return fully healthy. There is also no rush with Fried, as he’ll be 21 next season, and 22 the year after when he should return to the mound. His acquisition is about putting together a rotation for 2017 and beyond.

Jace Peterson is another first-round pick (58 overall), selected in the 2011 draft out of McNeese State University. He was listed as the Padres No. 7 prospect prior to 2014 by Baseball America. He’s a shortstop, but has also played second and third. While he has below-average power, he sprays the gaps and gets on base well then uses plus speed and instincts to take the extra base. He profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter with a low strikeout rate and a high walk rate. He had several brief stints in the majors this year, serving mainly as a backup player.

The next two guys, third baseman Dustin Peterson and outfielder Mallex Smith, are young projectable prospects, and instantly rise to the top of a Braves system weak in positional prospects.

Dustin Peterson was selected 50th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft. He played last year as a 19-year-old at A-ball. While his stats won’t knock your socks off, he held his own against much older competition, and probably wore down late in the season. He may eventually have to move off of third base to the outfield, but with excellent bat speed he should hit for plus power and a high average. dpeterson

Baseball America ranked him No. 22 on San Diego’s top prospect list before last season, and MLB.com ranks him No. 10 now. Mallex Smith was unranked by Baseball America last year, but is now ranked No. 20 by MLB.com.

Smith’s calling card is speed. He’s stolen 169 bases since turning pro three years ago when he was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. He’s a slasher at the plate, but does whatever he can to get on base, and is an excellent bunter. Mallex will start next year at Double-A in his age-22 season, and could get a look in the majors at some point. He is B.J. Upton’s replacement-in-waiting. So just as soon as the Braves can move B.J., Smith will be his replacement. He sounds like a classic Juan Pierre-like leadoff guy.

For more on the prospects, check out this article at FanGraphs.

 

Thoughts…

All of these young hitters continue the trend of the Braves to acquire more “on-base first” type players who don’t strike out in excess, and the Braves likely expect all of them to be big parts of their team by 2017. Here is a potential lineup that we could see for the first ever game at Sun Trust Park:

  1. Mallex Smith, CF
  2. Jose Peraza, 2B
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Dustin Peterson, LF
  5. Nick Markakis, RF
  6. Christian Bethancourt, C
  7. Jace Peterson, 3B
  8. Andrelton Simmons, SS

While that lineup may not have the kind of power in it that we’ve come to expect from recent Braves’ lineups, it has tons of speed, good on-base ability, and good situational hitting. If anything, it has too many top-of-the-order types, but in the post-enhanced era this could be where baseball lineups are headed.

msmithThe Braves didn’t get any of the Padres big prospects, but they got prospects who can fill needs, as well as high risk/high reward players. It sounds like Atlanta opted for four boom or bust prospects rather than one sure thing. That makes this trade of prospects difficult to compare to the Jason Heyward trade. It’s easy right now to say that the Heyward trade is better because Shelby Miller is an impact major leaguer, and Tyrell Jenkins is likely only a year away.

To accurately compare the two trades we will have to wait several years to see what the four players acquired from the Padres develop into. Right now the Heyward trade is better, but there’s a chance the Upton trade could be to Atlanta what the Mark Teixeira trade was to the Rangers–in which the four main prospects traded have so far amassed 41 bWAR as major leaguers. On the other hand, it could be what the Fred McGriff trade was to the Padres–which netted them three “prospects” who eventually amassed -2.3 bWAR in their careers.

In terms of building for 2017 this is a good trade. The Braves would have gotten a draft pick when Upton left after next year, but that pick would probably not be ready in time for the opening of the new park. At least three of the players here should be major leaguers by that time, and all but Smith come with a first round (or equivalent) pedigree.

It feels like the Braves aren’t done reshaping their team this offseason, with Evan Gattis and Chris Johnson being two players who could also be traded. Until we see what happens there, we shouldn’t take this trade as a signal that the Braves are punting the 2015 season and completely rebuilding.

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Braves trade Anthony Varvaro to Red Sox for Aaron Kurcz

When the Atlanta Braves signed Alberto Callaspo several days ago they surprised quite a few people by designating reliever Anthony Varvaro for assignment–meaning they had ten days to trade him or release him.

akurczThis was surprising since he had been such a big part of the Atlanta bullpen the last two years. In an era where quality relief pitchers don’t grow on trees, here were the Braves leaving one blowing in the wind. The rumor though, was that the team already had a taker lined up for Varvaro.

