Braves Grab Kotsay For Center Field

The Deal
Two months after acquiring Josh Anderson, the Braves added a more experienced candidate to succeed Andruw Jones in center field. On Monday, they picked up Mark Kotsay from the Athletics at the cost of a pair of righthanded pitching prospects, Joey Devine and Jamie Richmond. Oakland also will kick in $5.35 million to pay the majority of Kotsay’s 2008 salary.
The Big Leaguers
Kotsay, 32, is coming off the worst season of his major league career, in part because he rushed back from back surgery in March. He hit .214/.279/.296 with one homer and 20 RBIs in 56 games. When healthy, Kotsay is a line-drive hitter who makes consistent contact and offers a modicum of power. Though he’s not a blazer, his instincts make him an outstanding center fielder, and he has a strong, accurate arm. Kotsay will make $7.35 million in 2008 as a two-year, $15 million contract extension he signed in 2005 comes to an end. He’ll be a free agent in the fall. He’s a career .282/.337/.415 hitter with 103 homers and 560 RBIs in 1,340 games.
The Prospects
Devine, 24, was a first-round pick out of North Carolina State in 2005 and the Braves rushed him to the majors later that season. He gave up grand slams in his first two big league games and a Divison Series-ending homer to Chris Burke. Devine spent most of 2007 in the minors at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Richmond, going 5-4, 1.89 with 20 saves in 50 games. In 57 innings, he had a 78-19 K-BB ratio, .202 opponent average and two homers allowed. He has the stuff to be a setup man, with a low-90s sinker that touches 96 mph and a hard slider. If he can figure a way to get lefties out more consistently, he might even be a closer. He has made 25 big league appearances over three seasons, going 1-1, 6.86.

Richmond, 21, was a 31st-round draft-and-follow in 2004 who signed the next spring out of Texarkana (Texas) CC. He pitched at low Class A Rome last season, going 7-6, 3.05 in 25 games (24 starts). He had a 98-25 K-BB ratio in 139 innings, while opponents batted .255 with nine homers against him. He relies on commanding his 89-91 mph fastball, his curveball and his changeup, and he projects as a middle reliever because he lacks an out pitch and has trouble with lefthanders.

Quick Take
This deal fits the needs for both teams. A healthy Kotsay would be a big upgrade over Anderson and a nice one-year bridge to center-field prospect Jordan Schafer, and he didn’t cost the Braves a top prospect. From the A’s standpoint, they weren’t going to win this year or re-sign Kotsay afterward, so picking up a couple of arms for him makes sense.

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