Braves Sell High (Again)

by Keith Glab,
October 30, 2007

On Monday, the Atlanta Braves traded SS Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers for for RHP Jair Jurrjens and OF Gorkys Hernandez.

"The Tigers don't wait around for the winter meetings, when all the owners and agents get involved.  We got Sheffield early last year and now we got Renteria right away.  I think this was a good move because Renteria is a great player, who is a winner with a championship under his belt."

--Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez

We can file this quote under Why Players Don't Make Good General Managers.  While I-Rod lauds the Tigers for acting quickly, he should be chastising them for acting foolishly.

Jair Jurrjens ranked as the Tigers 3rd best prospect (73rd overall) in's 2007 Prospect Guide.  The undersized 21-year old had a 3.20 ERA in Double-A before making seven decent starts with the Tigers.  His fastball only resides in the low-90's, but his command and pitching acumen are ridiculously advanced for someone his age.  The Tigers may feel that they have a lot of pitching depth and could afford to give him up, but then why did they need him to make seven starts down the stretch as they competed for the AL Wild Card?

Moving Gorkys Hernadez made a little more sense for Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.  Detroit really is stacked in the outfield, and although this 19-year old ranked 7th in the Tigers' system (253rd overall) in the Prospect Guide, his OPS dipped to .735 in his first full professional season.  He did steal an incredible 54 bases this year at an 83% clip, and reportedly has a high power ceiling, but at least he's years away from reaching that potential.

The Braves have to be ecstatic about both acquisitions.  Jurrjens immediately becomes the third best starter in Atlanta, and adding to their outfield depth was paramount after losing Andruw Jones to free agency.  But the real steal of the trade is how little the Braves had to relinquish to acquire these prospects.

Renteria is 32 years old and coming off what the Tigers must believe to be a resurgent year.  His .332 batting average was a career-high, and his .390 OBP and .470 SLG were each the second best marks of his career.  You don't have to believe in PrOPS (Renteria outperformed his by 72 points in 2007) to realize that this was indeed a fluke season.  Renteria has only twice posted an OPS over .803, the other instance coming with the Cardinals in 2003.  He had a .375 batting average on balls he put in play and a .331 batting average with runners in scoring position, each of which are way out of line with anything Renteria had done in the three previous seasons. 

Of course, this is not a mere case of the Braves selling high; they also sold high to the highest bidder.  Dave Dombrowski watched a 22-year old Renteria win him a 1997 World Series title in the eleventh inning of Game Seven that year.  I bet if you were in Atlanta this past week, you could hear Dombrowski panting and clawing at new Braves GM Frank Wren's door, "Renteria! Yeah, yeah. Renteria!"

The Tigers were in the market for a shortstop once they concluded that Carlos Guillen wasn't cutting it defensively there.  The trouble is, Renteria hasn't been an above average defender in years, and really only poses an upgrade over Guillen by default.  His limited range will be partially masked because of the outstanding defenders on either side of him, but that is all the more reason for Detroit not to overspend on a shortstop.

Indeed, while Boston will pay a portion of Renteria's $9 million 2008 salary (along with the $3M buyout when the Tigers decline his $11M 2009 option), he's not likely to justify the portion that the Tigers need to pay, much less the loss of those two top prospects.  Meanwhile, the Braves have Yunel Escobar ready to outperform Renteria in every facet of the game and Brent Lillibridge, who the Braves snared from the Pirates organization when they sold high on Adam LaRoche last year, waiting in the wings in case he doesn't.

There may be a new GM in Atlanta, but it looks like business as usual down there.  The Tigers, meanwhile, may have been quick to act, but they are also on the fast track to the same three-year pattern begun on the South Side of Chicago in 2005.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at