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Astros should have done better for Michael Bourn

Jul 31, 2011, 11:57 AM EDT

Michael Bourn Getty Images

I was impressed with Houston’s return for Hunter Pence.  By all indications, Astros GM Ed Wade did a nice job of playing the suitors off each other and he ended up with a pair of top-50 prospects from the Phillies for his troubles.

The Michael Bourn trade with Atlanta was also a four-for-one deal, but in this case, the four wasn’t nearly so impressive.  And one can argue that Bourn is just as valuable of a property as Pence.  Factoring in his exceptional defense and his value on the basepaths, he’s been the superior player this year while hitting .303/.363/.403 in 429 at-bats.  And while Pence is under control for the additional year, Bourn at about $7 million for 2012 alone sounds better than Pence at approximately $23 million for 2012-13.

In return for Bourn, the Braves gave up outfielder Jordan Schafer and three pitchers: Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

Schafer, 24, was a top prospect two years ago, but he ended up on the shelf for much of 2009 and all of 2010 and he’s hit just .223/.310/.303 in 363 major league at-bats.  He’s a legitimate center fielder, and he could yet establish himself as a quality regular if he can get healthy and stay that way.  He’s currently on the DL with a chip fracture in his left middle finger.

Oberholtzer, a 22-year-old lefty, is the top pitching prospect in the deal, but he’s only in the second tier of Braves arms.  The 2008 eighth-round pick is 9-9 with a 3.74 ERA and a 93/42 K/BB ratio in 127 2/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi.  His fastball is pretty average, but both his changeup and curveball should be quality major league pitches.  He projects as a No. 4 starter.

Clemens, a 23-year-old righty, was drafted one round ahead of Oberholtzer in the 2008 draft and was his teammate at Mississippi this year, going 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA and a 93/44 K/BB ratio in 108 2/3 innings.  He’d been in the pen more often than not leading up to this year, and his secondary pitches will have to get better for him to remain a starter.  His fastball, though, reaches the mid-90s.

Abreu, a 26-year-old right-handed reliever, has good stuff out and a spotty track record.  Pitching in Triple-A for the first time, he’s had something of a breakthrough year, amassing a 2.25 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 48 innings.  He has walked 27, though, and the Braves never thought he was worthy of a callup.

So, Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart these guys are not.  If this was the best Wade could do now, he should have kept Bourn until the winter.  The deal from the Astros’ perspective will probably come down to Schafer and whether he fulfills his promise an an everyday player.  He’s still young enough to turn the corner, but three straight injury-plagued seasons don’t bode well.

  1. xmatt0926x - Jul 31, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Shafer might just keep himself on the DL permanently. How does that feel to know your heading to the new Siberia of baseball in Houston. They were a 100+ loss team before the last of the talent was just shipped away, not much in the farm system. Yikes.

    • b7p19 - Jul 31, 2011 at 12:27 PM

      There is a little more in the farm system now, thanks to the Phillies and Braves. They may not have maximized the deals, but they have certainly added talent to the system. Now they need to get one of the Yankees catchers or pitchers in return for Wandy.

  2. petergammonsdrunknephew - Jul 31, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    I’m a Braves fan, but I can’t help but think how much it must hurt for Astros fans to see their team just chip apart, one player at a time. There is very little left at this point. And they were in the World Series just six years ago. Sucks for Schafer, but I am looking forward to seeing Bourn in a Braves uniform.Also, I’m starting to wonder whether Ed Wade is trying to cement his status as worst GM of all time in order to gain some level of immortality.

  3. chew1985 - Jul 31, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Braves are back in the NL East hunt. Bourn will make a bigger difference there than Pence here. Shafer was a total disaster in Atlanta and now he’s been replaced by a solid 4-tool player and excellent leadoff hitter.

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