Three prospects for a guy hitting .265 on a lousy team: Is this Teixeira redux?
The Braves sent Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke to Pittsburgh for Nate McLouth, who’s a good player but no Carlos Beltran. Do I have reservations about the move? Yes. But do I think the deal would have been better left undone? No, and here’s why:
To make anything of this season, the Braves had to have a bat and had to have a center fielder. There was no other way. Jordan Schafer couldn’t do it, and Gregor Blanco wouldn’t have done it. McLouth is, to quote Frank Wren, “a solid part of a team,” and for the Braves a solid center fielder is a massive upgrade.
When a team deals from desperation — and the Braves were close to that — it always overpays. But give Wren credit: He didn’t overpay on another two-month man. (Or an 11-month guy, as was the case with John Schuerholz’s deal for Mark Teixeira.) “This isn’t to rent a guy for a year,” Wren said. “He’s under contract for four years. [The final season, 2012, is an option year.] That makes all the difference.”
And it does. The Braves filled their greatest positional need and should have no cause to re-fill it anytime soon. Schafer could be properly seasoned in a year or so, and the Braves could select the Cartersville center fielder Donavan Tate in next week’s draft. Or they could take pitcher Zack Wheeler of East Paulding to help offset the losses of Morton and Locke.
Even if all three of the players the Braves shipped to Pittsburgh become All-Stars, you cannot play the 2010 or 2011 seasons until the calendar decrees. The Braves must get through 2009, and McLouth affords them that opportunity.
Wren: “We knew we were lacking some element. We didn’t want the season to get too far gone.”
And that’s the best part of this: The Braves found their center fielder on June 3, not July 31st. They’ve got time to catch the Phillies and the Mets, and they now might have enough of an everyday lineup.
The Teixeira trade underscored the peril of swapping young for old, but this is a more considered risk. Nate McLouth won’t be saying goodbye just as he’s saying hello. He’ll be here awhile.