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)
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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