Atlanta Braves Outfielder Jose Constanza Is Winning The WAR Of Trade Deadline Acquisitions

Load up for the "Summer of George!"

"Sometimes the best trade is the one you don't make," as the saying goes. In the case of the Atlanta Braves, the best trade deadline acquisition they made was the short speedy little "Rug-Rat" they called up from their triple-A squad. Before the 2011 season, Atlanta signed six-year minor league free agent Jose Constanza, a still young (at 27) Dominican ballplayer who had gotten lost in Cleveland's minor league shuffle.

The Braves were looking to improve their team speed, something Frank Wren has been focused on for the past couple of years, and Constanza brought with him over 200 minor league stolen bases. He didn't get that much attention in spring training, making it into 13 games primarily as a late innings replacement. He wasn't the first, or second, or third, or even the fourth outfielder the Braves called up from their triple-A club this year. But as it turns out, he has so far been the best.

Who would have thought that when the Braves called up "Georgie" two days before the trade deadline, simply as a fill-in because of injuries to Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth, that he would end up being not only their most productive trade deadline acquisition, but also more productive than any other hitter acquired at or near the trade deadline. Here is a rundown of the players acquired during that time and how they compare to Constanza (by using rWAR, from Baseball-Reference, and fWAR, from FanGraphs; all WAR numbers for that player are with their new team):

Player
rWAR
fWAR
Jose Constanza
1.1
1.2
Hunter Pence
0.6
0.6
Michael Bourn
0.3
0.2
Rafael Furcal
0.2
0.1
Derrek Lee
0.2
0.2
Kosuke Fukudome
0.4
0.1
Ryan Ludwick
-0.2
-0.3
Carlos Beltran
-0.3
-0.1
Orlando Cabrera
-0.3
-0.2
Felipe Lopez
-0.3
-0.3
Colby Rasmus
-0.3
0.0
Corey Patterson
-0.3
-0.1
Jonny Gomes
-0.2
0.3

For the uninitiated, WAR is "Wins Above Replacement," and it is defined as a single number that presents the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement player (AAA or quad-A) would add. Keeping in mind that Constanza was probably considered a quad-A player prior to his call-up, his performance may be throwing the whole WAR stat for a loop. Nonetheless, the fact still remains that according to either measure of WAR, Jose Constanza has (so far) been the most valuable batter acquired at or near the trade deadline.

How long will this performance continue? How many licks does it take to get to the center of his bat? These are yet unanswered questions, but it's time for everyone to come around on how important this kid is and how important he could be for the rest of the year. (I have finally come around on this point.) Yes, he's going to take away playing time from Jason Heyward. But over the course of the entire season Heyward has posted an equal (1.1 rWAR) or lower (0.9 fWAR) WAR to that of the totals Constanza has put up in just 16 games.

Perhaps, then, this truly is the "Summer of George!"

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