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Michael Bourn supremacy: Braves add speedster from Astros

Rob Iracane
Big League Stew

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The Atlanta Braves have found their new leadoff hitter, center fielder, and base-stealing threat and — lucky for general manager Frank Wren — they're all the same guy.

As reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Houston Astros are sending 2010 All-Star Michael Bourn to the Braves in exchange for four players, including outfielder Jordan Schafer.

With Nate McLouth recently taking an unfortunate trip to the disabled list with an abdominal strain, and with Schafer sitting on the shelf because of a broken finger, the Braves were getting desperate for an everyday guy in center. Other names such as B.J. Upton and Coco Crisp were bandied about as targets for Atlanta, but Bourn will make an immediate impact with his superior speed, excellent baserunning skills, and above-average glove work.

In return for giving up their leadoff hitter, the Astros get a mixed bag of prospects and major league talent. Along with Schafer, Atlanta will send the Astros three young arms: Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu. Although listed among the team's best prospects, none of these pitchers are nationally ranked among potential star pitchers. In fact, the Braves were able to retain their four best pitching prospects in Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor.

So, who is this Mr. Bourn, and what are the Braves really getting? {YSP:MORE}

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Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, and a small part of their 2007 division-winning team, Bourn was traded along the Ed Wade Highway to Houston as part of the Brad Lidge deal prior to 2008. He has assumed the role of starting center fielder and leadoff guy since then.

Bourn, whose .288 OBP for the Astros in 2008 made him one of the worst regular players in the majors, blossomed the next season to become one of the best center fielders in the National League. He added plate discipline to his Rolodex of talents; his on-base percentage jumped nearly 60 points in 2009, to go along with a career-high 61 steals.

Bourn made the NL All-Star roster in 2010 and finished again with more than 50 steals. This season, Bourn sports a .363 OBP to go along with his league-leading 39 stolen bases, making him an ideal threat to replace the carousel of leadoff hitters the Braves have tried in 2011.

The Braves will be able to pencil in Bourn at the top of their lineup in 2012, as well. He's up for arbitration at the end of this season but come the end of next season, he'll be a free agent. He's represented by Scott Boras, so watch out, Frank Wren — you'll have your hands full.

So, within the span of a week, the Astros have unloaded their three best hitters in Bourn, Hunter Pence (to the Phillies) and Jeff Keppinger (to the Giants). The major league cupboard is essentially bare of trade targets now, with slugger Carlos Lee saddled with baggage and virtually untradeable with $18.5 million owed to him in 2012.

Houston, though, has received nine prospects and a major league ready outfielder in return, which puts them fully in rebuilding mode. They'll need to start from the ground up with the worst record in the National League and a new ownership team most likely on the horizon.

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