Deal gone bad
Wainwright trade one of few that has backfired for Braves

The Braves would love to have Georgia native Adam Wainwright back.

Who wouldn't regret dealing someone who became the postseason closer for a World Series championship team at age 25 last year and is now the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation.

But few of general manager John Schuerholz's deals have come back to haunt the Braves. That's especially the case when prospects were involved.

Remember the trade for Fred McGriff in 1993 that turned the Braves' season around? Certainly none of the prospects shipped away in that July deal made a name for himself in San Diego.

You'd almost think that teams would be leery about dealing with Schuerholz. The prospects dealt away have rarely become impact players - with Wainwright the only recent exception.

At the 2003 winter meetings, Schuerholz reluctantly agreed to include former first-round draft pick Wainwright in the deal that brought outfielder J.D. Drew to Atlanta. Drew, of course, played only one season with the Braves.

Oh well, not every deal works out. Not even Schuerholz is perfect.

But the Braves can certainly take pride in a couple of more recent deals where top prospects were involved.

At the 2004 winter meetings, Schuerholz obtained Tim Hudson from Oakland for three players. Left-hander Dan Meyer was the key for the Athletics. Three years later, he's still in the minors and is coming off arm surgery.

Meyer was considered the Braves' top pitching prospect at the time. Third baseman Andy Marte was rated Atlanta's best hitting prospect.

During the 2005 winter meetings, Marte was used to obtain shortstop Edgar Renteria from Boston in a three-team deal. Marte went on to Cleveland and was projected to be a star with the Indians.

Renteria, of course, is in his second banner season with the Braves. Where is Marte?

The 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic is playing for Class AAA Buffalo in the International League and there is doubt that he'll ever be a major league regular.

Marte hit .180 in 16 games with Cleveland early this season, giving him a .199 career mark in 90 major league games.

In the minors, his struggles have continued. He is hitting less than .250 with Buffalo and has generated only modest power.

In almost all cases, the prospects dealt away by the Braves the last decade have failed to live up to expectations elsewhere.

Anyone heard of Tim Spooneybarger, Jung Bong or Bubba Nelson lately?

Even when the player obtained didn't work out for the Braves, the prospect dealt away was also a disappointment. Jose Capellan, traded to Milwaukee for Dan Kolb, is no longer in the Milwaukee organization.

Other than Wainwright, the last prospect that the Braves really regretted losing was outfielder Jermaine Dye. And that deal was made in 1997.

A number of prospects will be involved in deals before the non-waiver trade deadline arrives on Tuesday. Many, though, will never pan out.

After all, judging future success is hardly an exact science when it comes to baseball.

And when it comes to the Braves, it is buyer beware.

Schuerholz has a nearly flawless track record of hanging on to the prospects he really wants to keep.

SideBar: Braves top prospects

The Braves have had a steady stream of top talent coming up to the majors in recent years, but the system is still stocked with prospects. Baseball writer Guy Curtright ranks the players who have yet to make it to Atlanta.

' 1. Brandon Jones, OF, Richmond.

Lefty hitter recently promoted from AA to AAA.

' 2. Elvis Andrus, SS, Myrtle Beach.

Only question is when 18-year-old will be ready.

' 3. Tommy Hanson, RHP, Myrtle Beach.

Great strikeout-to-walk ratio in minors.

' 4. Jordan Schafer, OF, Myrtle Beach.

Having a breakout year at two Class A stops.

' 5. Brett Lillibridge, SS, Richmond.

Speed may land him in the outfield eventually.

' 6. Dan Smith, LHP, Richmond.

On the verge of majors at age 23.

' 7. Kris Medlen, RHP, Myrtle Beach.

Showing promise as top bullpen prospect.

' 8. Cody Johnson, OF, Danville.

No. 1 pick in 2006 has plate potential.

' 9. Isaiah Ka'ahue, 1B, Mississippi.

Hawaiian has best power in the system.

' 10. Matt Harrison, LHP, Mississippi.

Still needs to get command of curveball.