Starting in (roughly) 2011, both the front offices of the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs began full-scale rebuilds of their respective organizations. The goal was simple: acquire young, impact, cost controlled talent at any cost.
After losing … badly … from 2011-2014, both the Astros and the Cubs made the postseason in 2015, and the Cubs famously won the World Series just one season later.
While a big part of both rebuilds centered around the draft (and playing bad enough to get high picks), an equally important, if not sometimes more impactful, piece was making trades. Acquiring impact prospects for proven, but aging/expensive Major Leaguers helped supplement both organizations and kick start the rebuild into full-speed.
Given the apparent success of both rebuilds then, other teams have begun to follow suit. Most recently, the Chicago White Sox began their rebuild by trading players like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, but before that there was the Atlanta Braves.
Starting in 2014, the Atlanta Braves began a full-on rebuild of their organization, and they relied upon trades (for prospects) as much as anybody. In fact, according to Zach Dillard (Fox Sports), the Braves have traded for as many as 15 first-round picks from 2014-2016.*
Take a look at each player the Braves have acquired from one of the first rounds of the past seven drafts (acquisition date in parenthesis) with their overall pick and draft year next to them:
- Tyler Jenkins (11/17/2014) – 50th, 2010
- Max Fried (12/19/2014) – 7th, 2012
- Jace Peterson (12/19/2014) – 58th, 2011
- Mike Foltynewicz (1/14/2015) – 19th, 2010
- Austin Riley (6/10/2015) – 41st, 2015
- Touki Toussaint (6/20/2015) – 16th, 2014
- Sean Newcomb (11/12/2015) – 15th, 2014
- Dansby Swanson (12/09/2015) – 1st, 2015
- Aaron Blair (12/09/2015) – 36th, 2013
- Jesse Biddle (4/19/2016) – 27th, 2011
- Jed Bradley (6/02/2016) – 15th 2011
- Joey Wentz (6/09/2016) – 40th, 2016
- Travis Demeritte (7/27/2016) – 30th, 2013
- Alex Jackson (11/28/2016) – 6th, 2014
- Luke Jackson (12/08/2016) – 45th, 2014
According to Dillard, the Braves made 54 trades since the end of the 2014 season, 10 of which involved 12 of the players listed above (one was acquired via the Rule 5 Draft and two others were taken when the Braves acquired two comp round A selections). You can read more about each player, their outlook, and how the Braves acquired each of them in Dillard’s article.
But that’s not even everyone the Braves targeted.
According to Braves GM John Coppolella, “There’s so many players we’ve asked for that we’ve been told no repeatedly that don’t come to light. We have asked about hundreds. Literally. We’ve been right there at the finish line and the rug gets pulled out from under you.” #AlltheFirstRounders
By acquiring these first-round talents this way, the Braves may have been able to bypass as much as $30 million in draft signing bonuses. Give them some credit for originality.
We’ll see how well their strategy works out in the long run, but you can’t ding them for not trying.
*Some of the players reference date back to the 2010 draft, but all acquisitions were made in the past two years.