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Thursday, June 4, 2009
McLouth bolsters Braves


Usually I just love deals like this:
 McLouth
Just to clarify, usually I love deals like this for the team getting the prospects. Usually, though, the team getting the prospects is giving up just part of a season, or perhaps part of a season and all of the next. Usually one of the prospects is a Grade A talent, not far from the majors. And usually the veteran that's being relinquished is well-paid (if not over-paid).

In this case, I'm not sure if any of those things are true. Let alone all of them.

Charlie Morton, who's 25, has pitched exceptionally well in Triple-A this spring and does deserve another shot in the majors (after pitching poorly for the Braves last year). I don't know that he's a top-shelf talent, but the Pirates can use guys like him.

Jeff Locke, who's only 21 and was a second-round draft pick three years ago, entered this season as the Braves' No. 7 prospect but has fared well in Class A ball.

And Gorkys Hernandez. Ah, Gorkys Hernandez. Like Locke, he's 21. Like Locke, he entered this season with a solid enough reputation. I'm just not convinced that he's ever going to become a great ballplayer rather than a great athlete. Hernandez is quite fast, and yet he's stolen only 10 bases in 18 attempts this season. He's batting .316, but in 52 games he's got 15 walks, 54 strikeouts, and 0 home runs.

I'm not saying Hernandez isn't a good prospect. Everyone says he is. Everyone also says that about Jose Tabata -- who the Pirates got from the Yankees when trading another veteran outfielder -- and ... well, Tabata's still young for his level and still figures as a future major leaguer. I suppose I'm just sympathetic to the fans in Pittsburgh. It's one thing to trade a good player for prospects, but it's another thing to trade for prospects who are probably two or three years away from doing much to help the big club.

On a happier note, McLouth's spot in center field will be filled by Andrew McCutchen, who entered this season as the Pirates' No. 2 prospect. I don't believe he'll make the fans forget McLouth from the get-go, but within a few years he might be as good as McLouth. So the Pirates had surplus at a key position and traded some of that surplus. Maybe this will work out for them.

But for the Braves, what a brilliant move. McLouth's not great but he's quite good, and the Braves do need a quite-good hitter in their lineup. Next best, the Braves are now set in center field for at least the next couple of seasons. McLouth isn't anything like the fielder that Jordan Schafer is, so he can slide over to a corner spot when Schafer's actually ready for the majors, which should happen sometime in 2010 or '11.