ATLANTA -- After spending nearly a year attempting to trade Chris Johnson, the Braves finally proved successful on Friday, when they agreed to a swap of bad contracts that brings Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to Atlanta.
The Braves traded Johnson to the Indians in exchange for Swisher, Bourn and cash considerations. Though this was essentially a swap of bad contracts, Atlanta's president of baseball operations John Hart believes his club has gained some value via the addition of these two highly respected veterans who are attempting to prove they have something left in the tank.
"I think with the addition of these two players, we're getting winning players with good makeups," Hart said. "They've been around winners and they play the game the right way. I think these guys will fit what we're doing."
There are certainly some doubts about the productivity Swisher might provide while attempting to separate himself from the surgeries performed on both of his knees this past offseason. As for Bourn, the Braves are looking forward to bringing his positive energy and enthusiasm back to their clubhouse. But at the same time, they know he's not the same kind of player he was when he played in Atlanta during the 2011 and '12 seasons.
But the Braves had reached a point where they were willing to jump at any opportunity to rid themselves of the contract Johnson signed during the early portion of the 2014 season, when Frank Wren was still the club's general manager. The opportunity finally arose this week, when the Indians agreed to provide $10 million to help offset the costs of Swisher and Bourn.
Johnson is owed approximately $19 million through the end of the 2017 season. Swisher and Bourn are owed a combined $29 million next year. Thus with the cash exchanged, this deal is essentially a wash for the Braves from a financial perspective. More importantly, it provides them the financial flexibility they were seeking entering the 2017 season, when Swisher and Bourn will likely be off their books.
The unattractive contracts allowed each player to pass through waivers and thus be eligible to be traded beyond the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"We feel like Michael Bourn fits us better than Chris Johnson right now," said Hart, who gained his third baseman of the future last week by acquiring Hector Olivera from the Dodgers.
As the Braves spend another two weeks waiting for Olivera to recover from a hamstring strain, they'll continue using Adonis Garcia as the their third baseman within a lineup that will likely include both Swisher and Bourn on Saturday night.
Bourn batted .246 and stole 13 bases in 96 games for the Indians this year. The veteran outfielder could see some time in both left field and center field for the rest of this season. Regardless of his role, the Braves view him as someone who could be a valuable mentor to Mallex Smith, the club's center fielder of the future, during Spring Training next year.
Swisher has batted .206 with a .597 OPS while battling multiple knee injuries since the start of the 2014 season. The 34-year-old former All-Star underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees last year and has played just 30 Major League games this season. The Braves were encouraged by the improved bat speed he showed while rehabbing with Triple-A Columbus this past week.
While Freddie Freeman is on the disabled list, Swisher will see some time at first base. The switch-hitting former All-Star could also provide the bench with a much-needed power threat if his knees cooperate.
"It's been a rough year and a half for me, just health-wise and the whole thing," Swisher said. "Now that I've got that behind me, I'm just really looking forward to the future."
Johnson nearly won the National League batting title in 2013, when he hit a career-best .321, but he has batted just .257 with a .630 OPS since the start of last season. However, the veteran corner infielder has hit .369 with a .904 OPS in 176 at-bats against left-handed pitchers during that same span.
"Yeah, there's a little bit [of a relief]," Johnson said after the trade. "But there's no hard feelings. I'm grateful for a lot of things that have happened here. I've played with a lot of great teammates and I had a lot of great coaches. I've had a lot of fun [in Atlanta], but it's time to move on."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.