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Trade Deadline Recap: Braves Acquire Bourn

August 5, 2011

Leading up to the trade deadline there were few people who truly believed that the Houston Astros would deal one of their starting outfielders, even though it was no secret that both Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn would both attract a lot of attention if they were actually made available. After Pence was dealt to the Phillies, the chances of Bourn being moved as well seemed even less remote. Yet, just two days later and hours before the deadline, Bourn was dealt as well, to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for four players – outfielder Jordan Schafer and pitchers Juan Abreu, Brett Oberholtzer, and Paul Clemens.

Bourn had been having a career season at the time of the trade and, like Pence, was one of the few bright spots in for an Astros team with the worst record in Major League Baseball. He was batting .303/.362/.403 in 429 at bats and was once again leading the National League with 40 stolen bases. He led the league both in 2009 and 2010 while winning a Gold Glove in center field each year.

Simply put, Bourn was the perfect bat for the Braves to acquire as they’ve struggled for the past few seasons to find consistent production out of both center field and the leadoff spot in the lineup. Bourn fills both needs and is under team control through next season. Perhaps what’s more impressive is the fact that they didn’t have to surrender any top prospects or key players on their current roster.

Schafer is the key piece of the deal – at least in the short term – and should step right into Houston’s starting lineup once he recovers from a broken finger that should keep him sidelined until mid August. Once Atlanta’s top prospect following the 2008 season, Schafer impressed enough in the Spring to win a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster, homering in his first at bat (similarly to Jason Heyward, just without anyone on base). After that he missed a good deal of time with a wrist injury and a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s HGH policy.

Since returning he’s been a valuable player but not nearly the player he was once projected to be. In 363 career at bats he’s batting .223/.310/.303 with just 3 HR and 15 RBI. He has stolen 17 bases. He’s an asset defensively but his struggles at the plate, and tendency to strikeout, will need to improve if he is going to remain an everyday player.

Abreu, 26, has spent the season in the bullpen for Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate where he’s posted a 4-2 record and 2.25 ERA through 41 games (48.0 innings). The right hander has a small build and doesn’t throw hard so he’ll need to rely on his command. He has been homer-prone over his career, which won’t help when pitching in Minute Maid Park.

Oberholtzer, 22, and Clemens, 23, have both been starting in Double-A this season. They were both drafted in 2008 (Clemens in the 7th round, Oberholtzer in the 8th). Both walk too many batters. Oberholtzer has made 21 starts in which he’s gone 9-9 with a 3.74 ERA Clemens has made 20 starts and has gone 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA. Both could someday see time in Houston’s rotation, though Clemens likely has the higher ceiling of the two.

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