Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trade Retrospective: The Jermaine Dye Trade

A few months ago, I took a look back at the trade that sent Jair Jurrjens to the Braves and Edgar Renteria to the Tigers. The idea is that a trade goes beyond just what the guy does in that year or the next. Today, let's take a look back at one of John Schuerholz's more controversial deals.

March 27, 1997
The Atlanta Braves trade P Jaime Walker and OF Jermaine Dye to the Kansas City Royals for 2B Keith Lockhart and OF Michael Tucker.

In the wake of the trade that brought Kenny Lofton to the Braves, Atlanta announced a head-scratcher that sent Jermaine Dye to the Kansas City Royals along with lefty Jaime Walker for a pair of left-handed hitters, Lockhart and Tucker. Dye had arrived in the majors the previous season as the replacement to an injured David Justice. He hit .281/.304/.459 with 12 HR in a shade over 300 plate appearances. It wasn't too surprising considering Dye was a Top 30 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America heading into 1996. When Justice was traded, it looked like the Braves would leave right field open for Dye, but that did not last too long.

When people remember this deal, they hardly ever recall Walker. They might, like me, think "wasn't there a random reliever in the deal, too?" A few months before this trade, Atlanta had picked up the southpaw in the Rule 5 draft from the Astros organization.

As for the package coming to Atlanta, Lockhart was a three year veteran after arriving in the bigs in 1994 with the Padres. He had landed in Kansas City and over two years, had hit .291/.33/.437 in 700 AB. Not too shabby. He even stole eleven bases in 1996, one more base than he would swipe in six long years with the Braves. Tucker was the tenth overall pick of the 1992 draft out of Longwood and had arrived in the majors in 1995. In 170 games and nearly 600 trips to the plate, Tucker was slashing .260/.341/.422. While we bemoan this deal, those looked like pretty good numbers coming back to the Braves.

Lockhart represented an alternative to Mark Lemke and Tony Graffanino while Tucker would be asked to be a primary option against right-handed pitching for the Braves. Tucker would notably pick up the first HR and RBI at Turner Field on April 4, 1997 against the Cubs.

First Level Analysis
Atlanta Kansas City
Lockhart +1.6 WAR Dye +3.6 WAR
Tucker +3.6 WAR Walker -0.5 WAR
First Level: If we look specifically at those traded in this deal, the Braves don't come out of it looking too bad. Lockhart spent six years in Atlanta, though the last two were negative WAR years. Tucker spent just two years in Atlanta, but his first year was a 3 WAR campaign. Again, not too shabby. On the other hand, it took Dye three years until he finally found his bat in Kansas City. He would be traded during his fourth year. Walker lasted two pretty ugly years in Kansas City where he appeared in 56 games and 2 starts. The Royals cut him in 2000. Two years later, he landed in Detroit for several years as a LOOGY.

Second Level Analysis
Atlanta Kansas City
Bret Boone -0.2 WAR Neifi Perez -3.2 WAR
Mike Remlinger +5.0 WAR /
Second Level: This trade is actually looking pretty good now. The Royals essentially found a way to turn Tucker and Lockhart into Perez, who was an utter failure in Kansas City. I'm astonished that the Royals didn't make the playoffs for such a long period. Meanwhile, the Braves packaged Tucker in a trade with Denny Neagle and Rob Bell to get Boone, who sucked, and Remmy, who was superb over a four year run as one of the best relievers in baseball.

Third Level Analysis
Atlanta Kansas City
Wally Joyner +0.2 WAR /
Reggie Sanders +0.2 WAR /
Quilvio Veras +3.8 WAR /
Third Level: Atlanta continues to benefit from the Dye trade. Boone, who Tucker helped acquire, was packaged in a trade with Ryan Klesko to get Joyner, Sanders, and Veras. While this trade ultimately made the Braves look bad as Klesko finally got a chance to show what he could do if he wasn't limited by platoon, it still helps the Braves in the sense of Dye's trade. Joyner and Sanders each spent one year with the Braves and while Sanders was disappointing, he still provided good defense. Veras had a monster first year before an injury set him back. That would repeat itself the following year as well.

Final Analysis: The Atlanta Braves won every level of this trade and ultimately amassed 14.2 WAR while the Royals ended up in the negative (-0.1 WAR). Of course, if you include other trades like the Padres one where Klesko alone accounted for 16.6 WAR as a Padre, that certainly doesn't look good, but that gets away from analyzing the original deal. In those terms, the Braves easily win this trade.

That said, Braves fans may naturally wonder just how good Dye would have been in Atlanta away from the neverending losing effort in KC at the time.

2 comments:

  1. I didn't go the extra mile on this trade. You could add Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jo-Jo Reyes to the third level as both were chosen with the compensation draft picks for Remlinger. Further, you could add a Fourth level for Teixeira and Ron Mahay, who Salty notably was traded for, and also for Reyes, Tim Collins/Alex Gonzalez/Pastornicky as all three were in the Escobar trade with JoJo. OH, and we're still now done. A Fifth level could be added for Kotchman, who the Braves traded Teix for, and Ankiel/Farnsworth, who Collins was packaged in a deal for. AND A SIXTH LEVEL could finally be added for Adam LaRoche, who Kotchman was traded for.

    But I didn't want to get tooooooooo crazy.

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  2. The Jermaine Dye trade is one of, and perhaps the worst trade that JS made in his time as Atlanta GM. I was a huge David Justice fan during his time in Atlanta, and I was obviously saddened by his departure, but losing Justice to acquire what was at the time, the best leadoff hitter in the game in Kenny Lofton was a deal that appeared to benefit both sides, at least before Lofton jettisoned back to Cleveland after only one season in Atlanta. I could take losing my favorite player, because of the rising star that was Jermaine Dye, who was quickly becoming my new favorite. So naturally, you can see how I would have been even more disappointed when the Braves quickly shipped Dye off to KC for Lockhart and Tucker. Part of the justification for the deal was likely due to the ascension on Andruw Jones, and also to the high-ceiling and left-handed bat of Michael Tucker, but I believe that had the Braves kept Dye, and had he stayed on the same course throughout his career, it would have eliminated the need for the Braves to rotate through RF's during the late 90's and early 2000's. Yes, that means we would have missed the heroics of Brian Jordan in the first half of '99 and September 2001, as well as the two great years of Gary Sheffield, and the near MVP season of J.D. Drew in 2004. But most importantly, the Braves would have never had to acquire J.D. Drew from St. Louis and give up on the young pitching prospect named Adam Wainwright. Ergo, the Braves RF carousel would have never existed with Dye manning RF from 1996-2005, and the Braves could have kept a consensual ace in Adam Wainwright in Atlanta to have been neatly groomed by an aging John Smoltz and Greg Maddux. Smoltz, Wainwright and Hudson could have dominated during the mid-2000's and possibly given Atlanta another World Series appearance post-1999.

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