Frank Wren is one of the top general managers in baseball.
Even with Liberty Media restricting his spending money, he has done a commendable job in Atlanta, especially on the trade market. He hasn't been quite as successful with free agents, although that's a different story for another time.
Here is a look back on the five best trades of Wren's time with the Braves. He took over as GM in October 2007. The evaluation criteria is based off WAR (Wins Above Replacement; read more here) and just an overall sense of the involved players' time in Atlanta and elsewhere.
5. Jordan Walden for Tommy Hanson
WAR Differential: Braves +0.7
There were a handful of deals that could've grabbed this last spot. The Dan Uggla and Paul Maholm trades came to mind, as did a couple of smaller deals from the earlier years under Wren. For me, though, this deal will remain one of my favorites for a long time.
Hanson's time in Atlanta was done. He didn't have a spot on this year's team, and his right shoulder is currently being held together by a rubber band and a couple toothpicks. Walden, despite his injury-riddled past, has come to the Braves and has been one of the top 8th inning guys in all of baseball.
It's tough to imagine this team being where they are right now without Walden in the bullpen. Add in the fact that he has three years of arbitration still left on his deal, and this trade should continue to pay off down the road.
4. Javier Vasquez and Boone Logan for Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Flowers, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez
WAR Differential: Braves +4.4
The Braves only had Vasquez for one year, and it just happened to be the best year of his 14-year career. He posted a 6.2 WAR in 2009, going 15-10 with huge strikeout numbers and a 2.87 ERA. That's the best individual season for a Braves pitcher since Greg Maddux won 19 games in 2000. 2000!
The cost was basically nothing. Lillibridge served as a pretty bad utility guy in Chicago for three years and is now elsewhere. Flowers, who was seen as the centerpiece in the deal, has appeared in 184 big league games since his debut in 2009. He's not even getting regular starts with a really bad White Sox team this season. Gilmore never made it above Double-A and isn't playing anywhere this year. Rodriguez throws hard but has no control, and it's led to a bad year in Triple-A. He's now 25 and at risk of becoming stuck in prospect purgatory.
It's a shame the Braves couldn't reap the benefits from Vasquez's resurgence in Atlanta for more than a season. This was still a one-sided deal, though, and one of Wren's savviest moves.
3. Justin Upton and Chris Johnson for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury
WAR Differential: Braves +3.4
It's tough to really gauge this deal all of eight months after it was completed. Within a few years, it could be as high as No. 1 or not on the list altogether. Through the first two-thirds of this season, the Braves are way ahead of the Diamondbacks.
Upton continues to be one of the top hitting outfielders in the NL and Johnson is on his way to the batting title. Prado's slow start really put a damper on his numbers for the season. Delgado and Spruill have both shown flashes of being good, but they are still learning to pitch at the big league level. Ahmed and Drury could end up anywhere from MLB regulars to being out of baseball in five years.
My sense is this will be a trade the Braves look back on very favorably for years to come.
2. Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez for Edgar Renteria
WAR Differential: Braves +8
It's easy to forget just how good Jurrjens was before the wheels completely fell off. After making his big league debut in 2008, JJ went 47-32 while posting an impressive 3.34 ERA before his injury-riddled 2012 season happened. He was worth 9.5 wins from 08-11, making him a top-50 starter in baseball.
Hernandez never quite lived up to the hype as a prospect, and he was quickly shipped out as part of the Nate McLouth trade.
As for Renteria, he spent one mediocre season in Detroit. After experiencing two of the best years of his career in Atlanta, he went on to have a .699 OPS in 138 games with the Tigers, posting a 1.2 WAR.
This deal was the perfect example of selling high on a veteran player to make room for a younger one (Yunel Escobar). There will always be talk that John Schuerholz was the orchestrator of this deal, but Wren was the one who pulled the trigger just a few days after taking over the club.
1. Michael Bourn for Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Juan Abreu and Paul Clemens
WAR Differential: Braves +8.5
I'm still not entirely sure how Wren pulled this off. While the whole league was battling to land Hunter Pence, Wren swooped in just a few hours before the 2011 trade deadline and acquired one of the top center fielders in baseball for essentially nothing. Bourn hit .275/.341/.381 in his 18 months with the Braves, serving as the best leadoff man the franchise has had in years while being worth 7.2 wins.
What made this deal so one-sided was what Wren sent to Houston, especially when names like Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Christian Bethancourt continued to be speculated about by national writers as trade candidates.
Schafer was awful and was quickly let go of by the organization. Abreu and Clemens and have not pitched well, and they're likely bullpen pieces (at best) moving forward. Oberholtzer has tossed two shutouts in his first two career starts. This being said, he's the lone piece of this deal that may work out for Houston, and he's likely a No. 4 or No. 5 starter moving forward.
For a year and a half of Bourn's prime, this trade was highway robbery for Wren and the Braves.