Braves’ Coppolella scrambling to make up for mistake of Olivera trade

Braves manager John Coppolella is trying to minimze the mistake made when he acquired Hector Olivera from Los Angeles. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

Braves manager John Coppolella is trying to minimze the mistake made when he acquired Hector Olivera from Los Angeles. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

The Braves just traded a player who is facing assault and battery charges on a woman, is coming off an 82-game suspension and is owed another $28.5 million over the next four years despite currently hitting .114 in Triple A.

So in some ways, this is almost as big as that time Danny Ferry got somebody to take on Joe Johnson’s contract.

Except that’s not quite what happened Saturday. The Braves’ deal to acquire Matt Kemp from San Diego for Hector Olivera is essentially general manager John Coppolella’s admission that he committed a major blunder acquiring Olivera from the Los Angeles Dodgers last year for Alex Wood and Jose Peraza. There were others in the Braves’ front office who were dubious of the deal at the time it was made and obviously were irritated when Olivera not only showed himself to be a mediocre hitter but was arrested early in the season on domestic violence charges.

Olivera’s arrest also alienated players in the clubhouse and he had acknowledged in an interview last Tuesday that he was going to have to make amends with them.

Coppolella essentially swapped one team’s problem for another — except that Kemp is an even more expensive mistake than Olivera. His salary is $21.5 million per year from 2017 to 2019 (the Padres will send the Braves $10.5 million in the trade). For all of his baggage, at least he can still produce runs: his 23 homers and 69 RBIs would lead the Braves this season. But that’s a huge financial commitment to make for an organization that has spent a lot of time cleaning up past payroll mistakes.

This is a case of Coppolella scrambling to try to fix a mess, and it’s difficult to say at this time whether this helps the Braves in the long term.

Back to Olivera. When I spoke to him early in the week, he said his suspension was “justified.”

“I made a mistake,” he said. “I’m serving my suspension. Now all I can do is grow from it, help out with community service and try to improve as a person.” (Note: Olivera’s next court appearance has been pushed back to Sept. 8)

For more from Olivera, click here.

I believe the Braves would’ve taken the PR hit and brought back Olivera if they were convinced he could hit. But all evidence has been to the contrary, and the pressure of playing in Atlanta given the circumstances would’ve only made it more difficult.

Kemp can still hit a little. But the Braves are paying a huge price to get rid of Olivera.

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60 comments
MikeBuglioli
MikeBuglioli

Coppacolla and Liberty and Hart have destroyed the Braves. One fix doesn't undue the 50 other mistakes. Liberty please sell the Braves to a local ownership group. Please.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Well, a breath of objective analysis. It's approaching two years now many in the press have been parroting the guilt trip the Braves organization has been trying to lay on many loyal fans for not fawning over their franchise re-boot that has been stuck on the blue screen of death for two seasons running.


Seriously, I hope Kemp comes in here, plays hard, and continues to produce like a 100-RBI man and lead by example. The Braves desperately need that kind of production in the lineup, even if it comes with defensive warts and costs them a few draft slots. Whether he ultimately stays or goes, spending at this level for a 100-RBI corner outfielder is not radically out of line with MLB reality in 2016, certainly not for an organization devoid of emerging power talent.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@DawgDadII BSoD.....Nice one!


Spending at this level not out of line with rest of MLB....But the Braves?  Shocking.

Ennis Del Mar
Ennis Del Mar

The best player in the organization is 16 years old,enough said.See you in 2022.

ccrider27
ccrider27

The Braves?


Does anybody even go to their games anymore?

DrTruth
DrTruth

@ccrider27 Believe it or not, the Braves are saying they've sold about 4,000 more tickets for tomorrow nights game since Kemp was acquired. Seriously.

tyger
tyger

Braves needed a pro...


And they got one...a real piece...

Not another "hold your breath" prospect...

Kemp accelerates rebuild...


Kemp's 23 HR, 69 RBI would...

Prolly have ATL in wild card race...



Atl Sports fan1
Atl Sports fan1

@tyger Also it did not cost the Braves a prospect plus it did not cost them a draft pick.  The Braves do not want to sign a free agent this offseason that will cost them a draft pick.  They are going to have a top 3 pick again and will be able to use extra money from that selection to apply to their 2nd round pick.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Atl Sports fan1  I know Coppy's been saying they didn't give up a prospect to get Kemp.  But it effectively cost them Alex Wood, Peraza (#1 prospect at the time) and a couple of relievers (Johnson, Avilan) to get Kemp.


Also, the Rangers got Lucroy + a reliever for a couple of AA prospects near the deadline today.  Not sure what Coppy was doing at the time.

DrTruth
DrTruth

Shall we play a game?  How about Name the Worst Deal?


