What happened in Vegas certainly didn’t stay in Vegas.
Not this year. Not when Major League Baseball recently convened at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for the 2018 Baseball Winter Meetings, and media and fans joined the organizations to figure out what they’re up to next. It’s these “Hot Stove” winter months during which championships are won. That’s why we baseball fans care so much.
Just look at the Atlanta Braves. Their fans were thrilled with last season’s National League East championship, especially considering the four losing seasons that preceded it. So much of Atlanta’s roster from its 90-72 season came together during recent falls and winters.
Here are the top 5 Hot Stove moves that led to the Braves’ division championship:
5. Trading for Arodys Vizcaino on November 16, 2014
The hard-throwing right-handed bullpen closer has recorded 40 saves during the past three seasons since Atlanta sent second baseman Tommy La Stella to the Cubs for him. Although Vizcaino was injured for part of the division title season, he helped his team win it with 16 saves and a 2.11 ERA.
4. Trading for Sean Newcomb on November 12, 2015
Many Braves rightfully screamed bloody murder when the organization sent prized young shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Angels along with prospect Jose Briceno for pitching prospects Newcomb and Chris Ellis along with infielder Erick Aybar and cash. But fast-forward to 2018, when Newcomb developed into one of the team’s best starting pitchers. He came within one strike of a no-hitter against the Dodgers on July 29 and finished 12-9 in 30 starts with a 3.90 ERA.
3. Signing Nick Markakis on December 3, 2014
A curious signing at the time, as many wondered why a rebuilding franchise would give a steady but unspectacular veteran $44 million over four years in free agency. But after three years of steady play on a losing team, the quiet leader had his best season as a Brave, made his first All-Star team, won a Gold Glove and became a huge piece of the division championship. Markakis finished with 14 homers, 93 RBIs and hit .297. Again a free agent, he could be re-signed for 2019, but Atlanta is exploring its options.
2. Trading for Mike Foltynewicz on January 14, 2015
One of the first major moves of a rebuilding franchise brought the lanky redhead into the fold, and three years later he’d enjoy his breakout season and “ace” status for the playoff-bound Braves. “Folty” led Atlanta in wins (13) and strikeouts (202), produced a 2.85 ERA, and was on the mound for Game 1 of the Division Series against the Dodgers. He came to Atlanta from Houston along with fellow prospects Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman in return for catcher Evan Gattis and prospect James Hoyt.
1. Trading for Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson on December 9, 2015
Considered one of the most lopsided trades in recent MLB history, Atlanta’s starting center fielder and shortstop, respectively, were acquired along with pitching prospect Aaron Blair in return for pitcher Shelby Miller and minor leaguer Gabe Speier. The speedy, Gold Glove-winning Inciarte led the team with 28 stolen bases, scored 83 runs and drove in 61. Swanson, who missed the Division Series with an injury, nonetheless produced his best professional season in the field and at the plate, where he finished with 14 homers and 59 RBIs.
—Signing free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki on January 30, 2017
—Signing free agent catcher Tyler Flowers on December 16, 2015
—Trading for infielder Charlie Culberson on December 16, 2017
—Trading for pitcher Shane Carle on January 17, 2018
—Trading for pitcher Max Fried on December 19, 2014 H&A