Saturday, July 9, 2011

Outfielder Options At The Deadline

Frank Wren has already made it clear no moves will be made any time soon, instead hoping for bouncebacks in the second half from Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward. And he's right about that. A better Uggla and Heyward down the stretch is like picking up the best bats on the market.

However, there is always the chance of acquiring a bat at the deadline if the price is right. If it means fewer at-bats for Jordan Schafer, I'm all for it (though, it was also made known Schafer could get the nod over Nate McLouth, which is stupid). For argument's sake, let's consider some bats.

Josh Willingham:
Willingham has been linked to the Braves on several occasions, and in the past it would have been a good pickup, but he appears to have forgotten how to walk, posting a career-low 8.3 BB% so far this season. This has resulted in career lows in on-base numbers, including a .309 OBP, and he has a .322 wOBA. A hitter with a career OBP of .362 and BB% of 11.3% doesn't all of a sudden forget how to walk, but he's obviously struggling with it, and he's not the attractive piece from the past few seasons.

Michael Cuddyer:
Cuddyer is perhaps the most attractive option to this point. His .298/.370/.479 line bests his career numbers by a wide margin. He's walking at the third-best rate of his career at 9.4%. A .376 wOBA and 140 wRC+ are both career bests, as well. His batted ball numbers are in line with his career norms aside from an increase in contact percentage, so he appears to just be seeing the ball better this year. He would likely take the most to pry away, but he would provide a solid bat in left with Chipper Jones going down with the knee injury.

Ryan Ludwick:
Ludwick's power isn't being skewed very much by Petco. In fact, he has a better slugging percentage at home. So his career-low ISO of .146 is likely real. This isn't good considering he has a .314 OBP and 8 BB%. Ludwick is an empty bat that probably won't get much better in the second half. The Braves should look elsewhere.

Peter Bourjos:
The promotion of Mike Trout may not mean that much for Bourjos at the moment, but if Trout catches fire, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bourjos dealt. He's not much of a hitter, posting a .272/.323/.397 line with a 5.8 BB%, and his minor league numbers indicate that will probably be the norm, but his value comes from defense, where he's rated as one of the best center fielders in the league, and speed, recording 11 steals - and 50 for Class-A Advanced in 2008. Going after Bourjos is a matter of whether the Braves offense can handle a glove-first outfielder, though he does hit better than Schafer. He may be a better option in the offseason, but I wouldn't oppose it.

The Braves have the pieces to get whoever they want; it's a matter of whether the value is there in return. The market isn't overflowing by any means, so the bats that are available will likely be sold off for more than they're worth. But that's the price you pay for buying at the deadline. Hopefully, the Braves realize this and don't mortgage the future for a mediocre bat.

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