Pirates Trade Nate McLouth to Braves

Now we know why the Braves dumped Tom Glavine — to clear payroll.

In the second surprising move of the day involving Atlanta, the Braves acquired centerfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates in exchange for Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke.

Morton and Locke were among the Braves’ better pitching prospects, and Hernandez a top outfield prospect. Hernandez compares in skills to former Met Carlos Gomez.

Though McLouth has been mired in a season-long slump, he was showing signs of breaking out recently, and he no doubt will benefit from being surrounded in the lineup by the Braves’ legit MLB hitters. With the Pirates, opposing pitchers had the option to pitch around McLouth and instead deal with the LaRoche brothers — who are nice hitters but hardly middle-of-the-order talents right now.

Have to say I’m stunned by this move, from the Pirates’ perspective. You would think a 27-year-old centerfielder with McLouth’s skillset, and about to enter his prime, is the type of player you use as a building block. Pittsburgh’s pitching staff would seem to be a year or two away from maturing, so why cut bait on McLouth now? Basically what the Bucs are saying is, “we don’t plan to compete this year, next year, nor the year after”. Wow, and I thought it was tough to be a Mets fan!

What makes this deal more mind-boggling is that the Pirates bought out McLouth’s arbitration years only a few months ago, signing him to a 3-year, $15.75M extension in February — which is pretty cheap for an All-Star centerfielder. Apparently the Pirates a) believe last year was a fluke for McLouth and trading him while he still as value; b) are broke; and/or c) are focused on always being a AAA team in the midst of “rebuilding”, and not really interested in fielding an MLB-caliber ballclub.

The Braves, on the other hand, get a solid centerfielder entering his prime and under control for the next four years to replace Jordan Schaefer, who has shown a great glove but has been overmatched at the plate. They dealt from surplus, and likely won’t miss any of the three youngsters they’ve sent to Pittsburgh.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mark June 3, 2009 at 8:31 pm
    Xavier Nady, Jason Bay and now Nate McLouth. Give the Pirates a little credit – at least they traded him away the day after the Penguins won a game in the Stanley Cup playoffs so the fans won’t be able to get a large scale riot. This was peculiar to say the least. Look out Mets the Braves will be a factor all summer long…
  2. mic June 3, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Atlanta sent Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez to Pitt for Nate McLouth…Sorry Joe but that screams Steve Phillips. Yes Nate McLouth is an all-star hitting .256, yes he can play a good CF but I am looking forward to I-dude because Atl overpaid…sending the signal they are DESPERATE to compete. From the Pitt end …this was too good to pass up.

    2- Texas released Vincente Padilla…now I might be tempted there. We need someone instead of Tim Redding.

    3- just for giggles…what would Chi cubs, the brews or Cards give for Putz?

  3. joejanish June 3, 2009 at 9:55 pm
    Mic, you’ve made it clear over the years that you value minor leaguers over MLB talent any day of the week. I hardly think that Atlanta “overpaid”. If anything, they pulled a fast one on the Pirates.

    Would you trade Carlos Beltran for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke? Because if you go strictly by the numbers, McLouth and Beltran were very similar players in 2008. This year, of course, there’s a huge gap, but McLouth is contrastingly cheap, 5 years younger, and on the way up while Beltran is expensive and at the age where ballplayers normally begin their decline. I’m not saying that McLouth is better than Beltran, nor that they’re equals, but suggesting that right now they have similar value based on their comparable skillsets and where they are in their careers.

    So, again, would you trade Beltran for that package?

  4. joejanish June 3, 2009 at 9:56 pm
    Maybe the Mets can get Heilman from the Cubs for Putz and make him the #5 starter.
  5. mic June 4, 2009 at 12:30 am
    i dont track other farm systems, i dont read baseball america. As such i cant say i know that much about anyone but hansen.

    As far as over the years…The Atlanta org has fleeeced all of MLB continually as their young players NEVER bloom outside. What WILL happen to Joe Devine, Mccay Mcbride, and the 3 sent for Tim Hudson? Maybe this will be different.

    MClouth is a great fetch but i see him as Jeff Francouer, with possibly better range.

    Now since u know me so well you will already sense that I am going to propose that the Mets try to pry Zach Duke, with Niese as our Locke.

    PS: Sites are reporting Betemit, Jamie Walker, Hayden Penn are among a slew of names that could soon be on the DFA list.

