Throughout July we're going to present 30 deals in 30 days: the best trade deadline deal ever made by each team. We've covered the AL East so far and are now on the NL East.
THE TEAM: Atlanta Braves
THE YEAR: 1993
THE SITUATION: At the beginning of the day on July 18, 1993, the Braves were nine games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West (yes, the West). Atlanta was trying to defend its back-to-back NL pennants and return to the World Series at a time when there was no reward for a team finishing second. San Fran had the best record in baseball, an amazing 61-31, and was the toast of baseball, enjoying a renaissance in the first year of its prized free-agent signing, Barry Bonds. An aging Sid Bream, less than a year removed from "the slide," was putting up paltry numbers as Atlanta's everyday first baseman (.227/.302/.389).
THE TRADE: The Padres were firmly out of the race, and looking to deal and dump salary (they had traded Gary Sheffield in June). Fred McGriff was as consistent a first baseman as there was at the plate, having hit 30 or more home runs for five consecutive years. The Braves traded three of their top 10 prospects to San Diego to acquire McGriff, but amazingly none of their really good top prospects (Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Ryan Klesko or Mike Kelly). Outfielder Melvin Nieves was the 39th-best preseason prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, and enjoying a good season in the minors. Outfielder Vince Moore looked like a good speed and power prospect, and minor league pitcher Donnie Elliott was the No. 9 prospect in the Braves' system.
THE AFTERMATH: Atlanta was hoping McGriff would light a fire under the Braves' offense, but before his debut at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on July 20, the press box caught on fire. The game was in doubt for a while, but the fire marshal declared it was safe to play. It was an amazing bit of foreshadowing for what would happen to the Braves the rest of the season. The Crime Dog launched a two-run game-tying homer in the sixth inning of his first game, and the Braves went ahead in the eighth to secure the win.
Atlanta would go 51-17 the rest of the season and overtake the Giants to once again win the NL West. McGriff hit .310/.392/.612 and gave the Braves the cleanup hitter they had lacked all season. As for the prospects who were traded: Moore never made it above Double-A; Elliott sniffed the majors the next two years as a middle reliever, then faded away; and Nieves played five more mostly negative-WAR major league seasons. McGriff was the centerpiece of Atlanta’s offense for the next four years, including its World Series title team in 1995, and the Braves retained their best prospects who would become key pieces of many future pennant-winning teams.