Today that taker materialized as they traded Varvaro to the Boston Red Sox for minor league right-handed reliever Aaron Kurcz. He is a player who gained a little bit of infamy when he was traded from the Cubs to the Red Sox as compensation for General Manager Theo Epstein going to Chicago.

Kurcz is an 11th-round draft pick from the 2010 class out of the College of Southern Nevada. That’s the same school Bryce Harper attended, and also the same school Braves lefty reliever Chasen Shreve attended. In fact, both Kurcz and Shreve were taken in the same round of the 2010 draft.

Parting with Varvaro is still a bit of a head-scratcher. He was a popular player in the clubhouse, and also seemed to readily accept any role that the Braves asked him to perform. The best guess I have for why Atlanta was so willing to part with Varvaro is an apparent drop in velocity at the end of last season. His fastball fell off a bit of a cliff, dropping from around 94-95 to 90-91 (via FanGraphs.com):

varvaro-fb

That’s a fairly noticeable drop, and he didn’t appear in a game between September 9 and 24. Of course, he was effectively recording outs during this entire time, so velocity or not he seemed to be effective. I say again, it’s a head-scratcher why he was deemed expendable. If the Braves really needed a 40-man roster spot, Jose Constanza is sitting there taking up space.

As for Kurcz, he’s a hard thrower much like Varvaro, and projects as a middle-innings reliever. He’s also two years removed from a Tommy John surgery he had in August of 2012 (he missed the entire 2013 season). Here is an excerpt from a scouting report on Kurcz by the website SoxProspects.com:

Right-handed reliever with small frame and lean build. Loose thrower. 3/4 arm slot. Balanced delivery with easy landing. Fastball sits 92-93 mph and can top out at 95 mph. Average command. Tends to work in the upper tier of strike zone too much. Capable of generating swings-and-misses with fastball. 75-80 mph 3/4 breaking ball. Has curveball look in lower reaches of velocity and slider look in upper reaches. More of a slurve. Average offering. Potential to tighten up to create more consistent power and depth. Also mixes in a developing 82-85 mph changeup. Shows arm-side fade. Tends to float too much presently. Solid-average potential. Converted to a reliever in 2011. Strong makeup for age. Sixth- or seventh-inning reliever potential at major-league level.

For a more in-depth scouting report, click here. He also participated in this year’s Arizona Fall League with good results.

He’s another decent relief option to stash on the farm, and will get a look in spring training, but will most likely start the season at Triple-A Gwinnett.

Based on how fleshed out the AJC.com article on this trade was immediately after it was announced, I’m guessing the beat writers knew about it when Varvaro was designated on Monday. The two days that elapsed were likely used for both sides to review medical records.

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Braves take a chance on Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano

The Atlanta Braves have signed Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano, pending physical and some other procedural motions. The signing will not count against the team’s international bonus pool.

While I was happy that the Braves lost out on Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who I thought was too big of a risk, they seemed determine to add a player from that island. Every team seems to want a Cuban accessory.

Toscano is not as much of a household name as Tomas, and comes with quite a different profile. While Tomas is a swing-and-miss power-or-nothing type hitter, Toscano is apparently a work-the-count get-on-base type hitter.

While Tomas signed a monstrous six-year, $68 million deal with Arizona, Toscano has apparently signed a modest pact with Atlanta, though the reported ceiling of his talent is nowhere near that of Tomas.

That’s a $7.5 million gamble, $6 million guaranteed. Though spread out over four years (five with the option), that’s not too bad at all–much better than the gamble the Diamondbacks are taking.

The scant scouting report on Toscano comes from Ben Badler at BaseballAmerica.com:

Toscano, who is around 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, is a lefthanded hitter with good bat control and strike-zone awareness.

Short guy, gets on base, sounds like a fourth outfielder, though clearly the Braves think more highly of him.

While reading the terrific article from Eno Sarris on inflated prices for Cuban players, I was directed towards the “Davenport Translation.” This formula seeks to take stats produced in Cuban leagues and turn them into Major League equivalent stats. Here are the Cuban League stats for Tomas and Toscano translated into MLB equivalent, according to the Davenport Translation (peak, age-adjusted):

Yasmani Tomas: .233/.269/.421
Dian Toscano: .215/.287/.304

Neither number looks pretty, but at least the Braves are only committing 10 percent of the guaranteed salary to Toscano, that Tomas is getting.

