The Braves centerfielders this year have hit a NL worst .229 with a (also NL worst) .626 OPS. The Braves are also last in the NL in stolen bases as a team. So one could understand why the Braves are thought of as a team that could land Houston Astros centerfielder Michael Bourn. Bourn is hitting .293 this year with a .759 OPS and leads the NL with 35 stolen bases (more than the entire Braves team). Bourn is also one of the top five defensive centerfielders in baseball. Clearly, Bourn would be a great fit for the Braves, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will or should trade for him: it’s just not that simple. I’ll breakdown the pros and cons of acquiring Bourn, what it might cost to get him, and whether it makes sense.
Pros: In Bourn, the Braves would get the centerfielder they’ve been searching for ever since Andruw Jones left and the leadoff hitter/stolen base threat they’ve been searching for since Rafael Furcal left. Bourn is one of fastest players in baseball, is one of most dynamic base stealer in baseball, and one of the top defensive outfielders in baseball. His salary is a very reasonable $4.4 million (the Braves would only have pay about $1.5 million) and he is under team control for the 2012 season as well. At 28 years old, he is beginning to enter his prime as a player. Also, he is likely to rank as either a type A or B free agent, meaning the Braves could get one or two high drafts picks if he leaves via free agency after the 2012 season.
Cons: The Braves like Jordan Schafer and they want him to be their centerfielder. He has shown flashes of being able to be a player similar to, possibly even better than, Bourn, but he had also given reason to wonder if he is ready/able to perform consistently at the major league level. It’s hard to argue that Bourn isn’t an upgrade over Schafer at this point, but it may not be enough of an upgrade to warrant giving up the talent it would take to get Bourn. Plus, acquiring Bourn could hurt Schafer’s development as a player. Additionally, Bourn isn’t that great of a hitter: he has almost no power and his on-base percentage is only so-so for a leadoff hitter. Also, Bourn, like the Braves team, has struggled against left-handed pitching this year.
What he would cost: The Astros would almost certainty ask for one of the Braves top pitching prospects: Mike Minor, Arodys Vizcaino or Randall Delgado (Julio Teheran will not be traded). The Braves would likely not comply with this request. The Braves could possibly get a trade done with their next tier of prospects. Maybe pitching prospects Carlos Perez and J.J. Hoover along with Jairo Asencio or Brandon Hicks?
Would a trade a make sense?: That depends on how well Jordan Schafer preforms over the next three weeks and what the asking price for Bourn is. If Schafer struggles the Braves will at least consider it. If Schafer plays well then the Braves won’t make the deal. At this point, I’d say the chances of this trade happening are somewhere around 10%, though that number is still very fluid at this point.