The writing had been on the wall for months. The Atlanta Braves, frustrated after a second-half collapse sent them spiraling out of playoff contention in 2014, were rebuilding. Gone were cornerstone outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, and the same went for catcher Evan Gattis.     

With the team clearly in the midst of a rebuild, many wondered if closer Craig Kimbrel, whose skill set does not make all that much sense on a team destined to lose a bunch of games, would be next. The Braves answered that question Monday, sending the All-Star closer and Melvin Upton Jr. to the San Diego Padres for outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, prospects Matt Wisler and Jordan Paroubeck and the No. 41 pick in the 2015 draft, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart commented on the move on Monday, per Mark Bowman of 

We just felt it was the right time and the right piece for us. We were able to accomplish a lot of things within this. Certainly, we lost Craig Kimbrel. But at the same point, we freed up some financial flexibility and I think, again, what we do with that financial flexibility remains to be determined. But I think it’s going to be something where we’ll be aggressive in our approach.

Hart, 66, took over Atlanta’s baseball operations this offseason following the departure of general manager Frank Wren. The former Indians and Rangers boss has put his own controversial stamp on the organization from the outset. 

His jettisoning of Upton, Heyward and Gattis, all offensive stars still well in their prime, drew a ton of outside criticism. The subsequent signing of veteran Nick Markakis also confused many given his age (31) and the unlikelihood of the Braves competing anytime soon. The clincher for the Braves in this deal was moving Upton, who has $46.3 million remaining on his contract.

“We had high hopes for B.J,” Hart said. “This is a guy that came over and worked hard this winter. But I think it was just something that wasn’t working here. Obviously, maybe it could have. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t have any idea what is going to happen in the future. We wish B.J. the best as he moves forward.”

Add in the trade for Kimbrel, and suddenly the cupboard looks awfully bare next to foundational stars Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons.     

Hart has a solid enough resume for fans to give him time, but it’ll be interesting to see how much patience they have amid what should be a difficult 2015.  


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