Braves trade for McLouth

ATLANTA - The Braves acquired All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth from the Pittsburgh Pirates for three minor leaguers on Wednesday, a move to beef up Atlanta's offense in hopes of contending in the NL East.

The 27-year-old McLouth was an All-Star last season and set career highs with a .276 average, 26 homers and 94 RBIs. The Braves desperately needed more offense from an outfield that produced only 10 homers through the first 51 games.

Atlanta gave up outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, one of their top prospects, along with pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke.

McLouth, who is hitting .256 with nine homers and 34 RBIs this season, fills several needs for the Braves. In addition to bolstering the lineup, he won a Gold Glove in 2008 and had 23 stolen bases. Since the start of the '05 season, he has the best stolen base percentage (64 of 69) among all major leaguers.

Another plus: McLouth is under contract through at least 2011, having signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract in spring training. The deal includes a team option for a fourth year at $10.65 million, with a buyout of $1.25 million.

"He gives us everything we're looking for," general manager Frank Wren said. "He gives us an extra outfield bat. He gives us speed. He gives us defense. He brings a lot to the table."

The Braves went into Wednesday's contest against the Chicago Cubs trailing the East-leading Philadelphia Phillies by 41/2 games. Atlanta hasn't made the playoffs since 2005, the last of their record 14 straight division titles.

By trading McLouth, Pittsburgh cleared a spot for one of its best prospects, former first-round pick Andrew McCutchen. He was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he was hitting .303 with four homers, 20 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said trading McLouth "may be the toughest decision we have made in my time with the organization."