HOUSTON - FILE: Michael Bourn #21 of the Houston Astros lays down a bunt in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park on April 12, 2011 in Houston, Texas. According to reports on July 31, 2011 Bourn has been traded to the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
He was patient. He saw the options on the market, his competition to acquire those options, and the superiority of what he could offer to sellers in comparison to other contenders. But none of those things would really matter if Braves GM Frank Wren hadn't took a step back and properly evaluated his own team. Around trade deadline season, few things can be more important for a team than having an appropriate and realistic perception of the state of their own franchise.
We've seen what can happen in organizations that don't have that clear, established direction. And it's not pretty. Injury-prone shortstops coming into their 30's end up with expensive long-term contracts, and somehow Jeff Baker becomes an untouchable franchise cornerstone. When you can't properly recognize which players are worth keeping on your own roster, you're probably not going to have an easy time figuring out which players are worth pursuing on other teams.
Now, Frank Wren didn't have to make any of those kinds of hard decisions. He hasn't had to waffle between seller and buyer like some big-money franchises that feel uncomfortable rebuilding in front of massive amounts of fans. But he did have a team that was far from perfect a couple days ago, and a whole bunch of people were willing to give him advice on how to fix it. Get a right-handed bat, they'd say. Go after Carlos Beltran, go after Hunter Pence, go after Josh Willingham.
There were people out there who were thinking the same things. On Twitter, you'd see people making the right suggestions- go after B.J. Upton, or go after Coco Crisp. You know, go after someone that will actually address the weakest part of your roster.
But there was always one name that made more sense than all of the others: Houston's Michael Bourn. If there were two things that this Braves team needed last week, they were an impact lead-off hitter and a quality everyday center fielder. And that's the funny thing about Michael Bourn; if he had a business card, it would read, "Impact lead-off hitter and quality center fielder." It's like Frank Wren was walking through the desert and somehow waltzed into a water park.
Then Wren took it a step further. He didn't just evaluate his team near-perfectly and find that perfectly square peg for his perfectly square hole; he got that peg for 50 cents on the dollar, too. What did the Braves really give up for a year-and-a-third of Bourn's services? A 25-year-old center fielder that's not likely to hit enough to play regularly (basically, Brian Anderson), a couple of potential No. 4 starters and a decent relief prospect. That's it, for a player that's better than Pence and much cheaper than Beltran.
Once again, you're seeing the importance of self-evaluation rearing it's ugly head. The Astros were holding onto a major asset in Bourn, a top-flight center fielder that's under control though next season at a reasonable price given that arbitrators tend to value power over defense and speed, but didn't treat him that way.
Instead of shopping Bourn as a star-quality outfielder like they should have been, it seems like the Astros were willing to admit that Bourn is only a role player, and were wiling to take back that kind of return. Any proper evaluation of Bourn's value, though, would've likely discouraged the Astros from making any Bourn deal that didn't include one of Atlanta's top-four pitching prospects.
And in the end, Houston's loss is proving to be Atlanta's gain. The Astros didn't think that they were trading a star even though they were, and the Braves were able to fill the right hole at an unbelievably good price. Think about the position that Atlanta would be in right now if they had traded Arodys Vizcaino and some other pieces to Houston for Pence instead of Bourn?
Yes, that's the sound of me applauding Frank Wren.