So just keep all of this in mind when you read the other stories that list the actual stats Toscano posted in Cuba, which look really sexy: .300/.399/427.
“Hey, he’s a .300 hitter, right?”
Maybe, just maybe, but probably not.

Still, probably worth the gamble at a million or so a year to see if he can turn into something more than a fourth outfielder.

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Braves Sign Outfielder Nick Markakis

nmarkakis1The Atlanta Braves have signed free agent right fielder Nick Markakis to a four-year, $44 million deal. The 31-year-old Woodstock, Georgia, native won the American League Gold Glove award in right field last year, the second time in his nine-year career he has won the award.

If you’re counting at home, then four is now the number of starting outfielders that the Braves employ–Markakis, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton and presumably Evan Gattis, as the team (or team sources) have indicated that he will shift from catcher to left field next year. That means one of them will need to be traded, and by process of elimination it will either be Gattis or Justin, and more likely Justin.

Moving Justin Upton–a long-rumored next trade for Atlanta–is now a virtual certainty. The Winter Meetings start next week, and he will probably be moved there. So before fully judging this signing of Markakis it needs to be seen in the context of the entire remaking of the outfield, which is still TBD.

What we do know is that Jason Heyward has been replaced in right field by Markakis, while the team netted a mid-rotation starter and a starting pitching prospect. In left field the team appears set to replace Justin Upton with Gattis, and in the process will get some additional players and/or prospects.

We also have to look at this in the context of the new stadium, opening in 2017. This is a four-year deal, and gives the team another controllable player for the first two years of the new park, at a relatively low cost. It’s almost certainly a lower cost after next year than Heyward would have been, and the Braves know that after having had long-term contract discussions with him.

nmarkakis3Markakis allows the Braves to be more competitive now (or to at least replace the competitiveness they lost when they traded J-Hey), and stay competitive for the next four years. But don’t think of him as just replacing Heyward.

Markakis is likely the first piece of an offensive rebuilding project that deemphasizes SABR attributes like WAR and advanced stats for the more scouting-centric qualities in players, like consistency and a grinder mentality. (Seriously, Google “John Hart grind at bat,” he’s been talking about that kind of thing glowingly for years, and mentions it repeatedly in interviews since he took over as not-GM.)

But the consistency of Markakis matters too. One important piece that was removed from Atlanta’s lineup when Chipper Jones retired was a consistent hitter against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. Markakis brings that back (although not as good as a Hall of Famer), and brings it to a spot in the lineup that didn’t have it before. Check out these lefty/righty splits for Markakis and Heyward:

AVG/OPS vs. RHP career vs. LHP career vs. RHP 2014 vs. LHP 2014
Markakis .291/.816 .288/.743 .274/.751 .280/.673
Heyward .281/.788 .221/.650 .304/.820 .169/.477

This signing is likely the first part of a trend for the team as they strive to add more balance to any spot in the lineup that they can bring more balance to. Essentially they’re trying to build an offense that can score a few runs every night, rather than one that scores in bunches then goes on long droughts. This is also consistent with their building of a pitching staff that features a mid-to-top of the rotation guy every night.

nmarkakis2I believe this is a good move for Atlanta. While Markakis is not a flashy player, and he doesn’t put up monster stats, he does add needed consistency to Atlanta’s lineup. He hasn’t made an error since August 10, 2012, but advanced defensive statistics don’t like him due to his average range (which hurts his WAR stats). So again, in the field he’s more consistency than flash.

The Braves didn’t sign a superstar, but they got tired of waiting for Heyward to become one, so they got what they could for him, and replaced him with a boringly decent above-average player.

Only time will tell how Markakis fares in Atlanta from his age-31 season through his age-34 season. The Braves didn’t have good luck with big contracts to B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla (which I didn’t like at the time), but I’m optimistic Markakis will fare better since not as much of his value is tied up in his power, which is usually the first thing to go with age.

Now we’ll have to see what the team does with Justin and/or Gattis… stay tuned, the GM Meetings are next week. Markakis also continues the trend this offseason for the Braves of replacing players in the name of long-term rebuilding while still trying to build a competitive team for next year.

