The news of the Nate McLouth injury last night might have been the last bit of wind needed to finally shift the trade focus of the Atlanta Braves from a corner outfielder to a center fielder -- something that they perhaps should have been targeting all along. Jordan Schafer was being evaluated through what seemed like rose-colored glasses by the Braves, and the team seems to have no idea what to do with Nate McLouth. Now that both are out for the next two weeks and perhaps longer, the need to acquire a starting Major League center fielder was put into sharp focus last night as Jose Constanza made his Big League debut.
ESPN's Buster Olney has this to say in his morning column regarding the Braves trade needs:
The Braves missed out on Carlos Beltran, and then Pence, and so now they will presumably pluck one of the lower-tier outfielders who are available -- and in light of the injury to Nate McLouth and the physical problems that have nagged Jordan Schaefer, acquiring a center fielder is a priority, which is why they have had interest in Bourn, Denard Span and Coco Crisp. Their level of interest in B.J. Upton is unclear, but the Rays are willing to move Upton at a price more modest than that of Pence.
Bourn seems to be out of the Braves price range, as the Astros would certainly continue to hold Atlanta's feet to the fire and insist they give up one of their top four pitching prospects -- Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor, and Randall Delgado (The Four Horsemen of the Pitchpocalypse). Upton is a very intriguing, though were Atlanta to acquire him they would have to believe he would be able to increase his production away from Tampa Bay. They would also have to hope that the Rays would accept a trade for one of the Braves second tier of pitching prospects -- Brett Oberholtzer, J.J. Hoover, Zeke Spruill, and .
There's also been some mention of the A's Coco Crisp, and if the Braves truly don't value on-base percentage then he would be the guy to get. But he seems like a fallback option should something not get worked out for Upton or Bourn. Span seems like a far off option, and aside from idle speculation there have been no rumors linking the Braves and the Twins.
Certainly the pressure on Frank Wren and the Braves front office has increased, not only because of the injuries to both of their center fielders, but also because they lost out on Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran to two teams they would likely see in any path through the postseason.
I also don't find it unusual that the Braves haven't made a move yet. When they are constantly having to say no to teams when they ask about the Four Horsemen, Atlanta has to sell these other teams on the other prospects in their system, and that takes time. But only time will tell if they are successful in trading for an impact player or two while also holding onto their top four pitchers. Ultimately they may have to part with one or more of those arms if they want to assemble a team that can compete with Philly and San Fran.