Leading from comments on the last post… In all of the trades which John Schuerholz has made, probably the one that seems most clearly indefensible was on March 27, 1997:
Traded Jermaine Dye and Jamie Walker to the Kansas City Royals. Received Keith Lockhart and Michael Tucker.
I am here to defend this trade. Not because it worked out, or because at the time they shouldn’t have known that there was a good chance that Dye would become a star… but because Dye probably wouldn’t have become a star if he had remained with the Braves.
The Braves at the time were having a lot of problems developing hitters, largely because their instructors had their heads up their collective asses. I’ve spoken about their poor drafting in this period before, but other than Andruw — who never listens to anyone, and therefore ignored the coaches who kept telling everyone to be more “aggressive” (that is, stupidly swing at everything) — the team wasn’t going to develop good hitters no matter who they drafted. The Braves thought guys like Wes Helms and Travis Wilson were going to be stars.
Jermaine Dye, in the Braves’ minors, was a high-average guy who hit a few homers with a lot of doubles, the sort of guy who was projectable as a good player, if not a star. He also had a low walk rate — not Francoeuresque, but low enough that he would struggle to put up a .340 OBP, and that pitchers wouldn’t throw him strikes if he didn’t learn to recognize them.
Today, the Braves seem to have learned that this is a problem. Back then, they did not. There are still a few rogue minor league instructors who are teaching “aggressiveness”, but at that time that was all there was. The Royals were not and are not a good organization, but they did manage to knock some of the “aggressiveness” out of him.
I should point out that Michael Tucker was a better hitter than Dye during the two seasons Tucker was a Brave. He wasn’t very good — average at best, below-average for a corner outfielder — but Dye was pretty terrible. I doubt he would have played any better in Atlanta, and unlike the Royals the Braves couldn’t afford to be patient. If he had stayed, I have no doubt that by 1998 I would have been calling for his head.
Actually, Lockhart was better for the Braves in those two seasons as well. It’s minor blasphemy now to say it, but Lockhart was a good bench player for the Braves in 1997, hitting .279/.337/.476 in 169 PA, and not too bad for a second baseman in 1998, .257/.311/.388 — an 83 OPS+ that was a lot better than Dye’s 56.
After that, the deal looks worse and worse — though Tucker was a principle in what I will continue to call the Remlinger trade — but in 1998, two years after the deal, it was not clear that it was a bad trade. I remember at the time saying that “People criticized the trade at the time, but it’s certainly worked out.”