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Braves Trade Jason Heyward to Cardinals for Shelby Miller

smillerIn the first blockbuster trade of the offseason the Atlanta Braves sent outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. And this may only be the first blockbuster that Atlanta pulls off this winter, as WSB Sports Director Zach Klein quotes a major league source saying that this is “just the beginning.”

So what to think? I like the trade. I might even like it a lot. It’s not a perfect trade, and there’s probably not a clear winner, but it accomplishes several goals. First of all, understand that the Braves were not going to re-sign Heyward. The front office knows this, and so they set about trying to get the most for him.

It’s debatable whether this is actually “the most” that the Braves could have gotten, but we’ll have to take their word for it. I feel like they probably should have gotten a little more, but the Cardinals know that they won’t be able to sign Heyward at the end of the year either, and so he’s just a rental. Hopefully he becomes their J.D. Drew, and Jenkins becomes our Adam Wainwright.

Shelby Miller is the prize for Atlanta, and as a young pitcher who is under team control for the next four years and not arbitration eligible for another year he fits the team well. He is not without his warts–a high fly-ball rate, a high walk rate–but he’s young enough at 24 for us to believe that there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

tjenkinsTyrell Jenkins, the pitching prospect Atlanta receives is an underrated player. Injuries have slowed him in recent years, but before that he was cracking top-100 prospect lists. He’s healthy now and throwing his fastball in the mid-90s with a plus slider during the Arizona Fall League. He’ll likely start next season at Double-A, forming a formidable rotation with the system’s other top starting pitching prospects: Lucas Sims, Wes Parsons and Mauricio Cabrera (assuming he returns to the rotation).

Miller helps the team stay competitive now by filling one of the starting pitching vacancies, and he will continue to help the team through to the opening of their new stadium. So this is not purely about trading away a major leaguer for a bunch of prospects. However, the Braves also get a starting pitching prospect who is a hard-thrower, which is something the Braves system lacks. Jenkins will rank among the Braves’ top-5 prospects.

What the Braves didn’t address with this trade, or any of the three trades so far this winter, is the team’s offensive problems. If anything, this trade makes those offensive problems more problematic. That leads me to believe that there will definitely be more trades.

Atlanta could have held onto Heyward, watch him depart for a nine-figure free agent contract at the end of next year, and then gotten a compensation draft pick in 2016. But that doesn’t meet the timetable of a team that wants to be maximally competitive in 2017 when their new stadium opens. This trade gives the Braves two pitchers who figure to be strong members of the team’s starting rotation by then.

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Grit

From yesterday’s presser to announce John Hart as the new not-GM, but GM-like person in charge of GM-like things, we learned that part of The Braves Way apparently involves players with grit. What is “grit,” you may ask. That’s a good question.

grit

Well at least in the South we know a thing or two about grits.

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The Braves Way bus keeps backing over Frank Wren

wren-busThe Atlanta Braves are announcing their new President of Baseball Operations John Hart today. It’s not really news, as this has been rumored or implied for the past three weeks.

The subtext of today’s press conference was still thick with blame for the previous administration. Right or wrong, like it or not, that’s the way it is, and that “party line” seems to be the tone throughout the organization.

Here is the text of an email from a Braves Account Executive for season ticket holders. This was forwarded from a longtime reader who has had season tickets in the dugout level since 2008, and recently canceled them, prompting this response from the team:

This season has been a disappointing one to say the very least. Day in and day out, I have watched waiting for the light to turn back on with this team. Needless to say, it did not click. I do not doubt the young talent on this team, but I think the executive decision made with the release of Bruce Manno and Frank Wren was the first of many drastic changes you will see around this ball club during the offseason. I feel that Hart (and Bobby Cox) have backed Fredi Gonzalez in spite of this season because he has proven himself time and again. (He is the winningest manager in the National League since joining the Braves in October 2010!) I hope we can make some moves that you approve of (and that I approve of as well!).

We’ll see what changes on the field actually occur, but right now everyone is talking in circles trying not to offend the players that they obviously know they want to get rid of. Hart did this in today’s presser–saying that there were big problems and big changes are needed, but that the players are alright.

Pretty much Wren and Manno are being given all the blame. My chief complaint is that this is an oversimplification of the problems the team faced… on the field, at least. And that’s where the distinction needs to be made.

