On this date 23 years ago, the Braves traded number 23, outfielder David Justice, to the Indians.
Five months after losing the 1996 World Series to the New York Yankees, the Braves dealt away two-thirds of their starting outfield in a salary-cutting move to Cleveland.
On March 25, 1997 — one week before Opening Day — the Braves sent Justice and center fielder Marquis Grissom, to the Indians for center fielder Kenny Lofton, considered the best leadoff hitter in baseball at the time, and relief pitcher Alan Embree.
It was not a pleasant transaction for Braves general manager John Schuerholz.
“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 told the AJC in 2015. “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.’’
Lofton lasted just one season with the Braves but he hit .333 in 1997.
Justice did even better that season, smashing 33 homers with 101 RBIs and a .319 average for Cleveland.
Justice played five more seasons in the majors and finished his 14-year career with 305 home runs.
The trade made room for promising youngsters Jermaine Dye and Andruw Jones in the Braves’ outfield. It also shaved $7.7 million in salary and luxury taxes.
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