Braves president John Schulhotz, left, talks with former Brave David Justice in spring training in 2012, more than 15 years after Schuerholz traded to Justice to Cleveland. Jason Getz / AJC file

Schuerholz: David Justice trade was hardest to make

Editor's note: This article was originally published for myAJC on  Nov. 26, 2015.

John Schuerholz has made hundreds of trades in his years in the game.

What was his hardest one to make?

That’s an easy answer for Schuerholz, who quickly said, “David Justice.’’

The trade came after the 1996 season, when the Braves had lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series and Justice was coming off a shoulder injury, limiting him to 40 games, and he missed the postseason. But along with center fielder Marquis Grissom, Justice was traded to Cleveland for center fielder Kenny Lofton and reliever Alan Embree.

It was a blockbuster deal for both teams as Grissom was coming off his best season in the majors and at the time Lofton was one of the most exciting players in the game.

“I kept going ‘David, I’m not going to trade you, you’re too valuable, I like you too much you’re one of my favorites,’’’ Schuerholz said. “But we got to the point where we needed to clear some money, and I had to manage our payroll. We needed money to get pitching, and pitching was sort of our secret sauce at the major league level, and that was a hard deal. Not only David, but Marquis Grissom in the same deal.’’

Justice took the deal hard and was very critical of the move, publicly saying that he was “shocked.’’

“They were two great guys,’’ Schuerholz said. “That was hard. I traded a lot of really good people, but those guys meant so much to the organization. David for a long time, Marquis for a shorter time. I’d say that was the toughest one. Ironically, I did the deal with John Hart.’’

Hart, now the president of baseball operations with the Braves, was the GM for Cleveland when the Justice and Grissom trade was made.

Justice ended up making the deal a much better one for Cleveland, as he remained there for three-plus seasons and hit .339 with 33 homers and 101 RBIs in 1997 and led the Indians to the World Series. Lofton lasted one season in Atlanta before going back to Cleveland in free agency while Grissom was in an Indians uniform for one season. Embree appeared in 66 games in 1997 with a 2.54 ERA before he was traded to Arizona the next June.

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