We can only infer what the issues might be, but Ian Morris at TalkingChop.com said it best the other day:

Wren’s firing may have been less of an indictment of his ability to make baseball decisions, but rather of his possibly difficult nature. As outsiders who don’t have access to the workings of the front office on a daily basis, we can’t know for certain, but this is a strong indication that Wren’s personality and/or demeanor may not have been the most pleasant.

Of course, we may also be able to infer that John Schuerholz never wanted to stop being GM back in 2007, and that he and Wren have had a constant struggle about the direction of the team since then.

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John Hart turns down offer to be Braves’ GM… again

John Hart has turned down the latest offer to be the Atlanta Braves general manager, according to the latest reporter to report this, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan. This sounds mighty familiar, like it’s happened before, a couple of times. Since we currently have an unemployed former Faux GM, I figured I would put him to work…

littledoh-schu-hart

You can never fire Faux Frank Wren, he’s always on the job.

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Should Next Braves GM Tweak or Rebuild

The Atlanta Braves next General Manager will face an interesting choice of whether to make small changes to the team, or to radically rebuild the roster.

The team is certainly aiming for 2017 as the year they would like to be maximally competitive in order to try and fill their new stadium every game, and therefore justify the cost in terms of taxpayer dollars and fan loyalty. Could small tweaks between now and then be enough to put a playoff caliber team on the field? Or would a tear-down and rebuild give the team the best chance to be competitive and–this is important–go deep into the playoffs.

Atlanta has six players currently signed through at least 2017–Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson and B.J. Upton. They also have several key players under team control through 2017–Mike Minor, Evan Gattis, David Carpenter, Alex Wood and David Hale.

The biggest blow to their core of players comes at the end of next year, when both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton become free agents. The new regime could try and re-sign one or both players, they could let them walk at the end of their deals and collect the extra draft picks, or they could try and trade them this winter and begin to rebuild the team.

Heyward and JUpton are arguably the team’s two best players, so why would any new Braves GM want to trade them away in his first year? But if the major league club is really broken like John Schuerholz says, and the minor league system is unable to help, then it might be worth trading away some good pieces and having a rebuilding year (or two). If that’s the determination, then this is the time to do it–while they still have valuable pieces to trade, and when they can blame the need to do it on the last guy in the GM’s chair.

In any possible trade both Heyward and JUpton should return at least two good-to-great prospects who are a year or two away from contributing at the major league level. The Braves could use the Winter Meetings to see what kind of market exists for either of these guys, and if no market is there, then they could push hard to sign one or both to long-term contract extensions.

To further the rebuild, the team could also look to unload other players like Evan Gattis. That would allow the team to play Christian Bethancourt everyday during a non-competitive rebuilding year, allowing him to develop on the job. The increasing cost of keeping Mike Minor could also prompt the team to try and move him.

With at least one of these trades the Braves could require that the other team also take B.J. Upton in return, thus ridding themselves of a large and burdensome contract and an under-performing player. Chris Johnson could find himself in the same boat, with the team looking to develop prospect Kyle Kubitza at third base.

The Braves have not had a stated rebuilding year in over 20 years, but they probably should have gone through a rebuilding year at some point from 2006 to 2009. Had they truly rebuilt during that time, the result in subsequent years would have been better. Of course, they chose to go the other direction and trade away the farm in 2007.

I’m actually a fan of tearing down and rebuilding. Atlanta could also wait a few months, make a few additions this offseason, then see where they are at the 2015 trade deadline. At that time they could decide to trade away Heward and/or JUpton. But it’s hard for a team that might be in the playoff hunt midyear to give up on the season, and those two players might return a lot less during the season than in the offseason.

The Braves won’t be able to pawn-off BUpton or Johnson without paying an unacceptable amount of their future salary, unless they include a valuable piece along with them. This is where an Upton/Upton and/or Heyward/Johnson trade(s) make a lot of sense. Those trades would allow the receiving team to give up prospects and take on salary, and have cover for both under the guise of acquiring a great player (and another player who “just needs a change of scenery”).

A new stadium in 2017, and the added natural boost in attendance that would provide, means the Braves don’t really need to be competitive in the preceding years. Saying that the Braves should punt away a year or two to rebuild the team is weird because that has not been “The Braves Way,” but the quickest way back to The Braves Way may actually be to rebuild instead of just trying to reload from year to year.

