While I’m elated to see Nate McLouth in an Atlanta uniform (a .600 OPS from your everyday centerfielder will do that for you), there’s still work to be done. Before I get into this, I’d just like to point out that this isn’t a frustrated bitching post (I’ll save that for the day after a tough loss) and I don’t want any sarcastic responses about me applying for Wren’s job. This is an innocent idea that will hopefully spark some good discussion.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I can get into the real meat and potatoes of this post. As I said, while the McLouth trade was a huge step in the right direction (and I applaud Wren for making such a big move early on), it leaves the front office in a tough position. The organization’s frustration with Jeff Francoeur’s lack of production seems to finally be catching up with his, well…. lack of production. On top of that, it looks as though Greg Norton may have run his course with the Braves, leaving Bobby Cox without a consistent power source off the bench (as much as you could call Norton a power source). The problem is of course that the team seems to be out of money now that they’re paying McLouth’s $2 million salary. That financial inflexibility combined with an economy that will put a premium on cheap fixes this trading season means that a creative solution will be necessary to further strengthen the team.
With all that said, I come to my ingenious solution (that I blatantly ripped off from MLBTR) -- Shelley Duncan. He’s not the sexy acquisition (I’m lookin’ at you Matt Holliday), but he fits what the Braves need and maybe most importantly, is affordable in terms of salary and what it would take to acquire him. He can play both corner outfield spots, bring quite a bit of power off the bench, and back up first
if when Martin Prado is filling in for Chipper at third. And on top of everything, he’s right-handed (hasn’t that become a rare thing in Atlanta?). Duncan is currently making International League pitchers wet themselves for the Yankees’ triple-A affiliate to the tune of a .310/.379/.670 line with 20 homers. Obviously a 29-year old AAAA slugger isn’t going to be that successful in the majors, but his small amount of major league experience definitely warrants more of a look that the Yankees really can’t provide. In ’07 he posted an .883 OPS in 74 at-bats with a .255 BABIP and while he struggled mightily last season, his .202 BABIP more than likely had a significant hand in that.
No one should be expecting too much with Duncan. He’ll give you loads of power, a good amount of strikeouts (25.2% in 133 career MLB at-bats), and a mediocre on-base skills (Atlanta fans shouldn’t be too picky at this point). What makes this even more appealing is that we actually match up fairly well with the Yankees as trading partners. Atlanta has a glut of pitching and the Yankees bullpen is truly painful to watch (4.85 ERA). The Braves have surplus arms like Boone Logan, James Parr, and Luis Valdez seemingly trapped in Gwinnett, that may interest the Yankees for a player of little to no value to them. Would this move make our opponents shake in awe of our offense? No, I don’t think that’ll happen regardless of what Wren does. What this will do is affordably give the Braves a shot at solving some of their offensive woes and some right-handed power to change up what is a lefty-heavy lineup. Thoughts?