Posted by Andy on November 16, 2010
In 1987, the Atlanta Braves made two transactions involving Doyle Alexander:
- May 5, 1987: Signed as a Free Agent with the Atlanta Braves.
- August 12, 1987: Traded by the Atlanta Braves to the Detroit Tigers for John Smoltz.
After pitching the Braves in 1986, Alexander was a free agent in the beginning in 1987. After going 12-13 in the first 25 games, the Braves re-signed him and added him to the roster.
Alexander pitched pretty well for the Braves, registering a 105 ERA+ over 117.2 innings. The Braves turned out to be a pretty bad team that year and Alexander went just 5-10 with them. As the trading deadline neared, the second-place Detroit Tigers traded for Alexander, sending a minor league pitcher named John Smoltz to the Braves in exchange.
Alexander was cash money for the Tigers, going 9-0 in 11 starts with a 279 ERA+. He earned a WAR of 3.9 with Detroit alone in 1987, and the Tigers beat the Blue Jays in a dogfight for the AL East by 2 games.
So, let's say the Braves had refused to pull the trigger on the deal, figuring that Alexander was on of their better pitchers and they were better off keeping him. What if the trade had never happened? What might have been different?
It's a pretty good bet to think that the Tigers wouldn't have won the AL East that year and the Blue Jays instead would have made the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. Would the Jays have knocked off the Twins for the AL crown?
If Smoltz had remained Tigers property, would he have developed into the same pitcher he did with the Braves? Smoltz started off fairly roughly in 1988 with the Braves. Many folks credit Leo Mazzone for turning Smoltz around at the major-league level. How would Smoltz have done still in the Tigers system?
In actual history, after the Tigers made the playoffs in 1987, they didn't make it back until 2006, when they lost the World Series. Maybe instead with Smoltz in the rotation they make it in 1988 or 1991, when they were a decent team.
If Smoltz doesn't go to the Braves, then maybe Maddux never signs there as a free agent. Maybe Glavine doesn't turn out to be the same guy. Maybe the Braves never win a single division championship.
What do you think?