Braves acquire outfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates for RHP Charlie Morton, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and LHP Jeff Locke.
- First impression - I’m very surprised to see the Pirates parting with McLouth just 3 ½ months after signing him to a three-year, $15.75 million contract, especially with no legitimate top-30 prospects coming in return.
- Second impression - This is a pretty good haul for a guy the Pirates thought was a fourth outfielder a couple of years ago. Still, it’s pretty depressing that the one position prospect they got is a lesser version of Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates’ priorities should have been a power hitter for the outfield corners or first base and a legitimate shortstop/second baseman of the future. Hernandez might turn into a capable leadoff hitter, but he could just as easily be a bottom of the order guy. He’s not going to develop any power. The 21-year-old was hitting .316/.361/.387 with 10 steals in 18 attempts for Double-A Mississippi.
Morton is a step up on the pitchers the Pirates got from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady deal, but he may work out best as a setup man. He was 7-2 with a 2.51 ERA, 52 H and 55/16 K/BB in 64 2/3 IP for Triple-A Gwinnett. Locke offers more upside, though his command has taken a step backwards this year. He was 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA, 47 H and 43/26 K/BB in 45 2/3 IP for Single-A Myrtle Beach. I expect him to make it as a No. 3 starter anyway.
McLouth is a big-time upgrade for the Braves, but that’s in no small part because the alternatives had been terrible. He’s not a Gold Glove center fielder, no matter what NL managers think. Still, he’s a great stopgap there for now and he can move to left or right field next year when Jordan Schafer is ready to establish himself. Better for the Braves if he were a right-handed hitter. However, that they were able to get him without parting with Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie Freeman, Schafer or Kris Medlen makes this a fine trade for them. They still have a real chance of going to the postseason this year, and this move should be good for at least two wins.
- I’m very interested in seeing how Andrew McCutchen performs as McLouth’s replacement. McCutchen has beened view as a top prospect since being drafted 11th overall in 2005, and he’s continually put up solid numbers while being young for his leagues. However, it’s typically been the case that he’s dominated lefties and been just mediocre against righties. This year, he was at .361/.400/.672 against southpaws in Triple-A and .279/.344/.414 against righties. The overall line of .303/.361/.493 with quite impressive for a 22-year-old in the International League, but the way he got there leaves me skeptical that he’s ready to help as a regular right now.