Deal #1 - January 2011, the Atlanta Braves sign Dan Uggla to a 5-yr extension worth a total of $62 Million, which averages out to $12.4 Million per year.


Deal #2 - November 2012, the Atlanta Braves sign BJ Upton to a 5-yr, $75.25 Million deal.  This equals a $15.05 Million per year average salary.


Deal #3 - July 2016, the Atlanta Braves acquire Matt Kemp for the remainder of 2016 and 3 more seasons.  For 2017-2019, the Braves will pay Kemp $54 Million, which is an average salary of $18 Million per year.

Atl Sports fan1
Atl Sports fan1

@DrTruth #2 is worst.  BJ was so bad he cost us Kimbrel.  #1 is second.  5 years ended up being way to o long.  #3 is too early to say.  He did not cost us a draft pick or a prospect which is more important than what we are paying him.  18 million sounds like a lot but look at the current roster.  We have money to spend going forward and to spend it on Kemp and not give up anything is not a bad deal if Kemp continues to perform.

nick1234
nick1234

@DrTruth Except the Braves aren't paying 18 million per for Kemp. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DrTruth Those are not even the worst 3 deals in Atlanta Braves history 

#1 Len Barker for Brett Butler, Brook Jacoby and Rich Behenna.

#2 Tex for Elvis Andrus , Matt Harrison. Salty, and the kid who wound up being the closer in Texas .


#3 JD Drew for Adam Wainwright


And what is your Obsession with the Braves paying Matt Kemp $ 18 Million dollars a year, if he plays 140 Games a year and  hits 25 HR and Drives in 85-100 runs he will surpass the production of 2 years of Melvin Upton and 2 years of Uggla combined and the Braves were paying those two a combined $27 million a year.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Buschleaguer  Don't even remind me of the older bad trades.  My list wasn't really reflecting bad trades as much as big contracts that went bust (Uggla & BJ).  


As for the $18 Million/yr, it's a milestone in this franchise.  I mean really, how often is a Braves player even among the top 25 active MLB contracts?  It's a rare occurrence and the only reason they stumbled onto the list this time is dumping a worthless player!  It's good stuff!


The jury's out on Kemp.  I hope he does well.  I'm not as optimistic about him as you, but that's fine.  He may surprise everyone and put up career numbers here.  I'd be OK with that.

tmc
tmc

There are many Braves fans out there that knew the Olivera trade was bad at the time. When the team who way over paid for his services are willing to give up on that player with zero return in his play and trade for mediocre talent... a MAJOR red flag begins to wave. Braves gave away a 25 year old proven left handed starting pitcher for this bust. And young proven left handed starting pitchers don't grow on trees... even if you draft or trade for dozens.
Shame on everyone who ripped people who knew it was a bad trade at the time!

Atl Sports fan1
Atl Sports fan1

@tmc Sorry but the jury is still out on the trade.  Olivera who was the signature piece was a complete bust but he has now been flipped for Kemp.  Kemp may be terrible which would make the trade even worse or Kemp may be decent to good.  Time will tell.  We also got Paco Rodriguez in the deal who is out this year but may be a big part of the bullpen next year.  The draft pick we got was Joey Wentz who was one of the top prep pitchers in this years draft.  He may end up being a star or a bust.  Alex Wood has been hurt and Pereza hasn't proven anything yet.  It is way to early to declare a winner or loser of this trade. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@tmc Alex Wood has not exactly been a big contributor in LA, neither were Peraza, Avillan and Jim Johnson. Flipping Olivera for Kemp may salvage some value for the Braves in the trade but  the Dodgers were still the Biggest loser in the Olivera deal ,they paid out the original $30 million signing bonus for him.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Buschleaguer  Also cost the Dodgers $32 Million when they dumped Kemp on SD.....OUCH!

SebGuy
SebGuy

All I am going to say is that some of us remember that Bobby Cox assaulted his wife and kept his job and enjoys the respect of a lot of people now talking about Oliver's arrest without mentioning Cox's.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@SebGuy Hall of Fame Managers are hard to come by.....Cuban defectors are a dime a dozen.

RomanLegions
RomanLegions

Typical...But, I'm happy for Alex Wood...He may now earn a WS ring.  Something he would have never seen here.

jcarson
jcarson

Come on, Schultz.  You know good and well that this was a great deal for the Braves.  We are basically paying $8 mill per year for Kemp since Olivera (and his contract) would have never seen the field.  Excellent deal to give us some power (and some protection for Freeman) for the new few years while we rebuild. 

POV1948
POV1948

John Hart calls Kemp the first piece in the 2017 rebuild.  Is he kidding?  What is he trying to rebuild, the Braves of the late '80s?

