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GM Hart happy to bring in a talent like Olivera

PHILADELPHIA -- When Hector Olivera stood as one of the most attractive Cuban free agents this past winter, he drew the attention of some Braves fans who hoped he'd end up with their club. But that interest paled in comparison to the attention he received once it was learned that the Braves had actually acquired him on Thursday at the expense of losing both Alex Wood and Jose Peraza.

The Braves sent Wood, Peraza, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan and Bronson Arroyo to the Dodgers in exchange for Olivera, left-handed reliever Paco Rodriguez, Minor League pitcher Zach Bird and the 34th selection in next year's Draft, a competitive balance draft pick the Dodgers acquired in this three-team deal that included the Marlins.

Many Braves fans questioned why the Braves would give up their top prospect (Peraza) and a proven starting pitcher (Wood) in exchange for a 30-year-old prospect (Olivera) who has played a total of 19 games at the professional level.

But the Braves viewed this as a sensible way to deal from a couple areas of strength (starting pitching and middle infielders) in order to satisfy the need they have to fill their future lineup with a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat.

"There's a lot to like about Wood and there's a lot to like about Peraza," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "Quite frankly, our people did not think that Jose was going to be ready to step in and play second base next year and that he needs some more development time."

Wood's velocity has dropped since he arrived at the Major League level just two years ago and there has long been concerns that his unorthodox delivery might lead to arm problems. But the highly-competitive southpaw has missed just one start because of injury over the past three seasons and more importantly, he has produced a 3.00 ERA through the 44 starts made dating back to the start of 2014.

Video: Braves land Olivera in 13-player, three-team trade

But in order to gain the bat they were seeking, the Braves felt they could deal from the starting pitching depth they have gained via various deals over the past eight months. In addition, they will have the financial means necessary to vie for top starting pitchers on this year's free-agent market.

Still, parting ways with a controllable, talented left-handed starter like Wood seemed to be even more surprising than the inclusion of Peraza, who has raised some questions as he has produced a .317 on-base percentage, drawn just 12 unintentional walks and compiled a .379 slugging percentage in 96 games with Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

Peraza's limited plate discipline and lack of power could simply be a product of where he is in his development. The 21-year-old middle infielder played just 44 games at Double-A Mississippi last year and was elevated to Triple-A at the start of this year.

The Braves do not believe Peraza will be Major League ready by the start of next season and thus opted to use him to gain the immediate benefit they could receive from Olivera, a power-hitter who has been compared to Travis Fryman and Scott Rolen.

In Olivera, the Braves believe they have gained the first of the big bats they want to add to their lineup before the end of next year. He has played just 19 games at the professional level in the United States. But the $7.6 million average annual salary he will receive over the next five seasons added to the attraction the Braves gained when they traveled to the Dominican Republic to scout him twice this past winter.

Though there have been some concerns about Olivera's right elbow, Hart said the Braves medical staff did a thorough review and did not find anything alarming. Once he overcomes a hamstring strain within the next week, he could soon thereafter conclude this season as Atlanta's third baseman.

"We feel like he is in his prime," Hart said of Olivera. "If this guy was on the open market, he'd be looking at least a five-year deal and it would certainly be a different set of economics."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for Listen to his podcast.
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