In 2015, one of the crazier trades in baseball history was made. With all the moving parts in the trade —three teams, 13 players (seven MLB players and six prospects, one a Cuban signing of just months prior), a draft pick and a whole lot of money— it could safely be assumed this kind of blockbuster trade took place in the game-less nights of the off-season, perhaps even at the Winter Meetings.
However, this was indeed a trade deadline deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins.
Here’s the breakdown, in simplest form:
Mat Latos and Michael Morse from the Marlins
Alex Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan and prospect Jose Peraza from the Braves
Hector Olivera, Paco Rodriguez and minor leaguer Zachary Bird from the Dodgers
2016 Competitive Balance Round A pick from the Marlins
Minor leaguers Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham and Victor Araujo from the Dodgers
Before I get into the nitty gritty of this deal —which ties for the second-most players in a trade ever (18)— the (hor)crux of each team’s participation is pretty simple.
The Dodgers ate nearly $45 million in the trade to improve their annually contending roster. Small peanuts compared to the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett trade with Boston in 2012.
The Marlins shed a little over $14 million in the trade, dealing two veterans they only had for a handful of months. That’s what the Marlins do.
For the Braves, the deal was made to get Cuban star Hector Olivera. That meant surrendering top prospect Peraza and former second-round lefty Alex Wood.
So. Who won? Who lost? Who did neither and went the distance? Rocky Balboa, or Dodgers minor league catcher Rocky Gale?
They’re listed first, but they were not the prevailing winner or loser in this trade. As I said, this was yet another deal to save money. And they weren’t even owned by Derek Jeter yet!
Latos and Morse had barely been Marlins, the former acquired from the Cincinnati Reds the previous December and the latter signed in free agency three days later. Both were sent to the Dodgers for the three pitching prospects Guzman, Brigham and Araujo.
It wouldn’t be a Marlins trade if they didn’t include a draft pick, something not done lightly in baseball given the picks that are eligible to be traded. Under Loria, Miami was free-and-easy with dealing draft picks.
They traded a Competitive Balance Round A Pick in 2013 to the Tigers (would be Corey Knebel), did it again in 2014 to Pittsburgh (Connor Joe), again in 2015 to Houston (Daz Cameron), and in this three-team deal they also traded a competitive balance round pick to the Braves.
That pick, at 40th overall, turned out to be Joey Wentz. Obviously the Marlins could use that arm in their system, where he would be their top farmhand.
The deal was a financial victory for the fish, but an overall loss because of the draft pick and the little-to-none impact from the three pitchers received from L.A. In fact, only Brigham remains in affiliated ball. Guzman and Araujo last appeared in 2016.
That Marlins pick —and subsequently Wentz— went to the Braves. Thankfully for Atlanta, this deal was salvaged by the Marlins’ participation. Because things with the Dodgers have been nothing short of disastrous.
The Braves made this deal to acquire the Cuban Olivera. Signed to a six-year, $62.5 million deal by the very rich Dodgers not even four months prior, just before his 30th birthday, Atlanta instigated trade talks with the Dodgers the minute they were outbid.
After the trade, Olivera made his big league debut on September 1st and hit a home run six days in to his career. He played some third base and corner outfield while projecting as a mainstay in the heart of the Braves lineup for years to come.
Abruptly, it all went to hell. He was arrested after a domestic dispute on April 13, 2016, and suspended 82 games. Despite the investment, the Braves soon shipped him back west to the San Diego Padres in a deal for Matt Kemp. San Diego designated him for assignment upon completion of his suspension and after a stint in Independent ball, he is currently out of baseball.
The Braves also acquired major league relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez and minor league pitcher Zachary Bird in the trade. The 24-year old Rodriguez had a fantastic rookie year for the Dodgers in 2013, split time between Triple-A and the bigs in 2014, and had bone spur removal surgery in 2015.
After the trade, he underwent Tommy John surgery in September. He didn’t pitch in 2016 and the Braves released him —with options remaining— prior to the 2017 season. He caught on with the Orioles and started 2018 in Indy ball with Sugar Land before signing a minor league deal in Minnesota after just one appearance with the Skeeters.
Bird, 20 years young at the time of the deal, hadn’t done much and was definitely a project arm via the draft for the Dodgers and now via this trade for the Bravos. The 2012 ninth-rounder never gained any traction in the Braves system and was taken by the Texas Rangers in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. He hasn’t pitched since and owns a career minor league ERA of 5.21.
The boys in blue definitely won this trade, which is why they’re getting credit for over half of this essay. And they won it because of one player.
But not this one. Mat Latos entered a contending team’s rotation and was, well, turrible. He struggled previously in Miami, and after the trade, was horrendous with the Dodgers. In five starts and a relief outing for L.A., he gave up as many earned runs as he had strikeouts.
Gone just as he came —the Dodgers worried not over paying for him to not pitch for them— he signed for the small remainder of 2015 with the in-town Angels. He struggled. In 2016, he pitched a little with the White Sox. He struggled again. He then went on to throw a bit for the Nationals. He was almost as bad as he was with the Dodgers. In 2017, he briefly contributed to the Toronto Blue Jays cause. He was worse than he was with the Nationals.
Nowadays, Latos is throwing baseballs for the New Jersey Jackals of the Canadian American League and made recent headlines with a ferocious body slam. I’m serious.
