A week after unloading reliever Rafael Soriano, Atlanta traded starter Javier Vazquez (above) today to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera, a series of developments Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheenan decries as “the latest example of why Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves is starting to make Jeffrey Loria’s stewardship of the Marlins look inspired.”

With six starting pitchers after the healthy return of and contract agreement with Tim Hudson, the Braves have been looking to strike a deal all winter that would swap a starter for a hitter. With little outside interest in Derek Lowe, however, the Braves instead executed another salary dump, trading their best pitcher last season, Javier Vazquez, also with one year left on his deal, to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera. There are prospects involved on both sides, but the lesson is the same: the Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes $11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less (I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5 million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano, for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and everything else is irrelevant.

This stinks, and it doesn’t stink because the Yankees just added an expensive player. It stinks because there’s no reason why the Braves had to make either trade other than that Liberty Media wants this division of its billon-dollar conglomerate to spend a certain amount of money, and no more than that.

“You make investments with an eye towards maximizing returns,” argues Sheenan, ” and everything else”pointing to the Yankees, whining about the arbitration process, demonizing Scott Boras, lying about revenues”is just a distraction from that central point.” And while I’m mostly pleased to see Vazquez leaving the NL East, as Sheenan points out, this is hardly the way Ted Turner would’ve handled a team with a chance to contend in 2010.