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Braves bring back Roy Clark to lead scouting department

As the Atlanta Braves’ return to the nostalgia of “The Braves Way” moves from concept to reality, another big part of the old guard under John Schuerholz is returning to the organization.

Roy Clark presided over the Braves drafting and development system from 2000 to 2009, taking over for legendary scout Paul Snyder. With Clark comes the myth about Roy Clark–the one that says his drafts were better than the drafts Atlanta has had since he left.

That’s not to say that Clark was a bad director of scouting, quite the opposite, he was a good (even great) scouting director. But to say he was better than the next Braves scouting director is misleading.

Proponents of Clark will trot out the names of the players he drafted–Adam Wainwright, Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Mike Minor. It’s a very impressive list, and that’s just the beginning of it.

The false narrative of Clark being better than his successor, Tony DeMacio, omits the advantages that Clark had. During the majority of Clark’s tenure with the Braves, he enjoyed a different drafting system than the one that exists today. Money was one of the biggest differences, with teams being able to spend greater sums of money on players, especially lower-round picks.

The old drafting system allowed teams to sign players up until a few days before the following year’s draft. Atlanta used this process, known as draft-and-follow, to sign guys like Adam LaRoche, Tyler Flowers and Tommy Hanson, all of whom were drafted after the 20th round, then signed in the weeks leading up to the next draft.

That process was eliminated in 2007, requiring teams to sign drafted players by August 15th, about five weeks after the draft. It’s worth noting that Clark’s last three drafts under this system, from 2007-09, did not include any players that reached the majors who were drafted and signed by Atlanta after the 10th round. In each of the three years after Clark left, DeMacio’s drafts have produced players drafted and signed after the 10th round who have reached the majors.

The other major advantage that Clark had during his tenure were additional early-round draft picks. The huge changes in the last few years to free agent compensation have led to fewer and fewer draft picks for teams that lose players to free agency. During Clark’s years in Atlanta, just about every free agent was offered arbitration and turned it down. Many of those offered arbitration didn’t cost the team signing them any penalty, while the team losing them often got two draft picks as compensation.

The Braves drafted Kelly Johnson with the 38th-overall pick in 2000, which was a compensation pick for losing free agent Jose Hernandez. If you don’t remember him, well I had to think long and hard to remember who Hernandez was too. (He played 48 games for Atlanta after coming over from the Cubs in a deadline deal along with Terry Mulholland.) Losing reliever Mike Remlinger to free agency in 2003 netted the Braves two top-50 draft picks, which they used on Saltalamacchia and Jo-Jo Reyes.

These additional picks persisted for years. During Clark’s tenure he had 20 additional picks (in 10 years) in the first and second rounds. Since he left, DeMacio has had just one additional draft pick in the top two rounds.

Those additional picks Clark received allowed him to cover up for a lot of bad picks, and turn what would have been bad draft years into good or great years. He may have picked Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman with first and second round picks in 2007, but between those two future cornerstones he drafted two other players, infielder Jon Gilmore and reliever Josh Fields, who never amounted to anything in the majors.

The 2005 draft would be considered a bust had they only chosen Beau Jones and Jeff Lyman with first and second round picks. But they also selected Joey Devine and Yunel Escobar with first and second round picks. The 2003 draft might have been a real bummer because the Braves took Luis Atilano, Paul Bacot and Jake Stevens in the first three rounds, but they also took Salty, Jo-Jo and Matt Harrison in the first three rounds.

Clark has reportedly done reasonably well in the new draft reality with his post-Atlanta teams. He was with the Nationals from 2010 to 2013 as Assistant GM, then joined the Dodgers front office last year.

While the drafts from his time with the Nationals have been decent, they have also had the benefit of high picks and the additional money that goes with those picks. He’s also had the benefit of an organization in Washington that has outspent Atlanta in the free agent market and the draft each of the last three years.

While some people have been disappointed by DeMacio’s drafts compared to those of Clark’s, the drafts of DeMacio did not have the extra picks in early rounds, late round draft-and-follows, or higher draft budgets that Clark enjoyed during the 2000′s in Atlanta.

We’ll soon find out what added elements Roy Clark can bring to the Braves drafting process, but don’t believe the narrative that he’s any better at his job than the guy he replaces.

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