The Braves didn’t get Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence, but they remain almost certain to land an outfielder before the non-waiver deadline at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.
It’s just a matter of which one.
The Braves are pursuing both center fielders such as B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn and corner outfielders such as Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Quentin and Josh Willingham, major-league sources say.
Upton, a right-handed hitter, might be the best fit. The Braves can commit more at-bats to a center fielder. And Bourn, like the Braves’ two injured center fielders, Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth, is left-handed.
If the Braves add a center fielder, he likely will supplant Schafer, an elite defender who is not yet an established hitter. But if they add a corner outfielder, it will a tighter fit.
Right fielder Jason Heyward could sit against left-handers — he entered Friday batting .167/.255/.310 against lefties, .247/.335/.442 against righties. Chipper Jones also could rest on occasion, with Martin Prado moving to third to open up left.
The Braves wanted Beltran, but were unwilling to part with left-hander Mike Minor, one of their top pitching prospects, for a two-month rental, according to a source.
The Braves also wanted Pence, but the price was higher for a player under club control through 2013; the Astros wanted two of the Braves’ top four young pitchers plus a third quality arm, the source said.
If the Braves seem overly protective of their pitching prospects — Minor and righties Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado — it’s because they might need several of those pitchers soon.
Righties Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson will enter the final years of their contracts next season (the Braves hold a $9 million option on Hudson for 2012).
Righties Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, meanwhile, are getting more expensive — both are arbitration-eligible and represented by Scott Boras, who prefers his clients to establish their market value in free agency rather than sign contract extensions.
— Ken Rosenthal