They're often called 'reclamation projects'- but because yesterday was earth day, I will just call them 'recycled players.'
It seems like much of the Braves success in the early 2000's was due to the ability to find guys (often pitchers) who seemed to be at the end of the line, professionally speaking, sign them at a heavily discounted price, and watch the player have a rebirth on the diamond. Here's just a few of the guys who come to mind...
2003 Upper Deck 40-Man #410 Darren Holmes
Holmes began the 2000 season with the Diamondbacks but was released a few weeks into the regular season. During that first stint with AZ, Darren gave up 3 earned runs on 5 hits in only 2.1 innings. Signed by the Cardinals a few days later, the reliever threw 8.1 innings (5 games) for the Redbirds- allowing 9 runs on 12 hits (2 homers) and 3 walks. Sent to Baltimore at the end of June, Holmes was even worse there- getting torched for 13 hits, 13 earned runs, 3 homers, and issuing 5 walks in all of 4.2 innings. Three weeks later, he was released and signed back with Arizona. Once again, he had difficulties-giving up 3 earned runs on 7 hits (1 homer) over 4 innings. So bad was Holmes during the 2000 season that he had no job offers for the 2001 season.
Atlanta took a flyer on the soon-to-be 36 year old in January of 2002, and Holmes justified their decision by appearing in 55 games that season while posting an 0.970 WHIP, a 1.81 ERA and a 3.92 SO/BB ratio- all for the league minimum-range of $325,000.
2004 Topps Total #304 Jaret Wright
Big things were expected of Jaret Wright after finishing fifth in the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year voting. Things looked even better for him after his strong postseason performance that same season. Shoulder problems, along with problems commanding his pitches, plagued him during his time in Cleveland. He pitched in only 24 games for the Indians from 2000-2002 and then he was done in Cleveland.
Jaret's short time with San Diego during the 2003 season was less than successful as well- allowing 44 earned runs in 47.1 innings, a 2.049 WHIP, and a SO/BB ratio of 1.46. Atlanta claimed Wright off of waivers at the end of August, and watched the former first round pick throw 9 IP over 11 games, and allowing only 2 runs (earned) while striking out 9 and walking only three batters. That success carried over into the '04 season- as he spent the entire year in the starting rotation. In thirty-two starts, Wright went 15-8 in 186.1 innings, a career high 159 Ks, and only 70 walks issued. And at $850,000 for the 2004 season, Wright was certainly worth every penny. Following that career-best season, he took the money the Yankees offered him (about $13 million for 2 seasons) and then tanked. Of course he did.
Custom 2003 Topps Chris Hammond
After two and a half seasons of retirement, Hammond's return to the majors was one of historical significance. Despite having little success in his first nine seasons in the majors, Chris appeared in 63 games for Atlanta during the 2002 season, with a record of 7-2 and an unbelievable 0.95 ERA over 76 innings. Yet another bargain at $450,000 for his lone season playing for his home-state Braves. Unfortunately, none of the card manufacturers captured the lefty as a Brave- at least none that I could find, anyway.
2000 Topps #388 Mike Remlinger
Yet another pitcher whose career was one of struggle after struggle. For Remlinger, who spent most of the 1998 season as a starter for the Reds, his redemption as a player came in 1999- the first of five seasons spent in Atlanta. After going 8-15 with a 4.82 ERA for the Reds in '98, Remlinger was included in the Bret Boone trade. He turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Bravos during the '99 (and subsequent) season- going 10-1 in 73 appearances (83.2 Innings). He would also have over 70 appearances for Atlanta during the next three seasons. During his first stint with the Braves ('99-2002), Mike went 25-10 and made the All-Star game in 2002-when he went 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA and a 1.118 WHIP. Remlinger returned to Atlanta in 2006 at the age of 40, finishing his career there.
2002 Topps Total #909 Julio Franco
Franco was supposedly 42 years old when Atlanta purchased him from the Mexico City Tigers on August 31, 2001. I say 'supposedly' because for years his date of birth was in question. Think of it as the baseball version of the questions surrounding President Obama's birthplace.
His true age aside, the dude could flat out hit. Even at the age of '37', Julio hit .322 in 1996 as a member of the Indians. The next season he hit .270 as he split time with Cleveland and Milwaukee. Granted free-agency following the '97 season, Franco spent the 1998 season in the Japan Pacific League before signing with Tampa Bay in February of 1999. Julio only appeared in one game with the Devil Rays-striking out in his only at-bat. The rest of his time that season was spent in Mexico City. His journey back to the majors made a stop in Korea in the year 2000, playing for the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization. He then went back to Mexico City for the final station before the majors.
Playing that final month of the 2001 season, Julio hit .300 in 101 plate appearances for the Braves. Since he was on the roster before September, he qualified for the postseason- and went 10-36 with two homers between the 2001 NLDS and NLCS. He would go on to be a key member of the Braves 2002-2005 teams, and then returning to Atlanta in 2007- hitting .250 in 40 at-bats as a '48' year old.