Archive: June 3rd, 2009

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.


Tom Glavine Released

Tom Glavine has been released by the Atlanta Braves, just as he was on the brink of returning from shoulder and elbow surgeries.

Glavine had just enjoyed a 6-inning, 64-pitch outing in a final tuneup for Rome, an A-level minor league club. He did not allow any runs and 44 of those tosses were for strikes.

It is assumed that the Braves are not in a position to add Glavine to the 25-man roster, and in fact are in the market for hitting, and decided to dump Glavine for budgetary reasons. Glavine was to earn a $1M bonus if the Braves added him to the active roster, another $1.25 after 30 days of being with the Braves and then $1.25 million more after 90 days.

Without having to pay Glavine the bonus money, the Braves can use those dollars instead in an effort to add a veteran bat.

Are the Mets in the market for a starter, or are they going to continue to send Tim Redding to the mound in hopes he’ll come around? If they ARE in the market, is Glavine a consideration? Would he be cheaper than Pedro Martinez? Healthier than Ben Sheets? Better than Tim Redding?

If so, did the final game of 2008 erase the fans’ memory of the last game of 2007?


Murphy vs. Martinez


While the Mets are hurting now, parts of the cavalry are making their way back. Carlos Beltran should be feeling better soon, and Ryan Church can come off the DL about a week from now, which means Fernando Martinez will likely be sent back to AAA Buffalo.

Or will he?

Because Carlos Delgado is out until at least July — maybe longer — there has been some chatter regarding the acquisition of a big bopper to take his place in the middle of the lineup. Unless Mike Piazza comes out of retirement, it’s obvious that the import would be a first baseman and/or outfielder.

If indeed the Mets bring in, say, a Matt Holliday or Jermaine Dye, then Dan Murphy has a chance to stay at first base. But, if they acquire a first baseman — Nick Johnson, for example — that puts Murphy back in the outfield, possibly in a platoon situation.

There’s a problem with that second scenario, though, which is that the Mets have decided that Murphy is not an outfielder. The other issue is that the outfield is already crowded, once Ryan Church and Angel Pagan return.

And then there’s Fernando Martinez, who is not being overmatched at the plate.

Whether F-Mart can keep it up is anyone’s guess, but if he does, that changes the situation — it puts the focus on getting a first baseman, displacing Murphy. Add in another factor: Ryan Church is the Mets’ most eligible everyday player to be dealt. He’s only 30, under contractual control for another year, inexpensive, and undervalued by Mets management. The Mets have no “MLB-ready” prospects in their minor-league system, which means they almost certainly would have to provide at least one starting player from the 25-man roster in a blockbuster deal. Church fits the mold — as does Murphy.

If Martinez continues to show he belongs in the bigs, the Mets might consider giving him the right field job and moving Church to obtain a first baseman (Garrett Atkins? Chad Tracy?) — particularly if Murphy continues to struggle at the plate. Though not yet the complete package, Martinez right now has better raw tools than Murphy in the areas of speed and defense, and he might have the edge in power. Hitting under .250, Murphy brings little value to the starting lineup — his defense is a detriment in the outfield, only adequate at first base, he has below-average power for a corner infielder, and is below-average to average as a baserunner. In other words, if Murphy’s not hitting .300+, there isn’t much point in playing him.

Martinez, on the other hand, can at least give you solid defense and baserunning, and he might smack a few extra-base hits. Of course, his batting average needs to improve by at least 75 points — but if it does, it may be enough for him to stick.

The next two weeks could turn out to be a competition of survival between Fernando Martinez and Danny Murphy. Which one will remain standing?