The Astros and Braves struck a deal Nov. 16 to provide each club with options at positions where last season’s regular had departed. Astros closer Brad Lidge was traded to Philadelphia earlier in the month, prompting the Astros to obtain righthander Oscar Villarreal from Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Braves, faced with the departure of longtime center fielder Andruw Jones, acquired center fielder Josh Anderson.
The Big Leaguer
Villarreal, who will be 26 next season, has proven himself a durable relief option for Atlanta, tossing 92 and 76 innings in successive years, while posting league-average or better ERA marks. He went 2-2, 4.24 with 58-32 K-BB in 2007, and for his career Villarreal has gone 23-12, 3.71 with 215-118 K-BB in 298 innings. The native of Mexico, who signed with the Diamondbacks in 1998, had a terrific rookie season for Arizona in 2003, going 10-7, 2.57 in 98 innings. He appeared in 86 games that year, second in the NL only to Paul Quantrill.
Anderson, 25, figures into Atlanta’s crowded center-field mix for 2008. Though he profiles more as a reserve outfielder, the lefty-hitting Anderson stands to compete with prospects Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco and veteran Willie Harris for center-field at-bats. Speed is the name of Anderson’s game. He hit .273/.325/.341 for Triple-A Round Rock last season with 40 stolen bases, a total that ranked third in the Pacific Coast League. For his minor league career, Anderson has hit .290/.337/.373 with 238 stolen bases in 602 games. Anderson, a 2003 fourth-round pick from Eastern Kentucky, made a strong big league impression in 2007, batting .358/.413/.403 in 67 at-bats. But he became expendable when the Astros acquired Michael Bourn in the Lidge trade.
Neither team is a clear winner. Villarreal is a little more valuable, but he’s also more expensive with five years of service. Anderson figures to be a reserve outfielder—and perhaps an occasional starter—for Atlanta for the next six years.