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Atlanta Braves Acquire Scott Linebrink for Minor Leaguer

The Atlanta Braves traded minor leaguer Kyle Cofield to the Chicago White Sox for reliever Scott Linebrink.

According to Jon Morosi, Linebrink and Cofield are the only two players involved. Linebrink is to make $5.5 million in 2011, meaning some form of cash could be swapped.

Linebrink had a 4.40 ERA in 57 innings with Chicago last season, including 52 strikeouts and 17 walks. He posted a 4.81 FIP and 4.33 xFIP. His 8.16 K/9 was his second highest since 2005, and he maintained a 2.67 BB/9. Linebrink has lived off his success from his San Diego days, posting just one ERA below four in a full season since 2008. His strikeout rates remain solid, but his home run rates continue to worsen, and his groundball rate of 32% in 2010 was the lowest of his career. He will be expected to fill nothing more than a middle relief role, where he can still provide plenty of help.

Considering what the Braves gave up to get Linebrink, there is no reason to complain about it other than possibly how much cash will be swapped. Cofield is a marginal prospect who has yet to show anything in AA. In 140 innings in AA in 2009, he posted a 3.90 ERA but just 87 strikeouts to 89 walks. He recorded a 4.39 ERA in 55 innings in AA this year, with 38 strikeouts and 23 walks. He will be 24 in January.

The success of this deal depends largely on cash swapped. Linebrink is owed a lot more than he is worth, but if the Braves are able to get the White Sox to pay a large chunk, it could prove valuable to have Linebrink in the bullpen.

Edit:

As reported by Mark Bowman, the Braves will get $1.5 million from the White Sox, meaning the Braves will pay Linebrink $4 million in 2011. It's a bit of a steep price for a middle reliever, but Frank Wren is banking on Linebrink to return to his San Diego success as he returns to the National League. It is not unreasonable to predict better numbers than what he showed in Chicago, based on his home field and environment. The question is whether that is still worth the price the Braves will pay.

Edit 2:

Another update by Mark Bowman has the money owed by the Braves at $2 million. The White Sox are giving the Braves $3.5 million in the deal. This completely changes the trade and people's opinions of it, making it look a lot better for the Braves.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.