Transaction Analysis: Chris Reitsma

Braves GM John Schuerholz pulled off his second trade in two days, sending pitchers <B>Bubba Nelson</B> and <B>Jung Bong</B> to the Cincinatti Reds in exchange for <B>Chris Reitsma</B>. BravesCenter Insider Andrew Bare analyzes the controversial trade.

Everyone jump on board the Johnba, the magical roller coaster of trades and signings! Feel your optimism surge as he steals Juan Cruz from the Cubs, only to have it sink down into the depths as he acquires a faceless middle reliever for the organization's best pitching prospect!

That designation was applied to Nelson, but it was more a matter of being next in line after Adam Wainwright was traded. Nelson is overrated as pitching prospects go; he's posted some shiny ERAs in the minors and has wicked stuff, but his peripherals at AA Greenville were pretty pedestrian: A strikeout rate below six and 45 walks in 119 innings don't inspire confidence. But the reality is irrelevant, bizarre though that may seem. A player's actual value doesn't really matter; what matters is what other GMs perceive him to be worth. Nelson is a touted prospected, possessed of mid-90s heat and a solid split-fingered fastball, and all he (plus Jung Bong) could bring in return was a 26 year-old middle reliever with middling stats? Reitsma isn't really a bad pitcher, and the Braves desperately need bullpen help. That, plus Nelson's iffy numbers, keeps this trade from being a total disaster. But just because Moscow wasn't Waterloo doesn't make Moscow any less galling.

Everyone agrees Reitsma has excellent stuff, and I'm sure we'll get to hear Joe Simpson and Don Sutton talking up Reitsma's change-up the whole year. That's fine and all, but shouldn't someone with that kind of stuff have a better career strikeout rate than 5.1 per nine innings? And shouldn't he allow fewer than the 14 homeruns in 84 innings Reitsma coughed up last year? Reitsma's going to be a decent pitcher out of the Braves' bullpen, but if the Braves are worse than the Phillies, they aren't one decent reliever worse.

Jung Bong is basically a B level prospect who has 57 innings in the big leagues. He's a lefty with good stuff, so he's a decent pick-up for Cincy.

Aside from the strict nature of this one trade, the deal represents the culmination of what seems to be an unfortunate trend developing within the Braves' front office.

Since August of 2003, John Schuerholtz has traded Matt Belisle, Jason Marquis, Adam Wainwright, Andy Pratt, Bubba Nelson and Jung Bong, cutting a wide swath through the Braves' celebrated pitching depth. Some of those trades are understandable; Marquis and Wainwright brought J.D. Drew, whose intriguing talent hold the key to the Braves' division hopes. And Pratt netted Juan Cruz, which is a solid plus in the Braves' column.

But picking up one young pitcher in exchange for six isn't a decent ratio, and when the other trades brought in the likes of Reitsma and Kent Mercker, it's not particularly acceptable. The Braves still have impressive depth, but much of it is now at A/AA. Juan Cruz and Trey Hodges are available to be the 6th and 7th starters, and that's not bad. But beyond that, there's not much until you get to Macay McBride in Greenville.

Trading Bong and Nelson shouldn't have been inconceivable. But with the Braves' decreased payroll they need to use those precious resources to acquire young, major league ready players. (For example, does anyone doubt that some combination of Bong/Wainwright/Nelson could have netted Adam Dunn?)

Chris Reitsma doesn't count.

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