Braves Add Depth In Infante, Ohman

The Deal
Traded for the second time this offseason, Cubs infielder Omar Infante heads to the Braves with lefty Will Ohman for righthander Jose Ascanio. Infante joined the Cubs in November after being acquired for outfielder Jacque Jones.

The Big Leaguers
The Tigers called Infante, 26, to the big leagues in 2002 when he was just 20 years old. The young Venezuelan shortstop hit so well (.333/.360/.417 in 72 at-bats) that Detroit kept him around for its 119-loss edition in 2003. Like many young Tigers that year, e.g. Brandon Inge, Jeremy Bonderman and Fernando Rodney, Infante went through major growing pains. He rebounded in 2004, though, to hit .264/.317/.449 with 16 home runs at age 22 while playing in 142 games. Infante’s playing time has decreased steadily since then, and he’s served mostly as an up-the-middle reserve in each of the past two seasons, seeing most of his time at second base and shortstop. But he also plays third and all three outfield spots. Infante is a career .253/.298/.386 hitter in 1,592 at-bats.

The Braves intend to let lefty reliever Ron Mahay leave as a free agent—though they did offer him arbitration. Ohman, 30, should make a more-than-adequate replacement. In his five big league seasons, he’s limited lefty batters to just .196/.294/.319 averages. An eighth-round pick from Pepperdine in 1998, Ohman went 2-4, 4.95 with 33-16 K-BB in 36 innings in 2007, and has gone 6-8, 4.33 with 166-84 K-BB in 160 innings for his career.

The Prospects
Ascanio, 22, made his big league debut with the Braves in 2007, posting a 5.06 ERA with 13-6 K-BB in 16 relief innings. His callup came on the heels of a fine season with Double-A Mississippi: 2-2, 2.54 with 71-18 K-BB in 78 innings. Ascanio signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2001 and has been brought along slowly because of durability concerns (he’s 6-feet, 170 pounds) and because he suffered a lower back fracture in 2005. His arm is electric, though, and he pitches at 95 mph and touches 97. His 84-88 mph slider is a plus pitch. In five minor league seasons, Ascanio has posted a 3.57 ERA to go with 224-84 K-BB in 260 innings.

Quick Take
The Braves did well in acquiring two quality complementary players to fill their 2008 roster at the expense of a live-armed, but unproven, relief prospect.

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