DrTruth
DrTruth

@POV1948 This is what Mark Bradley said just yesterday:


"But I don’t think anyone in the Braves’ organization views him as a long-term answer. (If they do, they’re being fanciful.)"


How's that for funny?

POV1948
POV1948

@DrTruth @POV1948 This front office is making Frank Wren look good, quite a feat.  Flush the Johns.

PappyHappy
PappyHappy

The Braves front office is beginning to act more and more like our erstwhile politicians in Washington: 1) making commitments without the knowledge, experience or critical information to make informed decisions, 2) committing the team (country) to extravagant costs, 3) paying lavish amounts for total incompetence, and then 4) spending even more time and effort in attempting to unload their bad decision on someone else, or find someone else to blame for their malfeasance!

khd713
khd713

I am so tired of the news media trying to shift blame where it does not belong, and Jeff Schultz has always been one of the worst offenders. It's typical journalistic spin to start from a false premise and then pile on. The "mistake" here was not Coppolella's. The trade for Olivera made a lot of sense at the time. The Braves desperately needed a bat, and Olivera seemed to carry a lot of potential. You can quibble over the size of the contract, but, hey, it's baseball with no salary cap and it's only money so who cares how much they pay him? Olivera had no past criminal record, so how was Coppolella supposed to know that Olivera would beat up a woman in a hotel room? There was no way that Coppolella could have known what Olivera was about to do, so why is the entire episode being portrayed by Schultz as Coppy's mistake? If the incident had not occurred, Olivera would be in the starting lineup and would be, along with Freeman, one of the best hitters on this team. Does anyone deny that? Schultz tries to make you think Olivera would have hit .150 and been a terrible fielder, but anyone who knows anything about baseball could take one look at the guy and see he would have been one of, if not the best player on this team easily. So why was the trade a mistake? Schultz blaming the GM for a player's off-the-field actions is disingenuous spin and bogus journalism. People who live in glass houses . . .

khd713
khd713

@DrTruth @khd713 It was a bad result due to extenuating circumstances, but that doesn't mean it was a bad trade. I think Schultz and Coppolella are saying two different things. And FYI, the Kemp deal is not a double-down. We've gone from a $28.5 million obligation to a $25.5 million obligation, and picked up a player who will at least contribute something.

khd713
khd713

@DrTruth @khd713 I didn't say the obligation for Kemp is $28.5m. Don't put words in my mouth. Obviously you failed reading comprehension along with math! Unbelievable! What I said is that the Braves have gone from a $28.5m obligation to a $25.5m obligation by dumping Olivera and picking up Kemp. That's a fact. The net effect is $8.5 million per year. As I said about Schultz, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. That goes for you, too, bud. I can't believe you actually wrote what you just wrote. You look like a complete doofus. I've always thought Jeff Schultz would be the world's worst GM, but it's pretty clear you would be even worse.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@khd713: ". . . anyone who knows anything about baseball could take one look at the guy and see he would have been one of, if not the best player on this team easily."

__________________

Are you basing that assessment on his glittering .114 average in AAA ball?

DrTruth
DrTruth

@DawgNole  That single quote is the root cause of the Olivera mistake.

CoppySucks
CoppySucks

@DrTruth @khd713 Stop talking already dude. If you cannot see how BAD he screwed us! Woods finally coming back into form and lets seeeee hes what? 24 25? We dodged a bullet on Peraza, but even had we kept him hes not going to cost us whatever it is Kemps going to make. Swap for swap Id rather have a Kemp than a woman beater! He will be gone after next year anyway. No big secret there

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

I remembered when people in this blog were comparing HO to Scott Freaking Rolen.  I said that HO was going to be a bust and I was smoked by Coppy's apologists.  Now they are defending the "brilliance of this trade". 

DrTruth
DrTruth

@khd713 "So why was the trade a mistake?"

*  First, they chased a 30-yr old Cuban defector prospect who had never seen an MLB pitch.  That was a mistake.

*  "There were others in the Braves’ front office who were dubious of the deal at the time it was made..."  Not listening to them was a mistake.

*  A potential $28.5 Million mistake has now become a potential $60 Million mistake.  Kemp is a double-down on a bad bet higher risk bet.

*  GM John Coppolella candidly called the Olivera deal “a bad trade for us and one that I wish we had back” in a Twitter Q&A with fans last month...


When the guy who made the trade says a year later that it was "a bad trade for us", it doesn't make a lot of sense for a fan to try and argue that it was a good trade, amirite?

