The McLouth Deal

Badly in need of an outfielder who could hit, the Braves acquired Nate McLouth from the Pirates yesterday for three prospects. Rather than rolling the dice with an unknown, the Braves acquired one of the easiest guys in baseball to project.

In 2007, McLouth posted a .364 wOBA. Last year, he posted a .369 wOBA. This year, he’s got a .367 wOBA. Despite a hot start to the season last year, you know what you’re getting with McLouth – a quality left-handed bat who draws some walks and has some power. Given an expected ~.360 to .370 wOBA over about 450 plate appearances for the rest of the season, we can expect McLouth to be worth something like 10 runs above an average hitter from here on out. It’s a nice bat.

Despite winning a gold glove last season, the glove isn’t as valuable. McLouth has consistently ranked as a below average defensive center fielder, compiling a -10.6 UZR/150 over his career. He’s a corner outfielder playing out of position in center, but he’s not an atrocity out there. He’ll let some balls fall in that you wished he could have got to, but he’ll make up for with the bat.

Remember, even with his -14.5 UZR last year, McLouth was a +3.6 win player for the Pirates, and he’s on basically the same pace this year. Over the last three years, he’s compiled 1,262 plate appearances and been worth +6.4 wins. Going forward, we should expect McLouth to be a +3 to +4 win player. That’s a borderline all-star, and definitely the kind of player the Braves needed to acquire.

Toss in the fact that McLouth signed away his arbitration years over the winter, and is now under contract for $15 million through 2011 with a club option for 2012, and the Braves have acquired a player who is significantly underpaid. Even with the economic uncertainty of the free agent market, 27-year-olds with +3 to +4 win talent should command upwards of $12 million per season. McLouth will make less than half of that.

As an acquisition, McLouth makes all kinds of sense for the Braves. He’s a high quality player signed to a team friendly contract, in the midst of his prime, and provides a significant upgrade over what they had on hand in the outfield. At 5 pm, we’ll look at what they gave up to get him, but Braves fans should certainly look forward to having McLouth in their line-up. Atlanta just got quite a bit better.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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The Gary
14 years ago

Can’t wait for your 5pm analysis of what the Braves gave up to get him. I am really looking forward to hear what you have to say about Charlie Morton. I’m hoping you cover what to expect not only this year but what the rest of his career could possibly be. This kid pitched at Pawtucket (AAA) earlier this year and looked absolutely dominant, as did his opposing pitcher.