When news broke that the Braves had acquired Michael Bourn and didn’t have to give up any of the Big Four, Braves fans cheered. If there was a major hole on the team, it was center field. Nate McLouth had been worth a whole 0.3 fWAR while hitting decently (.344 OBP) and playing terrible defense. Jordan Schafer was worth 0.7 fWAR because he could actually play defense and take the occasional walk. Together, the two weren’t even on pace to be an average MLB starter. The Braves, therefore, made the move to get Bourn, but what did they get and what did they give up?
Over the past three seasons, Bourn has been a 4-5 win player. Let that sink in. 4 to 5 wins per season. Hunter Pence was a 3-4 win player. Bourn’s defense is excellent and will be an upgrade defensively, and while his offensive norm is .271/.338/.359, that’s still a slight upgrade there. And then you have to add his baserunning, which has usually been worth 5-6 runs a season due to his stolen bases and speed. For the rest of the season, he should add 1-1.5 wins, and he should be worth about 4 wins next season. That’s a total value between $25-30 million, not counting possible additional playoff money earned, and he’ll make about $10 million during that time, leaving a surplus value of $15-20 million.
To finally get our “leadoff hitter”, the Braves traded Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, and Juan Abreu. Schafer’s value will mainly come from next season before he hits arbitration, and we’ll tag him with a $5 million value for his minimum cost 1-win performance next year (after that the values will probably even out or start costing the Astros). Abreu is your classic fire-throwing reliever. He strikes tons of guys out but can’t usually find the zone. As a C prospect, he has a value near $1.5 million. That’s a total of $6.5 million so far.
The other two pitchers have more value. Paul Clemens was largely an unknown prospect before the season, but he performed well in AA (3.73 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9) while being able to hold his velocity in the mid-90s, instead of simply scraping it like last season. Clemens’ stock has certainly improved, but his secondary pitches still need work, and his command isn’t good. If he can maintain this production, he’s probably a B prospect ($7.3 million), but if he can’t, he’s a C ($1.5 million). Let’s split the difference to $4.4 million, which adds to the other two for $11 million.
Brett Oberholtzer is the other main piece of this trade. Coming into the season, he was a strong C+ prospect because of his stellar K/BB ratios in the minors, but like most command/control guys that move into AA, those ratios collapsed. He went from 5.5 and 6 to 2.21. It’s still good, and he’s still young at age 22. But he has no projection left, and he is what he is. He and Clemens are essentially clones, but Oberholtzer is left-handed and a year younger. Let’s split his B/C values as well ($7.3 and $2.1) to get to $4.7 million. That’s about $16 million total.
So overall, the Braves received a center fielder that they needed in playoff time, and they traded him for what is probably the lower end of the value of the guy coming in, which again does not include added playoff value. I think the trade was a fair one, but the Braves win out on the probability of this working out for them.