Cincinnati The Atlanta Braves made a five-player deal Saturday to upgrade their outfield and an already formidable bullpen, acquiring Rick Ankiel and right-hander Kyle Farnsworth from Kansas City for three players.
The NL East leaders are trying to fend off a charge by second-place Philadelphia, which had cut a seven-game deficit to 31⁄2 entering play on Saturday. The Phillies also made one of baseball’s most high-profile trades this week, acquiring starter Roy Oswalt from Houston.
Atlanta sent reliever Jesse Chavez, outfielder Gregor Blanco and minor league pitcher Tim Collins to the Royals. Kansas City included cash in the deal.
Ankiel joins an outfield that currently features rookie Jason Heyward in right, Melky Cabrera in center and Eric Hinske in left. The Braves demoted struggling outfielder Nate McLouth — who started a team-leading 52 games in center — to the minors four days ago with a .168 average.
“Ankiel’s a tremendous outfielder, a great athlete,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. “Hopefully he helps solidify things out there in center.”
The 31-year-old Ankiel batted .261 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 27 games for the Royals, who signed him to a one-year, $3.25 million deal. He has missed time with an injured right thigh.
Farnsworth joins a bullpen that is already one of the NL’s best, bringing the Braves a hard thrower who can help them get to closer Billy Wagner. The 34-year-old Farnsworth is 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA. He’s in the second year of a two-year, $9.25 million deal.
Atlanta’s bullpen leads the NL with 21 wins and is second to San Diego with a 3.22 ERA.
“Farnsworth — we know he can be really dominant,” Jones said. “I think that moves out bullpen to top-notch. When we get to the seventh inning with a lead, I like our chances.”
The Royals got three young players in the deal. Kansas City recently traded outfielder Scott Podsednik to the Los Angeles Dodgers and infielder Alberto Callaspo to the Los Angeles Angels.
“It’s been busy,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “I’m very comfortable with our strategy. It all unfolded originally with Alberto Callaspo and Scott Podsednik. We felt we needed to get out in front, figuring it was going to be a busy trade deadline.”
“We were certainly necessarily motivated to move Rick. The deal had to feel right for us. The three we got in return for Rick and Kyle Farnsworth made sense for us,” he said. “It is great for Rick and Kyle to join an organization that is 31⁄2 games up in the pennant race and go there and send Bobby (Cox, manager) out in style.”