Philadelphia Phillies: Don’t trade with the Atlanta Braves again, ever

(Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
(Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images) /

It makes sense that the Philadelphia Phillies don’t deal with the NL East rival Atlanta Braves all too frequently, and history suggests that they should just avoid it entirely.

To say nothing of the way that the Atlanta Braves poached pitching coach Rick Kranitz from the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2018 season, possibly by completely outsmarting them in the process, it seems like it’s in the Phils’ best interests to avoid any kind of trade talk with the Braves entirely. And that’s because their dealings with Atlanta never seem to work out in the Phillies’ favor.

Some research shows, perhaps shockingly, that the Phillies and Braves last consummated a deal on December 20, 2002. Since then, the Phillies have made trades with all 28 of the other teams in baseball, failing to make even a minor swap with their not-so-friendly rivals. What gives?

First off, it makes sense that two direct competitors aren’t burning up each other’s phone lines. Meanwhile, they tend to go elsewhere, like the Phillies have with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Phils and Jays have hooked up 15 times since the last Phils/Braves trade, most notably in the Roy Halladay deal. This computes, because they play in opposing leagues and only meet head-to-head for maybe one series every other year. There’s no real sense of rivalry there, Joe Carter and his garbage home run aside.

More from Philadelphia Phillies

But even the Yankees and Red Sox have completed a trade with each other more recently than the Phillies and Braves have. So you can’t slap a “never” label on things simply because you are big-time rivals. In fact, the Phillies recently broke a 17-year thaw with the Mets, making three trades with them over the last two years by taking Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Jason Vargas off New York’s hands. Those weren’t blockbusters, but at least they fulfilled the criteria.

When it comes to the Phils and Braves, it could be mostly due to the Phillies simply learning their lesson. To the Braves’ credit, they’ve made so many shrewd moves over the years, and you really can’t point to any trades being big mistakes or individual players fitting the bill of “the one who got away”. Case in point, that deal on December 20, 2002 between the Braves and Phillies was for Kevin Millwood.


On its face, it should have been a big-time win for the Phillies. They were acquiring a two-time 18-game winner who was a few days shy of his 28th birthday. Any team would seemingly love to add a pitcher like that, and it appeared that the Phils were really taking advantage of a Braves club looking to trim payroll.

But even though Millwood threw a no-hitter in his sixth start with the team, he still delivered a disappointing 4.01 ERA for the year in 2003. The Phils as a team finished third in the NL East that season, 15 games back of the 101-win Braves. Guess they didn’t need Millwood after all. The player the Braves got in return, catcher Johnny Estrada, didn’t contribute very much because he spent most of the year at AAA. But the following year, he became the Braves’ starting catcher and made the all-star team while Millwood put up a 4.85 ERA and looked way more out of shape than any 29-year old “athlete” had any right being. He left as a free agent after that year.

Prior to the Millwood deal, the last time the Phillies and Braves had swapped came in 2000, when the Phils unloaded huge disappointment Andy Ashby (I’ll get to him in a later article in my celebration of the 2000 Phillies). Ashby would, of course, pitch much better in Atlanta than he had in a Phillies uniform. In return, a somewhat promising Bruce Chen came to Philly, but he’d put up 31 lackluster starts over parts of two seasons before the Phils sent him packing to the Mets in the legendary Turk Wendell/Dennis Cook trade (which, coincidentally, stood as the most recent Phils/Mets deal for years until the one for Asdrubal Cabrera).

You have to go all the way back to 1992 to find the next most recent Phils/Braves deal before Ashby, and it was a minor one. But the teams did hook up a few years before that in 1990, with the Phillies acquiring 34-year old Dale Murphy. They didn’t know it fully at the time, but Murphy turned out to be a husk of his old self, and the former 2-time MVP hit just .249 with 27 home runs and 116 RBI in 228 games with the Phillies. To his credit, the classy Murphy at least had good things to say about his time in Philly, and the club did end up getting Tommy Greene from the Braves as the “player to be named later” in the deal. Still, it was much less of a result than the team was aiming for.

Next. For Alec Bohm, missed 2020 season would be a disaster. dark

So I don’t blame the Philadelphia Phillies if Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves’ front office isn’t at the top of the speed dial. It’s been a long time since the Phils have made a deal with Atlanta that’s ended up working out for them. And that’s due to the scarcity of these teams trading with each other, with some bad luck and decision-making thrown in. Or maybe the Braves just have a knack for always knowing when a player is completely used up. So I urge Matt Klentak to make as many calls as he needs to if he’s looking to make a trade, maybe as many as 28, before he punches in the “404” area code.