Hello again everyone from sunny southeast Michigan, where everything is much brighter today after the Braves acquisition of Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros. Kudos to Frank Wren on a job well done, as he simultaneously eliminated a black hole from the lineup and landed the team its first true lead-off hitter since Rafael Furcal. With the injection of on base percentage at the top of the order and improvement in stolen base capability, the Braves offense has a chance to really click for the last 50 plus games of the season.
Alas, with any trade comes risk. In spite of what you might infer from reading the Internet, it is not possible to get value without giving up value. The idea is to get at least as much back as you give away (no great epiphany there). The truly outstanding GM’s, in my opinion, are those that get the players that have more value to your team than they are perceived to bring to their current team. In that way you are able to consistently improve your team without going on an endless quest for the Holy Grail of a trade that is totally one-sided in absolute value. I think that Wren was able to do that in this instance, as the minor league pitchers traded away have the potential to do very well in an organization not filled to the brim with pitching talent.
It is the very nature of those players from which the biggest risk of this trade arises, again in my opinion. While it is still possible that Jordan Schafer will turn the corner, and I truly hope he does, his numbers have yet to give reason to believe that will happen. Jordan can be an exciting player. Several times this season it has seemed that he finally had it figured out. And, as the Braves coaches themselves have admitted, his play often seems better than his numbers would indicate. But eventually it’s the numbers that count, as the numbers lead to the runs that equate to the wins. And there is no quantifiable justification to support Jason’s resurgence.
On the other hand, it is often said that “There is no such thing as a pitching prospect”. It would take a whole separate article to tell you all that this statement means to me, but for sure it says that the outcomes for young pitchers are very hard to project. Injuries happen; they happen a lot to young pitchers. Nowadays, for example, it is almost a good thing if a pitcher has already had Tommy John surgery, it happens so often. The factor that creates the risk in this trade for me is that the Braves gave up three pitchers who all have good stuff, especially left hander Brett Oberholtzer and right hander Juan Abreu. Regular readers might remember my earlier writeup on Brett, which you can read here. And Abreu has something you can’t teach, which is a fastball that regularly tops out at over 100 MPH. I won’t go through all of their numbers, as Fred Owens did an excellent job of that in his article that he posted earlier today, but one number to remember is that Abreu has struck out 68 hitters in 48 innings. That’s very rarefied air.
In summary, the Astros were able to mitigate the risk inherent with taking young arms in trade by obtaining three quality arms. While they aren’t the top pitchers in the Braves system, I strongly believe that all three would have been in the Top 10 Braves prospects for 2012. There is a high probability that at least one of them will turn into a quality major league player that the Astros will control for several years to come. And that’s the risk for the Braves. Is it a risk worth taking? For sure. Is it a risk I would have taken were I Frank Wren? Absolutely, especially with the number of quality arms in the Braves system.
Now that Abreu is gone, though, I think it cinches the promotion of Arodys Vizcaino to the Atlanta team this season. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen in the next two weeks.
All this is my take; what’s yours?