Can the Braves trade for another bat? Corey Hart Edition

This may or may not be a recurring series, depending on how long the Braves remain in contention without trading for offensive help.

The Nate McLouth trade was nice, but the Braves still need offensive help if they plan to reach the postseason this year.  The trade rumors have been somewhat quiet on that front, with most of the talk surrounding who’s scouting Jeff Francoeur (Red Sox? Royals?) and not who the Braves might get as his replacement.

Corey Hart’s name has come up a few times, most recently in today’s Ken Rosenthal column.  Hart is an interesting player, but he only has one good full season to his credit.  Unlike Nate McLouth, who was strong in ’08, Hart’s best season was in ’07, when he posted a .380 wOBA.  He has only been mediocre since, but he’s still a bargain who is under team control through 2011.

While we’re talking quality, “mediocre” looks pretty good compared to the “dreadful” we’ve seen from Jeff Francoeur since 2005, and Frenchy could use a change of scenery.  Unfortunately, the Brewers aren’t likely to want Frenchy, so these will have to be separate trades.

What the Braves have to offer is pitching, something the Brewers desperately need.  That would seem to make these teams a decent trade match, but can the Brewers take on a contract?  The Braves will need that in order to make a pitching deal, unless they’re willing to part with Jair Jurrjens or Tommy Hanson.  The former is more likely to go than the latter, but I can’t see the Braves moving either of their young starters.

That leaves Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Javier Vazquez, and Tim Hudson as trade bait.  Jon Heyman thinks the Brewers could add payroll for a pitcher, which they would have to do in any of these cases.  Hudson is likely not tradeable as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, so let’s dispose of that one first.

Kawakami I think is the next least likely to be traded, since he is still a relative unknown as an MLB pitcher, but perhaps another team with a solid Japanese scouting presence would make an offer for him.  I’m not sure if the Brewers are a match there or not.

Lowe essentially signed with the Braves because no one else would give him a fourth guaranteed year, so the Brewers would have to be willing to take on a ton of money for him: approximately $53M over the next 3 1/2 years.

Javy Vazquez is another story.  He’s been the Braves’ best pitcher this year and is owed a total of $17.5M through next year.  This would be tough for the Braves to handle from a P.R. standpoint, and I would guess that Corey Hart might not be considered an adequate return for him.  The Braves have been willing to make unpopular moves lately, so I suppose it would be possible.

I don’t see any great matches, although I think we can safely assume that the Braves would like having Hart and that the Brewers would like having any of those starters.

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