Braves Add Ankiel, Farnsworth For Stretch Drive

The Deal
A new contender entered the fray in the Braves’ two-season search for a center fielder thanks to a five-player swap with the Royals. Atlanta picked up veteran outfielder Rick Ankiel and righthanded reliever Kyle Farnsworth while trading away young relievers Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins and outfielder Gregor Blanco.

Atlanta thought that it had filled its center-field hole for the foreseeable future when it promoted Jordan Schafer to the big leagues at the start of the 2009 season. When Schafer fell flat, Atlanta figured it had fixed the problem again by swinging a deal with the Pirates for Nate McLouth last year. But just two years after he was an all-star, McLouth struggled so much this year that he was demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett this month, leaving Melky Cabrera as the team’s center fielder by default. Ankiel is not a clear upgrade over Cabrera, but he does give the Braves another lefty bat with power for the outfield, and Farnsworth will give manager Bobby Cox another power arm for the Braves pen. This will be his second trip to Atlanta—the Braves picked him up in a 2005 deadline day deal as well.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore’s ties to the Braves run deep, which explains why the Royals’ minor league rosters usually include several ex-Braves. By trading Ankiel and Farnsworth and picking up three pre-arbitration players, Moore has managed to turn a pair of veterans in the final years of the current deals into players who will be under the Royals control for many years.

 
Royals Acquire
Tim Collins, lhp

Age: 20.

Born: Aug. 21, 1989 in Worcester, Mass.

Ht.: 5-7. Wt.: 155. Bats: L. Throws: L.

School: Worcester (Mass.) Tech HS.

Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Blue Jays, July 27, 2007 … Traded by Blue Jays with SSs Alex Gonzalez and Tyler Pastornicky to Braves for SS Yunel Escobar and LHP Jo-Jo Reyes, July 13, 2010.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
New Hampshire (EL) AA 1 0 2.51 35 0 9 43 27 12 12 4 16 73 1.00
Mississippi (SL) AA 0 0 1.12 6 0 2 8 4 1 1 1 3 14 0.88
Total 1 0 2.29 41 0 11 51 31 13 13 5 19 87 0.98

Collins has been traded twice this month, previously joining the Braves in the deal that sent Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays. Collins is a 5-foot-7 nondrafted free agent, but he has overcome those two strikes to become a legitimate relief prospect. He has averaged 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings in Double-A this season, thanks to his 89-93 mph fastball and his overhand curveball, a true plus pitch at times. Collins uses a high three-quarters delivery, which allows him to stay on top of his pitches and work down in the strike zone, and pitches from the third-base edge of the rubber.

 
Jesse Chavez, rhp

Age: 26.

Born: Aug. 21, 1983 in Victorville, Calif.

Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Bats: R. Throws: R.

School: Riverside (Calif.) CC.

Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in 42nd round of 2002 draft; signed May 17, 2003 … Traded by Rangers to Pirates for RHP Kip Wells, July 31, 2006 … Traded by Pirates to Rays for 2B Akinori Iwamura, Nov. 3, 2009 … Traded by Rays to Braves for RHP Rafael Soriano, Dec. 11, 2009.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Atlanta (NL) MLB 3 2 5.89 28 0 0 37 40 24 24 6 12 29 1.42

Chavez turns 27 on Aug. 21 and now has been traded for the third time in 10 months, having been moved from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay in November 2009 for Akinori Iwamura and then again a month later, going to Atlanta in the Rafael Soriano deal. Chavez signed as a draft-and-follow in 2003 and reached the majors for the first time in 2008, then had his best season in 2009, appearing in 73 games and posting a 4.01 ERA in 67 innings. Chavez’s fastball is his best pitch as at times it reaches 95-96 mph, and he also throws a slider and changeup, neither of which is a plus pitch. His slider can be quite hard at 89-90 mph at times, but it’s not a swing-and-miss pitch.

 
Gregor Blanco, cf

Age: 26. Position: CF (52 G), RF (13 G), LF (9 G).

Born: Dec. 24, 1983 in Caracas, Venezuela.

Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Bats: L. Throws: L.

Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Braves, July 4, 2000.

Club (League) Class AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Atlanta (NL) MLB .310 36 58 9 18 1 1 0 3 8 15 1 .394 .362
Gwinnett (IL) AAA .286 44 154 26 44 8 0 1 11 23 28 9 .382 .357

Blanco had his chance as a big league regular in 2008, when he played 144 games in Atlanta and hit .251/.366/.309 with 13 stolen bases. He drew 74 walks but struck out 99 times, and he’s no longer a burner as a runner. Rather, Blanco is a plus runner and just a fair basestealer. He has some raw power and can hit the ball to the gaps when he stays back but more frequently employs a slap approach to try to take advantage of his speed. Blanco’s a solid defender in center, and his best asset offensively is his ability to draw walks—490 in 897 minor league games, 86 in 633 major league plate appearances.

 
Braves Acquire
Kyle Farnsworth, rhp

Age: 34. Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $4.5 million salary, plus $5.25 million club option for ’11 ($500,000 buyout).

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
N.Y. / Det. (AL)

2008 2

3 4.48 61 0 1 60 70 32 30 15 22 61 1.52
Kansas City (AL)

2009 1 5 4.58

41 0 0 37 43 22 19 3 14 42 1.53
Kansas City (AL) 2010 3 0 2.42 37 0 0 45 40 13 12 2 12 36 1.16
3-Year Totals 6 8 3.86 139 0 1 142 153 67 61 20 48 139 1.41

Rick Ankiel, cf

Age: 31. Bats: L. Remaining Commitment: Prorated portion of $2.75 million salary, plus $6 million mutual option ($500,000 buyout).

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
St. Louis (NL)

2008 .264 120 413 65 109 21 2 25 71 42 100 1 .337 .506
St. Louis (NL) 2009 .231 122 372 50 86 21 2 11 38 26 99 4 .285 .387
Kansas City (AL)

2010 .261 27 92 14 24 7 0 4 15 7 29 1 .317 .467
3-Year Totals .250 269 877 129 219 49 4 40 124 75 228 7 .313 .452

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