Originally created 03/26/97

No Justice: Braves' trade shocks baseball



The Atlanta Braves are now faster and lighter.

In possibly the baseball franchise's biggest trade ever, the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday dealt two veteran stars, right fielder David Justice and center fielder Marquis Grissom, to the Cleveland Indians for center fielder Kenny Lofton, considered by many as baseball's best leadoff hitter, and left-handed relief pitcher Alan Embree.

"Shocked is a good word," Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Everyone in the back of their minds thought Justice might be traded. We didn't think about Marquis. ... Everyone is sort of bummed."

Much of the reasoning for the trade was economics. The Braves were looking at having the highest payroll in baseball, at $62 million. They gave up Mr. Grissom, 29, and his $4.8 million annual salary for Mr. Lofton, 29, and his $4.75 million annual intake. Mr. Justice, who sat out much of last season with a shoulder injury, will make $6 million this season, but Mr. Embree gets only $206,000 per year.

The Braves' big payroll made the team liable for a luxury tax of more than $3.8 million under baseball's revenue-sharing formula. They now have $6 million more to work with in trying to re-sign Mr. Lofton, a top base stealer who is a free agent after this season, and star pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who are also free agents at the end of the season.

"This is a trade of enormous magnitude for two very, very good franchises," Indians general manager John Hart said. "We're talking about franchise-type players. We talked about this at some length, and we realized that if we were going to get it done, it had to happen soon."

The players are expected to join their new teams today. The Braves play the Montreal Expos at West Palm Beach, Fla., this afternoon, while the Indians face the Detroit Tigers at Lakeland, Fla., tonight.

The move opens up an outfield position for two young Braves players, Andruw Jones and Jermaine Dye. They may share right field, the position previously held by Mr. Justice, while power hitter Ryan Klesko plays left field.

Economics of Tuesday's trade between Atlanta and Cleveland, in which the Braves sent Marquis Grisson and David Justice to the Indians for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree. Both teams were over the threshold for the luxury tax, with the Braves at approximately $62 million and the Indians at approximately $52 million):

From Braves standpoint

Players Salaries

David Justice -6,000,000

Marquis Grissom -4,800,000

Kenny Lofton 4,750,000

Alan Embree 206,000

Net salary change -5,844,000

Payroll tax adjustment

(average annual values)

David Justice -5,500,000

Marquis Grissom -4,800,000

Kenny Lofton 4,750,000

Alan Embree 206,000

Payroll change -5,344,000

Luxury tax change -1,870,400

Net Savings 7,714,400

From Indians Standpoint

Players Salaries

David Justice 6,000,000

Marquis Grissom 4,800,000

Kenny Lofton -4,750,000

Alan Embree -206,000

Net salary change 5,844,000

Payroll tax adjustment

(average annual values)

David Justice 5,500,000

Marquis Grissom 4,800,000

Kenny Lofton -4,750,000

Alan Embree -206,000

Payroll change 5,344,000

Luxury tax change 1,870,400

Net Cost 7,714,400