Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trade Center: MLB

The Deal: The Pittsburgh Pirates send OF Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for CF Gorkys Hernandez (AA), LHP Jeff Locke (High-A), RHP Charlie Morton (AAA).

Braves: Entering June, the Atlanta Braves ranked in the bottom half of the league in every major hitting category. The main reason for the lack of offense in the Atlanta line-up has been the anemic performances by their outfielders. In over 550 AB's, Atlanta's top FOUR outfielders only managed to hit 10 home runs. Nate McLouth comes to the Braves with nine in 168 AB's. None of the Braves three starters had an OPS north of .700, which is unheard of in today's game. McLouth's OPS stands at .819 and was .853 last season when he was an All-Star. Another area where McLouth can help the Braves out is their running game. McLouth has been a perfect 7 for 7 in SB attempts, and is 64 of 69 for his career. McLouth was attractive to Atlanta because he's only 27 years old and is signed for the next three seasons. The Braves did pay a heavy price for  three and a half years of McLouth. They parted with two of their top ten prospects according to Baseball America (subscription required to read the full scouting reports), in Hernandez and Locke. Atlanta also had to give up 25 year old pitcher Charlie Morton, who has gone 12-4 with an ERA under 2.50 over the past two seasons in AAA.

Pirates: Even though it seems that the Pirates traded away a young budding star for no immediate help to their major league team, I think Pittsburgh made the right move here. On the surface McLouth is a reigning All-Star and Gold Glover, but in reality he isn't too likely to attain those accolades again. McLouth's defense has been grossly overrated. He has a nice arm and decent range but his instincts are lacking. Most advanced defensive metrics rated him as a below average to very poor defensive center fielder. While McLouth is a good offensive center fielder, he's unlikely to enter the All-Star break with the numbers he had last season. McLouth was batting .281 with a .899 OPS and 19 home runs when he played in the midsummer classic. Another reason why McLouth was traded, was the emergence of Pittsburgh's top center field prospect Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen, who was the Pirates 1st round pick in 2005, was pushing for a promotion with his performance in AAA. With him on the way, McLouth would have needed to move to a corner outfield spot. While McLouth could have made the move to the corner, his .819 OPS isn't nearly as impressive at that position. Pretty much every team (except the Braves) has at least one corner outfielder with an .800+ OPS. The Pirates did a good job of selling high on McLouth. They got three quality young players in return. Hernandez has a bright future in CF and may one day push McCutchen to a corner spot. Locke has had some minor league struggles but at 21 years old has a bright future. Morton is a great third piece in this deal. He doesn't have the immense upside of the previous two, but he's major league ready. Morton at the very least could be a quality late inning bullpen arm, but will likely end up as a back of the rotation starter.

Winner: Braves are the immediate winner, but I think the Pirates get the long term benefit here. They traded a redundant player at the peak of his value for quantity and quality prospects. Its hard to argue with that. In addition the money that they save will go towards filling holes at positions of need, and acquiring more amateur talent. 


  1. Personally I had wished that the Bucs had shopped around for McClouth a little bit more to expend all possible options. I hope that this turns out to be good for the Bucs. And dont get me wrong Im eagerly awaiting the emergence of McCutchen, as a matter a fact with how he started a four run inning in the first off of Pelfrey, it leaves me and probably most of the city of pittsburgh chompin at the bit to see him achieve his full potential

  2. I can buy that, its always surprising when a player is moved if he hasn't been "on the market". I think the Pirates were legitimately concerned that McLouth would lose some value if they moved him to a corner spot for McCutchen. I know some people will think that's crazy but if it got to be July 31st and his OPS was in the same range and he was doing it from the corner I don't think the market would have been as favorable. I think the return was more than fair and Pirates fans will be happy in the long run.

    As for options I don't know if there could have been a team more desperate than the Braves for an outfielder. Unfortunately they weren't gonna move Heyward or Hanson no matter how bad it got. The good news here is the Buc's got some good young talent with a ton of upside. This isn't a repeat of the A. Ramirez trade.

  3. I think the point people are missing with the Pirates not shopping McLouth more is that the Braves were never going to let that happen. We already have word today that they had a deal in place with the Marlins for Cody Ross, but instead opted for McLouth. In all likelihood, with the Ross deal already on the table, Wren approached the Pirates with an offer they had a very short amount of time to consider before the Braves would move on. Given that, I think the Pirates made the right decision in taking a good deal as opposed to holding out hope they could hit a HR later on this season or in the offseason.

  4. Good points nixa37:

    I agree there would have been a big risk in waiting till the deadline.