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CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Acquired 3B/1B-R Chris Johnson from the Braves in exchange for 1B/OF-S Nick Swisher, OF-L Michael Bourn, and cash considerations. [8/7]

An NBA-style trade that sees two noncompetitive teams swap bad contracts. For their part, the Indians receive the deal’s youngest player and considerable future savings.

An above-average hitter during the 2012-13 seasons, Johnson’s subsequent efforts have since failed to inspire hope he can return to that level. When he was at his most productive, he’d hit for enough average and power to atone for his below-average defense and walk rates. The Braves signed him last May to a long-term extension, perhaps with the thought that his arbitration earnings would dwarf his real-world value. Needless to say, that decision looks like a regrettable one some 15 months later. Not only has Johnson’s ISO continued its multi-year slide (to a would-be career-low .085 in 2015), but his average has dipped well below his career .280 mark, leaving him down Replacement Level river without a proverbial paddle.

So why are the Indians even bothering? For financial purposes, of course. Johnson is due something like $19.5 million through 2017, including a $1 million buyout for the 2018 season (and what remains on his 2015 salary). Comparatively, Swisher and Bourn are owed about $38.5 million through the end of next season. The Indians are sending an additional $15 million Atlanta’s way, but that still results in about $4 million worth of savings, plus whatever the going cost of an open 25-man slot is these days.

Money is the motivating factor, but it’s worth pointing out Johnson could contribute on the field as well: The one thing he does well these days (albeit in small samples) is hit left-handed pitching. That could make Johnson a good fit alongside the rest of the Indians’ versatile, righty-heavy bench, which already features Jerry Sands, Mike Aviles, and Ryan Raburn. Alternatively, Johnson could take over at third base if the Indians want Giovanny Urshela to spend more time in the minors.

Whichever way Terry Francona uses Johnson, the Indians are younger, cheaper, and more versatile than they were a few days ago. That makes this deal a reasonable one.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Acquired 1B/DH-R Mike Napoli and cash considerations from the Red Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. [8/7]

The Rangers dig into their past to improve their present-day lineup for the second time this season, hopeful that this reunion fares at least as well as the one with Josh Hamilton has.

While Napoli’s splits warn against relying upon him as an everyday starter—his .845 OPS versus lefties this year is more than .200 points higher than his mark against righties—he should provide value down the stretch as a platoon player. For as good a season as Mitch Moreland is having, there’s no sense eliding his underwhelming numbers against lefties. Jeff Banister has been careful to spare Moreland from facing southpaws, but lately Texas’ lack of alternatives has meant starting utilityman Adam Rosales—he of the career .241 True Average—at the cold corner too often for anyone’s comfort.

Whether Napoli is nearing the end of his productive days or not, he should represent an upgrade over Rosales. That improvement is important for the obvious, big-picture reasons as well as the finer, more contextual reasons—like the potential high-leverage value Napoli could provide. The Rangers entered the weekend on the edge of the postseason race despite having improved their playoff odds by the second most in the American League since the trade deadline. In other words, the Rangers are the kind of contender that needs to steal a few wins to make it into October, which means excelling in situations that Napoli could be placed into; think late and close with a left-handed specialist on the mound.

Obviously there’s no guarantee Napoli comes through in those predicaments more often than Rosales would have, but given the cost—$1.5 million of the $5 million remaining on Napoli’s salary, plus an unnamed prospect—this is a smart, worthwhile bet for Jon Daniels to make.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Acquired 1B/OF-S Nick Swisher, OF-L Michael Bourn, and cash considerations from the Indians in exchange for 3B/1B-R Chris Johnson. [8/7]

Whereas the Indians’ portion of the trade nets them future maneuverability, the Braves’ haul seems intent on upgrading their 2015-16 rosters. That might seem like an odd priority for a team without competitive aspirations, but remember that the Braves are 1) christening a new ballpark in 2017 and 2) seem disinclined to do so with consecutive abysmal efforts. Hence trading Johnson (who had recently been usurped by Adonis Garcia and Joey Terdoslavich as the Braves wait for Hector Olivera to heal) for Swisher and Bourn, two downtrodden, down-trending veterans in desperate need of fresh starts.

Swisher’s Ohio homecoming started well and went south quickly, as his health and performance deteriorated during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Lately, Swisher has been trying to recover from knee surgery that left him on the disabled list with inflammation at the time of the trade. When he has played the past two seasons, he’s continued to show his trademark plate discipline, but not his power. If Swisher can return to form—or some approximation of form—he could help the Braves now and later: now as a stand-in first baseman during Freddie Freeman‘s absence, later as a left fielder or bench bat, and in between as a jolly clubhouse glue guy who tries to make “Broves” a thing.

Though Swisher was literally at home in Ohio, Bourn will feel more domestic ease in Atlanta, where he enjoyed one of his best seasons. In the short term Bourn is likely to displace the Jonny GomesEury Perez timeshare in left field, either by taking the spot for himself or forcing Cameron Maybin to the corner. Yet it’s unclear just how long he has left as a regular. Hamstring issues have worsened Bourn’s defense and baserunning, which, when married to declining offensive prowess, could reduce him to a bench role in the coming year. If nothing else, he could serve as a mentor to Mallex Smith.

In essence, the Braves are paying a few million more for two veteran lottery tickets, both of whom could conceivably help in the outfield and the clubhouse for the next 14 months (or longer, if they play well enough for their 2017 options to vest). While neither is a sure thing to rebound—the Indians don’t make this trade were that outcome a given—there’s a chance for good value here if the Braves can get just one of the pair back to snuff. Obviously it’s more likely that neither returns to their past levels, or that the Braves release both by next August. Still, there’s not much on the line for Atlanta—roughly $4 million in added cost—so their decision to gamble on upside is an understandable one.