ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves acquired All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth from the Pittsburgh Pirates for three minor leaguers on Wednesday, a move to beef up Atlanta's offense in hopes of contending in the NL East.
The 27-year-old McLouth set career highs last season with a .276 batting average, 26 homers and 94 RBIs. The Braves desperately needed more offense from an outfield that produced only 10 homers through the first 51 games.
Atlanta gave up outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, one of its top prospects, along with pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke.
McLouth, who is hitting .256 with nine homers and 34 RBIs this season, fills several needs for the Braves. In addition to bolstering the lineup, he won a Gold Glove in 2008 and had 23 stolen bases. Since the start of the '05 season, he has the best stolen base percentage (64 of 69) in the majors.
Another plus: McLouth is under contract through at least 2011, having signed a three-year, $15.75 contract in spring training. The deal includes a team option for a fourth year at $10.65 million, with a $1.25 million buyout.
"He gives us everything we're looking for," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "He gives us an extra outfield bat. He gives us speed. He gives us defense. He brings a lot to the table."
It was a day of big moves for Atlanta. The trade was announced less than an hour after the Braves released 305-game winner Tom Glavine, saying they didn't think the 43-year-old pitcher had shown he could still be effective in the big leagues after three minor league rehab outings.
Instead, the team called up highly touted prospect Tommy Hanson, who has dominated at Triple-A Gwinnett and will make his first major league appearance Saturday against Milwaukee.
"We didn't want the season to get too far gone before we made some moves," Wren said. "We thought some aggressive moves would put our club in good position."
The Braves began the day trailing NL East-leading Philadelphia by 4 1/2 games. Then they lost 3-2 in 11 innings to the Chicago Cubs.
Atlanta hasn't made the playoffs since 2005, the last of its record 14 straight division titles.
"McLouth is one of the top center fielders in the game," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He can do it all. He's a five-tool player."
Atlanta made the deal just one day after sending Jordan Schafer to Triple-A. The 22-year-old won the center field job in spring training and homered twice in his first three big league games, but he slumped badly after that. When it became clear Schafer wasn't ready, the Braves turned their attention to McLouth.
With the trade, Pittsburgh cleared a spot for one of its best prospects, 2005 first-round pick Andrew McCutchen. The 22-year-old outfielder was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he was hitting .303 with four homers, 20 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
He planned to catch a 5:55 a.m. flight to Pittsburgh on Thursday.
"I'm real excited, but I really haven't been able to kind of sit back yet and think about it," McCutchen said.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said trading McLouth "may be the toughest decision we have made in my time with the organization."
"When we signed Nate to a long-term contract, we did so with the intent on having him remain part of our core of homegrown talent," Huntington said. "But the quality and quantity of talent we are receiving in this trade moves us closer to our goal of building that sustainable championship-caliber club."
Last summer, Pittsburgh had perhaps the best outfield in the big leagues with McLouth, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady. All three have been traded since late July.
With the rebuilding Pirates likely to reach a record-setting 17th consecutive losing season this year and so few prospects in their organization, they're dealing serviceable players for young talent.
Pittsburgh had coveted Hernandez when he was with the Detroit Tigers, before he was shipped to Atlanta in an October 2007 deal for shortstop Edgar Renteria.
"A guy with impact speed, really play defense," Huntington said. "A dynamic, athletic outfielder."
Hernandez is headed to Double-A, and Locke will report to Class-A. Morton will go to Indianapolis.
"We anticipate Charlie being in the big leagues with us before too long. He's not far from being major league ready, and a guy who has the potential to be an above-average major league starter," Huntington said.
"This trade nets us three prospects that we believe have the potential to be three above-average major league players. Our players in the clubhouse are probably going to have a difficult time understanding this. They're probably going to have a difficult time supporting this. But as we know, they're professionals and we expect them to come out and continue to play hard."
The Pirates made room for their new players by removing reliever Craig Hansen from the 40-man roster.
by the associated press