The Atlanta Braves have reached a preliminary agreement to acquire center fielder Mark Kotsay from the Oakland Athletics, filling the hole created by the departure of Andruw Jones. The deal will be finalized once Kotsay passes a physical for Atlanta, where he is expected to fly to on Sunday, and assuming the commissioner's office approves the cash negotiated to be exchanged in the deal, sources say.
In return for Kotsay, the Braves are trading pitcher Joey Devine, and Oakland will assume $5.325 million of the $7.325 million owed to the center fielder for this year.
Kotsay, 32, played in 56 games in 2007 after having back surgery, hitting .214 with 15 extra-bases hits in 206 at-bats. In 2005, before Kotsay began having serious back trouble, he batted .280, with 51 extra-base hits and a .325 on-base percentage.
He has rated highly as a center fielder, and the Braves are trying to find a temporary center fielder for at least the start of the 2008 season, or until they deem top-prospect Jordan Schaefer ready to take over the position permanently.
Devine, a 24-year-old right-hander, was a first round pick in 2005, and has pitched 19.2 innings in the majors, compiling a 6.86 ERA.
Kotsay becomes the third veteran player traded away by Oakland, as the Athletics continue what is a major reconstruction of their team. They already have dealt pitcher Dan Haren to Arizona and outfielder Nick Swisher to Chicago this winter, and it is expected they will weigh offers for starting pitcher Joe Blanton and closer Huston Street sometime before the July 31 trade deadline.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.