Remember last summer’s oddest trade? Let’s modify from Baseball-Reference:
July 30, 2015: Luis Avilan, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson, Jose Peraza and Alex Wood acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Zachary Bird (minors), Hector Olivera and Paco Rodriguez to the Atlanta Braves. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Victor Araujo (minors), Jeff Brigham (minors) and Kevin Guzman (minors) to the Miami Marlins. The Miami Marlins sent Mat Latos and Mike Morse to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Miami Marlins sent 2016 competitive balance round A pick to the Atlanta Braves.
There’s just so much happening there, and more importantly, so much of it looks different than it did at the time.
Latos looked like a good acquisition, and he was a disaster who was cut before the season ended. Johnson looked like a questionable acquisition, and he was a disaster, too. Wood seemed like a young controllable pitcher with talent, and now he may or may not even make the 2016 rotation. Peraza seemed like the cherry on top — I remember saying I’d have done the deal even without him — and now he’s a Red, traded as part of the package that returned Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas, and Trayce Thompson. Morse was immediately flipped for Jose Tabata, who never played for the Dodgers. Arroyo was an injured book balancer, who never threw a pitch for the Dodgers. Avilan was at least interesting in one way and should contribute in 2016. Rodriguez blew out his elbow and won’t pitch in 2016.
It was a really interesting, complicated trade, and the massive failures of Latos & Johnson make it difficult to evaluate objectively — well, that, and the fact that Olivera had been given $62.5 million to sign and was dealt after about three weeks of minor league play. One prominent local L.A. newspaper ludicrously called this among the worst deals in Dodger history, which is absurd on its face. You can argue now that the Dodgers didn’t get great value on this if you want, though I think it’s somewhat too soon to judge, and I lean towards it still having been worthwhile.
But something caught my eye on Braves.com about how Olivera is viewed there, in a mailbag with the question “Was that the worst trade the Braves made last year?”
Olivera was a heralded international free agent when he signed a six-year, $62.5 million deal (includes the $28 million signing bonus) with the Dodgers last year. But he played just 19 Minor League games (six at the Rookie level) before Los Angeles was willing to part ways with him.
Maybe Olivera’s great physical skills will help him take advantage of the chance to make necessary adjustments while experiencing his first full Spring Training this year. But accounting for the struggles the 30-year-old Cuban encountered in September and again during his abbreviated stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League, there’s reason to wonder if Olivera will make the many adjustments necessary to find success in the Majors.
Olivera hit .253/.310/.405 in 74 September plate appearances for the Braves, playing third base, but he’s apparently no longer viewed as a third baseman:
Left field and catcher were viewed as the main positional needs entering the offseason, a situation that’s changed a bit with the subsequent decision to move Hector Olivera from third base to left field. So far in the Puerto Rican winter league, he’s played only left field.
Olivera played the middle infield in Cuba, but he’s bigger, stronger, and soon to be 31, and the Braves played him at third base after getting him from the Dodgers in a blockbuster July trade.
That’s despite the fact that Atlanta has only journeyman Adonis Garcia to play third, and added Ender Inciarte to Nick Markakis, Michael Bourn, and Nick Swisher in the outfield. He’s 31 in April and there’s at least one roster projection site that doesn’t think he’ll make the Opening Day roster, though FanGraphs projects him to get nearly 500 plate appearances.
The point is not that Dodger fans should root for Olivera to fail because it’d make their end of the trade look better, because the Dodgers are still the team that gave Olivera all that money, and it sure wouldn’t look good to add him as another expensive Cuban bust on top of Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena. The point, really, is that this complicated and confusing trade doesn’t look any less complicated and confusing now.
The point is that to judge it as a success or a failure in either direction seems misguided. I’m not sure who the most valuable player included in this deal was in 2015, really. Avilan? Wood? I’m not sure who will be the most valuable in 2016. And I’m sure as hell not sure what this is going to look like two, three, four years from now. It was a weird trade that keeps getting weirder. Might be that neither side looks back on it as being either good nor bad. I’m also not sure that either side would undo it right now if they had the power to. If that’s not the mark of *shrug emoji* I’m not sure what is.