Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play, Nate McLouth. Before I break into another ill-fated attempt at rap, I would like to discuss the most recent Braves acquisition, what Atlanta gave up, and the reaction I have heard from many other Braves fans.
I for one am thrilled about the deal. No doubt a win for Atlanta. McLouth is young (27 years old), has a very good bat (9 HR and 34 RBI already), played a Gold Glove center field last year, and is signed through the 2011 season at an incredible bargain with a club option for the 2012 season. While he doesn't have incredible power, the 9 homeruns he has already hit lead the Braves. Bobby Cox has penciled him in the third spot in the lineup, behind Yunel Escobar and directly in front of Chipper Jones, with Brian McCann sliding into the five hole. It is pretty safe to say McLouth will see a better selection of pitches hitting sandwiched between those guys as opposed to Freddy Sanchez and the LaRoche brothers in Pittsburgh.
While there is quite a bit of certainty with the player Atlanta traded for, Pittsburgh is getting three question marks of prospects in return. This is why I cannot understand the constant complaining in Braves forums that we gave up too much. Let me start with the highest touted prospect Atlanta dealt, Gorkys Hernandez.
There is no denying that Hernandez is a freakish athlete. He is extremely fast and covers a ton of ground in center. Even though he has speed, his ability to steal bases can apparently improve as he has only been successful 10 out of 18 times this year. While he has hit for good average at both A and AA ball his strikeout rate is a major concern. His K/BB ratio is 54/15. He has almost four times as many strikeouts as walks. So for those who thought he could eventually be Atlanta's leadoff hitter that they have so desperately missed since the Rafael Furcal era, wake up. When a guy strikes out that many more times than he walks in AA ball, what is there to believe something will change when he reaches the big leagues? Atlanta also has Jordan Schafer in Gwinnett now, where he needs to be, and most scouts agree that Schafer projects as the better Major Leaguer of the two young centerfielders. That alone made Hernandez very expendable.
The next prospect in the trade to mention is Charlie Morton. I watched Morton pitch several times for Atlanta last year and he mostly struggled in the Bigs. All I have heard for the past two years are his incredible numbers in AAA. Well, for whatever reason it never translated to success in Atlanta. I still believe his ceiling is that of a number four in an average Major League rotation. For those Braves fans who had a problem with him being in the deal and wanted Jo-Jo Reyes to be substituted, Pittsburgh nor any other franchise is that dumb. Reyes has negative trade value right now and Morton has put up solid numbers in AAA again this year. In case you don't know, we have a guy named Hanson that just got called up. I have heard some pretty good things about him. Morton was merely a spare part in the Atlanta organization.
Last, and the least I know about, is Jeff Locke. I have heard he is considered a "toolsy" pitcher and is a few years away from the Majors, if he gets there at all. His stuff is apparently very good, however his location has been his kryptonite. Maybe he works out the kinks in the Pirates organization, maybe not. Either way, he was not a super prospect by any means. Most reports had him as the tenth best prospect in Atlanta's farm.
The bottom line is, the Braves were able to acquire a very good bat for parts that were expendable in their current system. Obviously, Pittsburgh places a higher value on those three guys than I do, or Atlanta does for that matter. This deal in no way reminds anyone of the Mark Teixiera trade, as McLouth is under contract for at least three more seasons with an option after that. It is rather obvious that any Brave fan not happy with this deal would have not been pleased with anything short of Ryan Braun for Greg Norton. Realistically this is almost as good of a deal as Atlanta could have possibly made at this point of the season. Good job Frank Wren.