The other veteran the Dodgers snagged from the Marlins was notoriously nice man Mike Morse. Morse will always be known for his three-year period with the Nationals from 2010-2012 when he was phenomenal. He even finished 19th in MVP voting in 2011.
He also helped the San Francisco Giants win their third ring in five years in 2014, but has struggled to stay relevant outside of those four seasons. He was irrelevant to the Dodgers, as they dealt him a day after the 13-player trade to the Pirates for Jose “Cuna” Tabata.
From the Braves came two bullpen arms that were dominating in Atlanta upon arrival.
Jim Johnson was an all-star closer, top 10 Cy Young contender and top 15 MVP vote recipient with the Orioles in 2013. He was just as good, minus the accolades, in 2014. From there he went to Oakland, then Detroit and signed with the Braves prior to the 2015 season.
He worked as a closer in Atlanta, saving nine games. The Dodgers had a closer, and even a setup man. They wanted the bullpen depth and they got...disappointment.
After bounce-back numbers with the Braves following tumultuous results with the A’s and Tigers, he reverted to his struggles with the Dodgers. Like Latos, it was an unsuccessful rental.
Johnson threw 18.2 innings for L.A., ending up with an ERA over 10. Yikes. He went back to the Braves for 2016 (a great year) and 2017 (not) and is with the Angels this season (having a good year).
Luis Avilan, a lefty specialist and the other bullpen arm Los Angeles got from Atlanta, has been the third-best value in this deal. (Which says all it intends to.) Acquired at age 25, he pitched with the Dodgers until last season. Before signing with the White Sox, he gave the Dodgers a valuable farewell.
It was rocky roads upon arrival, as it was with the other MLB players traded to Los Angeles. Avilan was a lesser known commodity than both Latos and Johnson, but came over with expectations fueled by two very impressive seasons in the majors to start his career back in 2012 and 2013.
Albeit without instant gratification (the left-hander posted a 5.12 ERA in his Dodger half of 2015), Avilan eased his way into the Dodgers bullpen in 2016 before becoming a mainstay in 2017. That season, he supplied 46 innings out of the pen with a 2.93 ERA. Walks were an issue, but he was steady in a bullpen constantly looking for arms.
The last of the veterans the Dodgers received was pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo was never going to pitch as a Dodger, acquired in the midst of Tommy John surgery recovery.
He never pitched as a Brave, either. Atlanta acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks as an injured player, also receiving the previous year’s 16th overall pick, minor league pitcher Touki Toussaint, from the D-Backs. They essentially bought Toussaint with Arroyo’s salary.
The Dodgers paid $500K of Arroyo’s remaining $8 million, biting a small bullet in their eyes. He became a free agent that fall and signed with the Nationals for 2016, but didn’t pitch. He did pitch in 2017, going back to his 2006 all-star home of Cincinnati (whom are basically the adopted fourth team of this trade) and pitching 71 innings before calling it a career.
Jose Peraza was the “top prospect” in this trade. Most trades have one. This one had just about everything, including a player fitting that bill.
Signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2010, the middle-infielder and center fielder began life as a highly touted prospect in 2014. In 2015, he was ranked 43rd by John. His involvement in the deal was certainly the biggest surprise, especially considering the return Atlanta netted.
He made his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2015, but was traded to the Reds in the off-season as part of a three-team trade that returned Frankie Montas and Trayce Thompson to Los Angeles.
Peraza split time between second base, shortstop and center in 2016 for the Reds, all the while putting together a fantastic rookie season where he hit .324 with 78 hits in 72 games. He also stole 21 bases, and stole 23 in 2017 while primarily playing infield after the arrival of Billy Hamilton.
He had another solid season, but took a step back and walked just 20 times in 143 games. This season, he has settled in as the Reds’ everyday shortstop (sans one right field start), but his above-average numbers may not be enough to hold off the combination of Eugenio Suarez, who the Reds extended long-term, and top prospect Nick Senzel.
The final piece of this massive puzzle is starting pitcher Alex Wood. Wood was drafted 85th overall in 2012, three picks after Paco Rodriguez, who passed him by as they journeyed cross-country.
Wood was a high draft pick by the Braves, but never really a top prospect. However, he was a tested major league performer. Even still, for all of the moving parts in the trade, top prospect Jose Peraza was considered far more valuable long-term. But it’s Wood who has stood the test of time.
The University of Georgia product had an excellent rookie year staying local with the Braves in 2013. In 2014, he was dominant to the tune of a 2.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 170:45 K:BB ratio in 171.2 innings. All this as a 23-year old.
He was great again in 2015 in his Braves first-half of the year. Nevertheless, he was traded west. After arriving in Los Angeles, he started 12 games for the Dodgers and accumulated an ERA over four for the first time in his career.
An elbow injury bit into his 2016 season, but Wood was already a Tommy John victim in high school. Nowadays, that is something that works to the benefit of young pro pitchers. (And speaks to the outrageous usage of young arms in prep ball.)
2017 was his first all-star season and he became a mainstay in one of baseball’s best rotations. Following Clayton Kershaw, Wood led the league in winning percentage, going 16-3 in 25 starts. He also posted a career-best 2.72 ERA and microscopic 1.06 WHIP in just over 152 innings.
Finishing tied for ninth in the Cy Young award race (seven spots behind teammate Kershaw), Wood went from making the Dodgers a winner out of one of the league’s biggest trades ever, to deeming it no contest.
Dodgers win. I’m out of breath.