Braves get Olivera in huge 3-team deal
Johnson, top prospect Peraza go to Dodgers in trade
PHILADELPHIA -- Though the Braves did not have the financial means necessary to compete for the six-year, $62.5 million deal the Dodgers provided Cuban free agent infielder Hector Olivera this past winter, they remained interested in him and ultimately got him at the expense of losing both Jose Peraza and Alex Wood.
With the three-team trade they completed with the Dodgers and Marlins on Thursday, the Braves received Olivera, left-handed reliever Paco Rodriguez, Minor League pitcher Zach Bird and the 2016 competitive balance Draft pick (No. 34 overall) the Dodgers received from the Marlins in exchange for Mat Latos and Michael Morse.
The Braves paid a hefty price as they sent Peraza, Wood, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan and Bronson Arroyo to the Dodgers. But Atlanta's president of baseball operations John Hart viewed this as an economical way to strengthen his future lineups with a potential impact bat that could provide Freddie Freeman the protection he has lacked this year.
"We look at this as the first building block to building the team," Hart said of Olivera. "We think this guy is versatile enough. He can play third, he can play second or he could play left field. But we just liked the bat and we felt this was going to be a good piece."
Because the Dodgers have already provided a $28.5 million signing bonus, the Braves will simply be responsible for the $32.5 million Olivera is owed from 2016-20. Atlanta also saved some money as the Dodgers are picking up an undisclosed portion of the approximate $7.6 million owed to Arroyo, who has been recovering from Tommy John surgery since the Braves acquired him from the D-backs in the Touki Toussaint deal a month ago.
Though the 30-year-old Olivera has played just 19 professional games, the Braves have seen enough of him in international play and during multiple workouts this past winter to believe it made much more sense to provide him an average annual salary of $6.5 million over the next five seasons than to pay the much more significant price that would have been required to land a proven bat via free agency or trade.
Olivera has batted .387 with a .968 OPS in 31 at-bats at Triple-A Oklahoma City this year. There was thought he would make his Major League debut with the Dodgers after the All-Star break, but he has been sidelined since June 13 with a hamstring injury. The Braves hope he starts a rehab stint by the end of next week and becomes Atlanta's everyday third baseman a short time later.
The Braves also believe they gained some value via the additional first round pick and Rodriguez, an effective left-handed specialist who recently had bone chips removed from his elbow. The Braves had some medical concerns about Rodriguez, but believe he will pitch again this year.
Peraza has been considered Atlanta's top prospect over the course of the past year, but the Braves gained some concerns about the speedy 21-year-old middle infielder as he batted .295 with a .319 on-base percentage and .380 slugging percentage through his first 95 games with Triple-A Gwinnett this year. His limited plate discipline and lack of power led the Braves to believe he will not be Major League ready next year.
Wood has posted a 3.09 ERA through his first 55 career starts. Though he struggled with his command during the early portion of this season, the highly-competitive left-hander has impressed during the two starts he has made since the All-Star break.
Johnson stood as the most attractive piece among the available veterans the Braves will attempt to trade before they become free agents this year. The veteran reliever has bounced back from an ugly 2014 season to produce a 2.25 ERA in 49 appearances this year.
Avilan proved to be one of Atlanta's top relievers in 2013 and then struggled most of last year. The left-handed reliever has produced a 3.58 ERA in 50 appearances this year.
"[The Dodgers] weren't looking to move Olivera at all," Hart said. "But I think as we walked through it and began to expand it over the last 48 to 72 hours, we felt there would be some legs to the deal."