  6. joejanish June 4, 2009 at 12:57 am
    mic, color me confused …

    so, are you saying Atlanta DID overpay or DIDN’T they?

    And, you never answered the question — would you have traded Beltran for Gorkys Hernandez, Morton, and Locke?

    Saw that on Betemit … to me he would have been a perfect fit a week ago. Now, with Cora back from the DL and future HOFer Wilson Valdez on the roster, I’m not so sure. If I’m GM, though, I pick up Betemit. Great versatility, potential punch at the plate.

  7. isuzudude June 4, 2009 at 9:19 am
    Sorry, mic, I know you’re looking forward to my contribution but I agree with Joe – Atlanta is getting a steal. The Braves just got Pittsburgh’s best player, who is under contract cheaply through 2011 (with an option for 2012), without giving up any of their top-3 prospects, who I would say are Hansen, Medlen, and Schafer. I’m as dumbfounded as Joe as to why Pittsburgh would pull the trigger on a deal like this so early in his contract, and so soon after signing him longterm, without getting anyone of McLouth’s potential in return. Maybe they are broke, in which case, if I’m Omar, I’m getting on the horn ASAP and asking about the availability of anyone making more than $2-mil per season. Duke, Maholm, Snell, Grabow, Capps. All would fit in nicely at Citi. Or, maybe like the GM in Houston with the Brad Lidge trade, the Pitt GM gave up way too soon on a slumping player and accepted an underwhelming package now so he wouldn’t have to settle for an even more underwhelming package later if McLouth continued to slump.

    Yet, the conspiracy theorist in me wants to chirp in and say that maybe, just maybe, the Pitt organization sniffed out a positive-PED test in McLouth’s future, and decided to trade him now rather than dealing with that headache later. I have no proof; it’s just a thought. Something to keep in mind.

    I would not be shocked to see McLouth become a David Justice-like player for Atlanta, with the added incentive of GG defense. I think the Braves, with the coinciding move of calling Tommy Hanson up, just anchored themselves into the #2 spot in the NL East, and perhaps the wildcard. And, no, the Mets are not #1. They’re lucky to be #3 at this point. Meanwhile, I thought the Braves absolutely stole Javy Vazquez from the White Sox, and made great signings with Derek Lowe and Garrett Anderson. They continue to do no wrong and, with Hudson on the mend and Hanson now in the bigs, look to be poised to start another long postseason streak.

    To address some other things:
    – I would not pursue Padilla. He’s always hurt and on the hook for way too much money. I trust Nelson Figueroa to keep a lower ERA than him.
    – Putz is not going to be traded while his stock is as low as it is. Any team interested in his services would likely be offering less than what the Mets got him for, which makes little sense for the Mets to look into. The best course of action now is to give Putz some rest and hope he regains his 2nd half of 2008 form.
    – Is Wilson Betemit really any different than Tatis, with the exception being he can switch hit? I don’t see any need to further muddle the roster with utilitymen. Either go out and make a Nate McLouth-like splash for a corner OF, or make a big move for a young, talented SP. Otherwise, I prefer to sink with the current ship, save money, stockpile draft picks, and start over in the offseason.

  8. mic June 4, 2009 at 10:51 am
    -To answer: I dont like Mcclouth. IF I replaced CB it would be with Angel Pagan and F-mart anyway.

    – Btw: With Humber released, Calos Gomez often displaced by Denard Spann, Mulvey (Nowhere to be found) …was that trade a steal?

    -HOWEVER I think WE are on it!! Pitt is doing a Jeff Luria and figuring on trading (low/high?) and taking back 3 players for one…I think Zach Duke HAS to be in Omar’s sights, this Summer he wanted Ian Snell…but also note Gorzelanny pitched in relief(?).

    – as such KUNZ, niese, Antonini and BOwman could be packaged. I think Duda, Ike Davis,Jenry Meija, wILMER AND Tejada alng with Brad Holt, Wilmer and Marte are the next core already ascending to AA and high A.

    – I disagree with your assessment of Atl, but I like their philosophy of having quality pitching especially starting. The Mets with Ollie, Redding and Livian plugging the rear is like a high pressure pipe plugged with spackling paste.

    – I disagree on Putz and my arguement already has precedent…Put Putz on the DL, then bring him back slowly with situational (SO) opputunities and some saves then swap him in July. Frankly MANY teams NEED a true closer including the Angels and our friends in Detroit.

    -Btw…those La Roche brothers certainly might not be boppers but did enuff to get 2 wins.