MIAMI -- The Braves created a stir early Sunday evening when they traded All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres in exchange for two veteran outfielders -- Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin. Atlanta also acquired two highly regarded prospects -- right-handed pitcher Matt Wisler and outfielder Jordan Paroubeck -- and the 41st overall selection in this year's First-Year Player Draft.
After playing coy over the past few months, Braves president of baseball operations John Hart finally proved he was indeed willing to trade Kimbrel for the right offer. The Padres provided an offer the Braves could not refuse when they agreed to pay all of the $46.3 million owed to Upton over the next three years.
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"We just felt it was the right time and the right piece for us," Hart said. "We were able to accomplish a lot of things within this. Certainly, we lost Craig Kimbrel. But at the same point, we freed up some financial flexibility and I think, again, what we do with that financial flexibility remains to be determined. But I think it's going to be something where we'll be aggressive in our approach."
Hart has been very aggressive as he has made a flurry of significant deals since assuming his role in October. But while there was at least some expectation that Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis would all be traded this past offseason, there was no clear indication that the Braves were willing to deal Kimbrel, despite the argument his role as a closer was devalued on a team that has an uphill climb if it hopes to contend for the postseason.
This deal quickly developed when the Padres called late last week and said they wanted Kimbrel bad enough to eat the remainder of the money owed to Upton, who has batted .198 with 21 homers and a .593 OPS (lowest among all Major Leaguers with at least 1,000 plate appearances) since signing a five-year, $75.25 million deal with Atlanta before the 2013 season.
"Obviously, this was a very difficult trade to make," Hart said. "I've been in this game for a long, long time and you've got your personal hat that you wear. You love players and you love what they do on the field. You respect what they do off the field and who they are. You also have to take the personal hat off and you put on your professional hat and do what is ultimately best for your organization and your future."
In exchange for Kimbrel, who has produced a 1.51 ERA while compiling a Braves-record 185 saves over the past four seasons, the Braves gained two prospects, at least one outfielder (Maybin) who might provide immediate value, another valuable Draft pick and most importantly the financial relief that seemed improbable when teams repeatedly passed on Upton this past winter.
"We had high hopes for B.J," Hart said. "This is a guy that came over and worked hard this winter. But I think it was just something that wasn't working here. Obviously, maybe it could have. I don't have a crystal ball. I don't have any idea what is going to happen in the future. We wish B.J. the best as he moves forward."
Like Upton in Atlanta, Maybin and Quentin struggled over the past few seasons and became strains on San Diego's payroll. In fact, the Braves are strongly considering the possibility of designating Quentin for assignment with the hope he will be attractive to an American League club.
In exchange for relieving themselves of the money owed to Upton, the Braves agreed to pay the $11 million (includes $3 million buyout for 2016) owed to Quentin and the $16 million Maybin is owed over the course of the next two seasons.
Once considered one of the game's best prospects, Maybin has batted .246 with a .665 OPS since joining the Padres in 2011. The Braves hope he provides value as a right-handed complement to Eric Young Jr. in center field.
Wisler was ranked as San Diego's fourth-best prospect by MLBPipeline.com The 22-year-old right-hander posted a 4.42 ERA and recorded 136 strikeouts in the 146 2/3 innings he compiled for Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso last year.
Paroubeck made his professional debut last year, batting .286 with an .803 OPS in 34 games at the Rookie-level. The 20-year-old switch-hitting outfielder was selected in the second round of the 2013 Draft.