Jenifer Langosch, of MLB.com, reports the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded outfielder Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and pitchers Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton.
In a related move, the Bucs called Triple-A Indianapolis to bring up outfielder Andrew McCutchen, arguably their top prospect, who presumably will have a shot to enter the starting lineup.
McLouth has had a down season (.256-9-34 with seven steals) following his breakout 2008 campaign. His new offense doesn't provide a big upgrade with overall team statistics, and his new home ballpark of Turner Field is just as much of a pitchers' haven as PNC Park.
What McLouth does gain is lineup protection depending on where he hits in the lineup, with third baseman Chipper Jones, shortstop Yunel Escobar and outfielder Jeff Francoeur among his new teammates; this gives more hope for a turnaround, especially if he can see more fastballs (just 56.9 percent this year).
After a hot start, he faded in the second half last year, especially after Pittsburgh shipped away outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, stripping much of their surrounding pop and making it easier for opposing pitchers to avoid McLouth.
In 23 career at-bats at Turner Field, he has six hits (.261 average), one tater and four RBIs. Unfortunately, the Braves have attempted and stolen the fewest bases in the bigs this year; maybe his arrival will propel them to run more, but manager Bobby Cox's teams have been conservative on the basepaths in recent years.
McCutchen, whose MLB debut had been delayed by the Pirates' previously stacked outfield, was hitting .303 with four dingers, 20 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and 41 runs scored for Indianapolis. He should be picked up immediately in NL leagues, and deep mixed managers should give him a try if they need stolen bases. His playing time has yet to be determined, but the Pirates probably called him up to play.
The three prospects acquired by the Buccos don't carry significant fantasy weight for now. Morton is a mildly intriguing prospect and would carry the most value if he earns a rotation spot; he's strictly NL-only fodder, though.
About Tim Heaney
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