Braveschop
Braveschop

At least we didn't give out the huge signing bonus like the Dodgers did plus they are on the hook for some of Kemps salary for the remainder of the contract 

khd713
khd713

@DrTruth @Braveschop Yes, but they also erased $28.5 million that would have gone to Olivera, so the net is $8.5 million per year for Kemp. 

DrTruth
DrTruth

@khd713  If the Braves had never heard of Olivera and they went out yesterday and simply agreed to take Kemp from SD and pay $54 Million of his remaining 3 year contract, then how much would the Braves pay Kemp if he stays with them for the full 3 years remaining on his contract?


Solve that simple word problem and you'll discover the Braves are not paying Kemp $8.5 Million per year.  That is front office spin you just keep repeating.

Marcus Ridenour
Marcus Ridenour

This trade wasn't Coppys admission that trading for Olivera was a mistake. Coppys admission was when he admitted to the whole world that the trade was a mistake. This trade was just Coppy trying to make some lemonade.

Medawgu
Medawgu

The Cobb County Braves were most impressive last night when allowing 4 runs in an inning with the benefit of a hit............This is major league baseball? 

RonMexico
RonMexico

The fact that the Braves dumped Olivera's salary, plus got San Diego to contribute $10.5 million to the deal, means that we're only on the hook to pay Kemp about $8.5 million per season for the remainder of his contract. It's not ideal, and he probably won't produce anything close to justifying that salary, but it's not the catastrophe that Olivera was shaping up to be. 

We'll call this one Coppy's mulligan, even though he didn't really give up much to get Olivera in the first place. Wood is a #4 starter with a terrifying delivery that'll keep him injured more often than not. Jose Peraza is a light-hitting non-prospect who will play for six teams over the next five years before retiring as a journeyman. 

Jdub2500
Jdub2500

I think what he means is this:

They were on the hook for $28mil total with Olivera. So given that they were going to have to pay that anyway, they are only paying an additional $8.5mil a year to make the Olivera problem go away and add Kemp, who is past his prime but can still provide some offense to the worst hitting team in MLB.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Jdub2500 I know what he means.  It's the positive spin that's being put out there by the front office.  And you're both assuming the Braves would have to pay Olivera his $28.5 Million over the next 4 years.

You can't assume that because another team might have offered a better trade for him before Monday, although it's unlikely.  And if not, he "could" all of a sudden become a great player by spring training and the first month or two next season, increasing his trade value then.  (There's also chatter on the Padres boards that Olivera's contract is void if he does any time in prison, although I haven't confirmed that.)  So you can't assume events that haven't happened yet in the future.

What you can do is look at facts.  Fact one is Olivera and his contract no longer belong to the Braves.  Fact two is Matt Kemp and his contract do belong to the Braves.  There is only one result of this trade that now affects the Braves:


They now have Kemp under contract for the next 3 years.  They will be paying him $18 Million per year for those 3 years.  Unless the Braves move him before his contract here is up, the Braves will pay him $54 Million.


You're free to believe the + spin coming from the front office if you like.  But honestly, you'd have to be stupid to believe the Braves are "only on the hook to pay Kemp about $8.5 million per season for the remainder of his contract", when they actually just took on the $54 Million contract that walked through the door with Kemp.

They could've just kept Olivera in the minors to see if he ever improves and if not, just eat the $28.5 Million mistake.  Now Coppy has doubled-down and is risking a $54 Million mistake if Kemp's 0.2 WAR value doesn't improve significantly.

RonMexico
RonMexico

@DrTruth @Jdub2500 Gotcha. So, if DrTruth doesn't like the trade, the math doesn't matter; you're going to spin it however you want, regardless of the actual incoming and outgoing salary obligations. 

How about you just acknowledge that you were a) wrong about the facts and b) a total jerk. 

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

@DrTruth @RonMexico  I hope that Kemp bring his power bat along with his diminishing skills with him.  We got now two mummys on LF and RF .  Inciarte will need keep his quads and hammys nice and loose for the rest of the season.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@RonMexico  The Braves' actual outgoing salary obligation for taking on Matt Kemp's contract is:


$54 Million over 3 years, which is $18 Million per year.

If the Braves keep him for the full 3 years, that is how much they will pay him.  Why are you the only one here who doesn't understand that?

Let me make it easy for you.  You have a car that you hate, but you still owe $28,500 on it.  Your friend has a car that he hates and he still owes $54,000 on it.  You decide to switch cars and financial obligations.


You now drive your friends car.  Did your friend pay off $28,500 of the $54,000 he owed when he traded cars with you. No, he didn't.  You now drive his old car and if you keep it for 3 years, it will cost you $54,000 to pay it off.


If you still can't understand the Braves' financial commitment made yesterday when they took BOTH Kemp & his contract, then you should just stop posting.  You make yourself look stupid even without my help.