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This Day in Braves History: The Kevin Millwood trade

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When salary constraints forced the Braves to trade arguably their best pitcher to a division rival.

Kevin Millwood

Thank you to Baseball-Reference and NationalPastime.com for helping provide the background information for these articles.

This Day in Braves History: December 20

2001 - The Braves sign Albies Lopez to a one-year contract. Lopez would spend one season in Atlanta posting a 4.37 ERA and a 2.76 FIP in 30 games that also included four starts. He would become a free agent at season’s end and sign with the Kansas City Royals.

2002 - Atlanta trades starter Kevin Millwood to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Johnny Estrada. Our own Darryl Palmer did a deep dive on the Millwood trade last year that you should definitely check out. The gist was that the Braves found themselves in a salary crunch situation with some big names soaking up a large part of the team’s payroll. Tom Glavine signed with the Mets previously this offseason and Atlanta was also expecting Greg Maddux to move on. The CBA at that time allowed teams to offer salary arbitration to pending free agents in which they would be rewarded with a draft pick should that player leave. Atlanta acquired Mike Hampton, Paul Byrd and Russ Ortiz that offseason to shore up a new-look rotation that would be anchored by Kevin Millwood, or so they thought. However, Maddux’s agent Scott Boras informed the club on December 19 that Maddux would accept arbitration. Having not accounted for his salary, that led the Braves to deal Millwood to the Phillies for Johnny Estrada in a lopsided trade that yielded them the needed salary relief.

Estrada would appear in just 16 games with the Braves in 2003 but would be an All-Star in 2004 after hitting .314/.378/.450 with a 113 OPS+. His OPS+ would fall to 74 in 2005 and he would be traded to the Diamondbacks that offseason. Millwood wasn’t as good with the Phillies over the next two seasons but did throw a no-hitter in 2004. He would continue to pitch through 2012 and would end his career with a 4.11 ERA in over 2,700 innings.

2002 - Former Braves first baseman Fred McGriff signs a one-year deal with the Dodgers replacing Eric Karros who had recently been traded to the Cubs. McGriff had spent the 2002 season with the Cubs where he hit .273/.353/.505 with 30 home runs. He appeared in just 86 games for the Dodgers at age 39 in 2003 hitting .249/.322/.428 with 13 more home runs.