Thoughts on McLouth to the Braves

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Braves acquire outfielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates for RHP Charlie Morton, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and LHP Jeff Locke.

– First impression – I’m very surprised to see the Pirates parting with
McLouth just 3 ½ months after signing him to a three-year, $15.75
million contract, especially with no legitimate top-30 prospects coming
in return.

– Second impression – This is a pretty good haul for a guy the
Pirates thought was a fourth outfielder a couple of years ago. Still,
it’s pretty depressing that the one position prospect they got is a
lesser version of Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates’ priorities should have
been a power hitter for the outfield corners or first base and a
legitimate shortstop/second baseman of the future. Hernandez might turn
into a capable leadoff hitter, but he could just as easily be a bottom
of the order guy. He’s not going to develop any power. The 21-year-old
was hitting .316/.361/.387 with 10 steals in 18 attempts for Double-A

Morton is a step up on the pitchers the Pirates got from the Yankees
in the Xavier Nady deal, but he may work out best as a setup man. He
was 7-2 with a 2.51 ERA, 52 H and 55/16 K/BB in 64 2/3 IP for Triple-A
Gwinnett. Locke offers more upside, though his command has taken a step
backwards this year. He was 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA, 47 H and 43/26 K/BB in
45 2/3 IP for Single-A Myrtle Beach. I expect him to make it as a No. 3
starter anyway.

McLouth is a big-time upgrade for the Braves, but that’s in no small
part because the alternatives had been terrible. He’s not a Gold Glove
center fielder, no matter what NL managers think. Still, he’s a great
stopgap there for now and he can move to left or right field next year
when Jordan Schafer is ready to establish himself. Better for the
Braves if he were a right-handed hitter. However, that they were able
to get him without parting with Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Freddie
Freeman, Schafer or Kris Medlen makes this a fine trade for them. They
still have a real chance of going to the postseason this year, and this
move should be good for at least two wins.

– I’m very interested in seeing how Andrew McCutchen performs as
McLouth’s replacement. McCutchen has beened view as a top prospect
since being drafted 11th overall in 2005, and he’s continually put up
solid numbers while being young for his leagues. However, it’s
typically been the case that he’s dominated lefties and been just
mediocre against righties. This year, he was at .361/.400/.672 against
southpaws in Triple-A and .279/.344/.414 against righties. The overall
line of .303/.361/.493 with quite impressive for a 22-year-old in the
International League, but the way he got there leaves me skeptical that
he’s ready to help as a regular right now.

David Phelps to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Pitcher David Phelps has a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season, the Mariners announced on Wednesday. Phelps was making brief one-inning stints in the Cactus League as he worked his way back from a procedure to remove a bone spur from his elbow last September. He said he felt the ligament tear on his final pitch against the Angels in his March 17 appearance.

Phelps, 31, was expected to set up for closer Edwin Diaz. The right-hander, between the Marlins and Mariners last season, posted a 3.40 ERA with a 62/26 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. He and the Mariners avoided arbitration in January, agreeing on a $5.55 million salary for the 2018 campaign. Phelps will become eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.

As the Mariners noted in their statement, the expected recovery period for Tommy John surgery is 12-15 months, so this very likely cuts into Phelps’ 2019 season as well.