ATLANTA -- As the summer months elapsed and Yunel Escobar continued to impress, Edgar Renteria could see the handwriting on the wall. Occasionally, he would smile and ask if it looked like he was spending his final season in Atlanta. Renteria's hunch became a reality on Monday afternoon when he learned that the Braves had traded him and cash considerations to the Tigers in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez. Jurrjens gained some Major League experience during the final two months of the season and will compete for a spot in the Atlanta rotation during Spring Training. As for Hernandez, he is a five-tool outfielder who has emerged as one of the game's top prospects after just one full season of professional experience.
"We wouldn't have done this deal if not for what Escobar did," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We feel very comfortable with how Yunel has developed as a player and with what he accomplished this year." Confident that Escobar will continue to develop as the Braves' starting shortstop next year, Wren was willing to provide the Tigers with a five-time All-Star to fill their need for a shortstop. In exchange for Renteria, Wren gained two highly touted prospects and the payroll flexibility that will enhance his ability to achieve his primary goal of improving the club's pitching staff. "Hopefully, this is just the first of a series of moves," said Wren, who became Atlanta's general manager on Oct. 11 when John Schuerholz was elevated to the role of team president. While not specifically revealing the cash considerations the Tigers will receive with this deal, Wren said the figure isn't comparable to the amount of money the Red Sox gave the Braves when they dealt Renteria to Atlanta before the start of the 2006 season. At that time, the Red Sox provided $8 million to help cover the $18 million Renteria was owed from 2006-08. The Sox also will be responsible for the $3 million buyout if Renteria's $11 million option for the 2009 season isn't exercised. By trading Renteria, it's believed the Braves will be realizing a savings of approximately $4 million. This is a figure that could certainly help bring free-agent southpaw Tom Glavine back to the organization. Glavine, who would provide another valuable veteran presence in the starting rotation, would likely have to accept a salary in the neighborhood of $8 million. While it remains to be seen whether Glavine comes to Spring Training with the Braves, Jurrjens will do so with intentions of proving he belongs in Atlanta. The 21 year-old right-hander came into his own this summer and earned his first call to the Majors in August. In seven starts with Detroit, he was 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA. Jurrjens, whose older brother was Andruw Jones' boyhood teammate in Curacao, recorded his first Major League win on Aug. 21, when he limited Cleveland's potent lineup to one earned run in 6 1/3 innings. That was one of three starts that he completed at least five innings and allowed just one run. "He's a control pitcher that does have power stuff," Wren said of Jurrjens, who registered 404 strikeouts and issued just 121 walks in 503 1/3 career innings at the Minor League level. Jurrjens began this season at Double-A Erie, where in 19 starts he was 7-5 with a 3.20 ERA. In his last three Minor League starts with Erie, he went 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA, 24 strikeouts and just one walk. This dominant stretch earned him his promotion to Detroit. "[Jurrjens] and Jo-Jo Reyes are very good looking, young, talented pitchers," Wren said in reference to the hurlers who will compete for the final spots in the Atlanta rotation. "If they aren't in the rotation at the beginning of the season, they will be there very quickly." While Jurrjens has a legitimate chance to begin next season in Atlanta, Hernandez might be at least two or three years away. The Venezuelan outfielder, who celebrated his 20th birthday in September, opened plenty of eyes during his first full professional season with Class A West Michigan this year. After hitting .292 with 54 stolen bases, he was named the Midwest League's Most Valuable Player. The league's managers voted him the league's most exciting player and fastest baserunner. He has been caught in just 15 of 89 career stolen base attempts, and his strong arm adds to the tremendous defensive skills he's shown early in his professional career. "The kid is just an exciting player," Wren said of Hernandez, who many believe will begin to show power when he begins to grow into his listed 175-pound frame. While it will be difficult to replace Renteria's production and positive influence in the clubhouse, the Braves are confident Escobar will continue to build upon his successful rookie season. After coming up at the beginning of June, the Cuban infielder appeared in 94 games and hit .326 with five homers and a .385 on-base percentage. After battling for the National League batting crown down the stretch, Renteria ended up hitting .332 with 12 homers and a .390 on-base percentage in 124 games this year. His unselfish plate approach and ever-dependable defense should provide dividends for the Tigers, who already have first-hand understanding of what kind of player and person they received with this trade. It's a trade that provides Renteria and opportunity to be reunited with Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, who both held these same roles with the Marlins in 1997, when they celebrated a World Series title courtesy of the game-winning hit Renteria provided in Game 7. Also celebrating that evening was Wren, who at the time was serving as Dombrowski's assistant general manager. Ten years later, Renteria finds himself at the forefront of a deal that both Dombrowski and Wren completed with the intention of experiencing October jubilation again. "We're all sad to see Edgar go," Wren said. "But at the same time, we're excited about the opportunity to see more of Escobar. I think he's only going to get better."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.