Let's look at what we have if we stand pat.
Prado is coming back as our left fielder, but anyone who thinks Chipper is going to not take a month off for surgery is fooling themselves. It won't be long before he does it either, so we have to see LF open for a month after the all star break.
That means that if we did nothing, Mclouth, Schafer, and Heyward would be our outfield until we hit the stretch, when Prado would move to left, and either Schafer or Mclouth would man center full time.
Let's think about where this would leave us.
DEFENSE: I'm going to call it one of the rangiest outfields in baseball. I'd consider Mclouth a GG quality left fielder, Heyward on his way to being a GG caliber RF, and Schafer is definitely that kind of CF, which is where it matters most. I'd say our defense would be phenomenal.
OFFENSE: Leaving heyward out of the conversation because his position is not up for conversation:
McLouth has a 350 obp, and could prob steal 20 bases if we turned him loose. He knows how to take a walk and is a perfect no. 8 hitter. If he can get on base at a 350 clip out of the 8hole and play gold glove LF, I'd say no upgrade is required. When Prado forces him to compete with Schafer in center, his defense is mediocre and his job in the 8spot is incomparable to Schafer's leading off. I'd say that he would have to really turn it on to beat out Schafer in CF, but I wouldn't call that out of the question.
Schafer is still adjusting to the league during the season we expected he'd need in AAA. He's batting 300 over his last 10 games though. His 11 steals in 39 games averages to over 45 in a season. His 26 runs in 39 would average to 108 in a season. Not swinging for the fences, his homers would still be prorated to 12 in a season, and he is the first Brave in years to go 5/5. It's no fluke either because he's had a couple three and four hit nights. I'd say he is adjusting well and showing all the signs we could expect that he could be our guy.
We still have 20 games before the trade deadline. I'd expect Wren to be searching for a center fielder, but not to pull the trigger unless something shocking happens or Schafer performs poorly over those 20 games. Schafer is certainly performing and progressing at a level that has us considering his services for both this year and the next several. He would be a much cheaper option than Bourn or anyone else worth trading for. He will have to drop off dramatically to not get those 20 games, and if he sustains his current level of play we should be jumping for joy over the CF we'd then commit to. There is the possibility Mclouth starts playing like an allstar in that 20 game stretch, which would also solve our CF situation for the season. If neither seem like the answer, expect a new CF on the team, but not till near the trade deadline.
Its possible we go ahead and trade for a CF, unload Mclouth or Schafer, let the other man left till Prado's return to the OF, and serve as our 4th OF at that point. The problem here is that we won't know yet if it's worth planning to use Schafer next year, and if we got Bourn we would have him signed through next season. (of course Chipper could retire, Prado could move to third, and Schafer or the new CF could move to left, making our OF a true black hole). The positive to this is that we can remove mclouth from the outfield, but the player would have to be better enough than a 350 obp with speed and a golden left field glove to be worth all the confusion and complication.
It seems to me that the obvious thing to do is let these guys play till the trade deadline then make the decision. The only other thing that could make sense is to get a guy like quentin, who is an upgrade over Mclouth in left, but would give way to Prado when he returns to the outfield. This wouldn't interfere with the plan to wait till the trade deadline to make a decision in center.
What to do with the OF
Wait till the tradeline to make a move in the outfield - Give Schafer time (163 votes)
Trade for a LF now that would yield to Prado later (4 votes)
Get an allstar LF and figure it out with Prado later (19 votes)
Trade for a CF now, Schafer isn't it (30 votes)
216 total votes