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Trading Places: Michael Bourn Joins the Braves
Nate Springfield | Sunday July 31st, 2011
Michael Bourn is the new leadoff hitter for the Braves. (Icon SMI)
Michael Bourn is the new leadoff hitter for the Braves. (Icon SMI)

With Major League Baseball's trade deadline coming down the to the wire, the Atlanta Braves acquired center fielder Michael Bourn and cash from the Houston Astros in exchange for outfielder Jordan Schafer and three minor league prospects.

Bourn, the best leadoff hitter available at the deadline, will head to Atlanta on Sunday morning to meet his new teammates.  

Houston receives major league outfielder Jordan Schafer and further strengthens their farm system by acquiring left-handed starting pitcher Brett Oberholtzer, right-handed starting pitcher Paul Clemens, and righty reliever Juan Abreu from Atlanta's farm system.  Michael Bourn will be in his third, and final eligible year of arbitration, in 2012, and agreed to a salary of $4.4 million this season.

Bourn currently leads all major league players with 39 stolen bases, and has lead the National League in stolen bases the past two seasons.  His 2011 campaign has him on pace to set career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, all while batting atop one of the worst lineups in baseball.  The 28-year old, former fourth round pick of the Phillies, will be a legit leadoff hitter for the Braves, something Atlanta has been without all year.  He will also be an upgrade for the team defensively in centerfield, a position that Atlanta has not been able to be consistent or healthy at throughout the 2011 season.  Bourn's ability to get on-base, and turn any walk or single into a double or triple by stealing a base, will close the gap between the Atlanta's offense and divisional foe Philadelphia Phillies down the stretch.

In return for Bourn, Houston acquired a major league ready centerfielder and more possible pieces of their future.  Jordan Schafer, the 24-year old Indiana native, has struggled with injuries, causing his development to come slower than expected.  He's hitting .240, with one home run and 15 stolen bases in 196 at-bats this season.  If Schafer can remain healthy, he could develop into a solid defensive center fielder with the ability to steal a base almost at will.

Also coming to Houston are three minor league pitching prospects that add more depth to their farm system.  Brett Oberholtzer, ranked the ninth best prospect in the Braves system by Baseball America heading into 2011, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi this season, and currently carries a 3.74 ERA with 93 strike outs in 127.2 innings pitched.  He projects to be a three or four starter at the major league level, and is the best prospect out of the three Houston received.  Paul Clemens, a righthanded starter at Double-A this season, and Juan Abreu, currently a righthanded reliever at Triple-A, both have strong arms with a lot of upside, but neither are a top 25 prospect in the talented Braves' system.

From a fantasy standpoint, Bourn will receive a boost in value because he should see an increase in runs and RBI total by hitting atop a much better offense.  His stolen base total may not be as high at seasons end, now that he is with the Braves, because they don't need to create runs as often as the Astros did, but he will still swipe his fair share of bags between now and October.  When Schafer, who is currently on the disabled list, gets healthy, he will have a starting spot somewhere in Houstons' outfield and will probably hit close to the top of the order, making him worth a pickup in NL-only formats.

Overall this is a real good trade for both teams.  The Braves get a legit leadoff hitter in Bourn, that can play a position they were struggling at, and can cause distress to opposing pitchers once he reaches base.  The Astros, who will be going through a rebuilding process the next season or two, in return received what should develop into a solid centerfielder in Schafer, along with upside arms that could be part of their bullpen or rotation in the near future.

Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.