Braves outfielder Nate McLouth had the worst offensive season of his career in 2010, posting a miserable .190 batting average and .620 OPS across 288 plate appearances. He was demoted to the Triple-A level at one point and he also battled a concussion near the middle of the summer.
It was a brutal showing.
But, because he is owed $7.5 million this season on the final year of his current contract and because the Braves don’t have any better options, McLouth is going to open the 2011 season as Atlanta’s starting center fielder.
Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed that fact Thursday in a chat with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s David O’Brien:
“We think he can do it,” Wren said. “I think we saw enough in September, and we’ve seen enough in his career. I mean, he’s a good player. I believe — and I think most people around here believe — that what we saw for that first year he was with us, was an aberration. That’s not Nate McLouth. I mean, he’s too good a player, there’s too many teams that would love to have him. And he brings some things to the table that we don’t have.”
If it simply doesn’t work out, the Braves could turn to Joe Mather, an athletic outfielder who spent the last several seasons posting good numbers in the Cardinals’ minor league system. Or they could turn back to Jordan Schafer, though his numbers at Triple-A last year (.509 OPS in 208 PAs) were awfully frightening.
Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.
Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.
Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.
Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.
Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.
Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.
Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.
Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.
Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.