This trade was a mess from the beginning. And after almost a year and a half since, time has not been kind to the evaluation. There’s the potential the trade could end up looking a little better, but that would be damning it with faint praise. It was a complicated trade that required a third team to get involved, and it included prospects, established players, draft picks, and salary dumps. It was really a trade that should have never been made, and Coppy is on record saying he regrets the trade. The premise of the trade was that Atlanta sent money (Bronson Arroyo’s contract), two good relievers (Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan), a talented prospect (Jose Peraza), and an established lefty starting pitcher (Alex Wood) for a 30-year old Cuban prospect (Hector Olivera), young lefty prospect (Paco Rodriguez), a 2016 first round pick, and a filler prospect (Zach Bird). Including the Marlins’ role in the trade is largely irrelevant to our discussion, so we’ll skip it.
The centerpiece of the deal was Hector Olivera, a heralded Cuban defector whom the Dodgers acquired for $62.5M. He was considered to have slightly above average power and speed, and appeared steady at second and had the arm for third. The Braves and Padres were also interested in Olivera, and it was believed he’d be quick to the major leagues and ready to be an above-average contributor. With that said, he had previously struggled with a blood disorder, minor UCL tear, and was never really projected to be an elite player. The interest in him was confusing, and with the Braves having even more time than the Dodgers to scout him, it’s further puzzling why the Braves were so interested in him.
Olivera’s time in Atlanta was a disaster. He had a respectable .253/.310/.405 line in his first major league action, but the Braves determined he couldn’t handle third base (further diluting his value), and decided to start him in left field to begin 2016. But to further guarantee that he would be considered a huge bust, he was suspended 6 games into the season after assaulting a woman. The Braves were able to basically hide his sunk cost by “trading” him to San Diego for Matt Kemp, but the Braves ultimately ate every ill-advised penny they gave to Olivera. You either have to say that they ate Olivera’s salary, and got Kemp at a “discounted” rate, or they paid Kemp’s full salary, but they can’t have it both ways by saying San Diego “took” Olivera’s salary and got Kemp at a “discount” which is sadly what we’re being told. Considering the failure of Dian Toscano as well, the Braves had a blind spot with Cuban players. The Braves, it appears, relied heavily on the character assessment of Fredi Gonzalez, and perhaps this further contributed to Fredi falling out of favor with the club.
As mentioned, we didn’t just receive Olivera, but the lefty prospect (Rodriguez) still has not pitched for Atlanta after having Tommy John surgery. The pick, however, did yield our current #11 prospect according to John Sickels, Austin Riley. If Paco Rodriguez can have success in Atlanta, and Riley continues to develop, then it softens the blow of Olivera’s failure, but what we gave up may cause this trade to only appear one-sided.
Alex Wood was a big part of what we gave up. A lefty out of the University of Georgia, Wood started his career as a successful swing man, but had been a full-time starter for over a year with success. He was also only 24, but to be fair, his low strike out totals and herky-jerky delivery made some concern that he would not continue his success. He was injured in 2016, so he’s only made 22 starts for the Dodgers since the trade.
Peraza was once our #1 prospect, but the Braves appear to have been comfortable trading him with the emergence of Ozzie Albies (Dansby Swanson had not yet been acquired). There were concerns over Peraza’s hit tool and plate discipline, but if he could stick at shortstop, there was no concern that he’d be an above average regular. After an underwhelming but short stint with LA (.182/.250/.318 in 25 PAs), he was packaged in another three-team trade that sent him to Cincinnati. Splitting time across CF, SS, 2B, and LF, Peraza put up a strong .324/.352/.411 line in 256 PAs as a 22-year old. He seems to be the prospect we thought we were giving up: a good one.
The two relievers struggled with LA, inexplicably, but Johnson returned to Atlanta to have a strong season, and when healthy, Avilan recovered in 2016.
At the end of the day, Coppy took a huge risk in acquiring Olivera and it backfired very, very badly. Coppy’s legacy doesn’t completely hang on this trade because of his other successes in almost all facets of player acquisitions, but this trade was so, so bad. What did they ever see in Olivera in the first place?