(UPDATED: 1:45 p.m. Folks, here’s the updated blog on the trade. I’m read to chat live now about the deal and the game. Sorry couldn’t get to earlier questions and comments but I’ve been kinda busy.)
It was the eve of the trade deadline, and Jordan Schafer was having trouble sleeping.
“I just had a weird feeling,” he said Sunday. “It’s something I hadn’t felt all along. I even sent a text message to my agent. I told him I thought I might be traded. He said, ‘No, there’s no chance.’”
And then he opened his phone to show a reporter the text message: “10:57 p.m. ‘Wonder if I’m going to Houston.’”
Sometimes, it’s not so great to be a prophet.
The Braves dealt Schafer to Houston Sunday. They made the move less because of what they believe Schafer might be one day than what he isn’t now: Michael Bourn. After dealing Schafer and three prospects to Houston for Bourn, the All-Star center fielder and leadoff hitter, Braves general manager Frank Wren said, “Michael is what we hope Jordan will be in three or four years. For a team that’s poised to win, we need a finished product.”
Wren needed the right sound bite. Braves fans have felt antsy, angry, frustrated, discontent and maybe even borderline hopeless after seeing San Francisco (Carlos Beltran) and Philadelphia (Hunter Pence) each spin major deals in recent days. So Wren hit on the right themes. What comes of this deal, we can’t possibly know.
Chipper Jones lauded Bourn’s speed, but when asked if the Braves are better team as a result of the deal, he said: “I don’t know. Talk to me in two months.”
The fact Jones was a big fan of Schafer’s might have fed into his comments. (At one point, he left his locker to walk over to Schafer, who was packing, to give him a hug, and the two spoke privately for a couple of minutes.) But Jones also struck the proper tone. There were some things about this year’s Braves team we projected back in spring training camp that haven’t panned out. So it’s best not to assume anything now.
Still, credit to Wren. He waited until the day of the trading deadline before pushing the button. The trade market had become increasingly difficult and expensive (opponents love desperate buyers). Wren made the best trade he could have possibly made at this point.
Bourn is hitting .303. He leads the majors with 39 stolen bases. He has 28 infield hits. He has won two Gold Gloves. He immediately becomes this team’s best and most established leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal. So this is no minor acquisition.
“The perfect fit,” Wren called him.
The Braves certainly have World Series potential now. Then again, we thought that they had that in the spring. Championships assume two things: good health and expected production, and the Braves have used their opening day lineup only 11 times.
But consider this potential batting order: Michael Bourne, Martin Prado, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Alex Gonzalez. If everybody’s clicking, there’s no escape. After all the angst, this may work out yet.
Some of what Wren said Sunday carried a trace of draft day spin. He acknowledged the team “inquired” about Pence and had interest in Beltran. But he also suggested the Braves never really wanted either that much.
“We could’ve had Beltran. … Same with Pence,” he said. “We were involved in everything but we weren’t really into everything.” (I’m assuming the comments would’ve been different had they acquired either.)
Wren got his wish: He held onto the organization’s four projected golden arms in the minors. He closed the deal for Bourn just before 9 a.m., then he phoned Schafer.
“I was backing out my driveway,” Schafer said. “As soon as I looked down at the phone and saw who it was, I knew. It sucks. But it’s a business.”
In a perfect world, Schafer goes on to have a good career, the Braves win a championship and Bourn turns out to be a lot better than the last time the team traded for a Gold Glove, All-Star center fielder who could hit leadoff (Nate McLouth).
We’ve learned not to project. But it certainly looks good.
By Jeff Schultz