Braves pitcher John Smoltz reacts after throwing his 3,000th career strikeout on April 22, 2008. 
Photo: AJC file
Photo: AJC file

Leadoff: New MLB rule would’ve prevented a monumental Braves trade

One of the most significant trades in Braves history couldn’t have happened under a rule change announced Thursday by Major League Baseball. 

On Aug. 12, 1987, the out-of-contention Braves dealt veteran pitcher Doyle Alexander to the contending Detroit Tigers for a minor-league pitcher (and future Hall of Famer) named John Smoltz. The swap came nearly two weeks after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but was possible because MLB rules long have allowed players to be dealt in August if they clear waivers.

No more. 

MLB rolled out a series of rule changes Thursday, including the elimination of August trades beginning this year. 

While Braves fans will be forever thankful for the Alexander-for-Smoltz deal, the change makes sense. It eliminates all trades from Aug. 1 through the end of the season, making the July 31 “deadline” a firm one and probably a more active and compelling one. It will force teams to decide with two months to go in the season whether they are buyers or sellers and whether they have enough talent and depth for the duration. It will end the convoluted and confusing process of waiver trades. 

Players still can be placed and claimed on outright waivers after the July 31 trade deadline (and would still be eligible for the postseason if they’re in the new organization before Sept. 1). But trades such as the ones last Aug. 31 involving Josh Donaldson (from Toronto to Cleveland), Andrew McCutchen (from San Francisco to the Yankees) and David Freese (from Pittsburgh to the Dodgers) -- and the monumental one the Braves made in August 1987 -- won’t be possible this August. Deals will have to be done by the end of July, or not at all.

Click here to see the other rule changes MLB unveiled Thursday.

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