With less than two weeks before the August 31 waiver trade deadline, the Atlanta Braves seem likely to shop hard for improvements to their current roster. While the team can continue to add assets after the calendar switches to September, those players will be ineligible for any potential playoff roster. That increases the incentive to get a trade or, for that matter, a waiver pickup completed before the deadline reaches.
This is nothing new for the Braves, who last year completed the Sean Rodriguez trade after the non-waiver deadline of July 31 passed. Throughout their long history, Atlanta has made some big pickups in the month of August even when they didn’t look big at the time. Atlanta hero Francisco Cabrera was himself a waiver trade addition. Back in 1989, the Braves sent reliever Jim Acker to the Blue Jays for Cabrera and Tony Castillo.
That deal didn’t make my Top 10 August Additions list. Not because it didn’t pay off big for the Braves, but because I gave preference to the moves that brought immediate dividends first-and-foremost. After all, the current Braves team is looking for immediate value. Also, this list doesn’t care about what the Braves gave up to acquire these players. The focus is entirely on what the Braves got.
10. Ed Brandt, 1927
If you are looking for immediate value, it wouldn’t be found with this pick-up. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Brandt joined the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle Indians in 1924 as a 19-year-old. For three years, he rarely played before landing a starring role in 1927. He was credited with nineteen wins and limited the PCL to a 3.97 ERA over 261 innings before the Boston Braves purchased his contract. The left-hander wouldn’t pitch in ’27, but would become one of Boston’s regular hurlers over the next eight years. The first three years were ugly, but Big Ed finally matured into one of the game’s finer southpaw starters in 1931 with a 2.92 ERA. Over a four-year run, he carried a 3.23 ERA and 3.69 FIP over a thousand innings.
9. Jeff Reardon, 1992
When he was acquired by the Braves for pitchers Nate Minchey and Sean Ross, Reardon had just passed Rollie Fingers for the career saves record. He’d add a trio of saves over 14 games with the Braves that included a 1.15 ERA. However, his run with the Braves would be marred by Game 2 of the ’92 World Series. Reardon was handed a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning. After walking Derek Bell, he gave up a first-pitch two-run homer to Ed Sprague. Before that long ball, Atlanta was two outs away from a Two Games-To-None lead in the Fall Classic. Instead, they would lose three straight. After prolonging the series for a return to Atlanta in Game Six, they lost in extra innings.
8. Rudy Seanez, 2001
Three years before this move, Seanez had come out of nowhere to be a valuable member of the Braves bullpen. After leaving to return to the Padres in ’01, he struggled with his control before the Braves brought him back for Winston Abreu right before the August 31st deadline. In a dozen games, Seanez found the strike zone with regularity and was back to his old solid ways. He’d throw three more scoreless innings in the playoffs before leaving in the offseason. Seanez is the kind of move we see a lot in August. No-name middle relievers who pitch quality innings down the stretch.
7. Lew Burdette, 1951
Like the Brandt trade several years before, Burdette’s value would come in future seasons. On August 29 of 1951, the Braves sent former popular staple Johnny Sain to the Yankees for cash and Burdette. Selva Lewis Burdette would pitch just three times after the trade and spent most of the next two years as a swingman, but emerged in 1954 to form a formidable top of the rotation with Warren Spahn. Burdette’s best moments came in 1957 when he shut down the Yankees over three starts. He pitched every inning, including the final 25 without allowing a run.
6. Jaret Wright, 2003
While Wright’s follow-up season would be far more memorable, Wright’s run with the Braves started as a solid middle reliever. In eleven games, he K’d nine in nine innings. Wright threw four hitless innings in the playoffs against the Cubs, though the Braves would drop the NLDS in five games largely due to the incredible right arms of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Still, it was a great waiver pickup and the Braves had control of Wright for another season. In 2004, Wright would finish with a 3.28 ERA in 186.1 innings – the second most innings he’d ever throw in a single season. His performance landed him a big deal with the Yankees, but he’d quickly fade away.
5. Denny Neagle, 1996
The one true blockbuster August deal for the Braves. With Steve Avery beginning to decline and Jason Schmidt showing he wasn’t quite ready for prime time, the Braves tried to add depth to their impressive rotation with the acquisition of Neagle. It had taken Neagle a few years to “get it,” but he exploded in ’95 and was on his way to another solid campaign in ’96 before the Braves added him. He’d struggle over a half-dozen starts and was unremarkable in the postseason, but Neagle rebounded for two great seasons before he was dealt to the Reds.
4. Alejandro Pena, 1991
He rarely seemed to throw without pain, but Pena’s arrival in August of 1991 gave the Braves a stabilizing force in the late innings. He picked up eleven saves after the Braves sent Joe Roa and Tony Castillo to the Mets for him. Pena was perfect in four games against the Pirates in the NLCS, including three saves, but blew a save in the World Series and took the loss in Game 7. Brought back in 1992, his troublesome right shoulder led to the Reardon trade. Unlike everyone else on this list, Pena would come back to the Braves in a second August trade – this time in 1995. He’d work eight games in the playoffs that year, including taking a loss in Game 3 of the World Series.
3. Derrek Lee, 2010
His MVP-quality bat abandoned him in 2010, but Lee was reinvigorated after his August trade from the Cubs. Lee replaced an ailing Troy Glaus in the lineup and slashed .287/.384/.465 for a Braves club that lost Chipper Jones and Martin Prado before the playoffs even began. However, for all the good he provided down the stretch, his bat was non-existent in the playoffs. He managed two singles and a walk against the Giants in 17 PA as the Braves fell in four games.
2. Mike Devereaux, 1995
Devereaux went from a full-time performer to a backup role player with the Braves. However, some of his biggest individual accomplishments came with the Braves. He hit just .255 over 57 PA after the trade with a homer and two walks. In the NLDS, he hit just five times. In the NLCS, the Braves played the Reds, who used three left-hand starters (John Smiley, David Wells, and Pete Schourek). That prompted Bobby Cox to sit regular left fielder Ryan Klesko and start Devereaux. He’d respond with four hits, including a three-run homer in the clinching Game Four. Devereaux was awarded the NLCS MVP after the four-game sweep.
1. Julio Franco, 2001
The suddenly cash-strapped Braves searched everywhere for an answer to their first-base conundrum, where a mix of Rico Brogna, Wes Helms, and Ken Caminiti had failed to impress. Enter Franco, the ageless wonder who had one plate appearance in the bigs over the previous nearly four years. Plucked from the Mexican League, Franco hit .300/.376/.444 down the stretch and .291/.363/.424 over parts of six seasons total for the Braves. Not too shabby for the price of practically nothing.
Prefer another pick to mine? Let me know below.