The Cubs traded left-handed reliever Will Ohman and recently acquired utility man Omar Infante to the Braves on Tuesday for aspirin-tablet-throwing, rookie reliever Jose Ascanio.
The Braves will use Ohman to fill the bullpen slot vacated by veteran lefty reliever, suburban Crestwood native, and one-time Cub Ron Mahay, who is in the process of departing Atlanta by way of free agency.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Braves General Manager Frank Wren contacted Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski in October to see if Infante was available in trade. Dombrowski, of course, wound up shipping Infante to the Cubs a couple weeks ago for Jacque Jones.
The Journal-Constitution's David O’Brien explains the Braves’ interest in Ohman thusly:
Ohman had a 4.33 ERA in 220 appearances over five seasons with the Cubs, with a road ERA more than four runs lower than at Chicago's Wrigley Field. His .233 career opponents' average includes a .196 by left-handed hitters.
The Braves believe he'll benefit getting away from Wrigley, where Ohman had a 6.63 ERA in 101 appearances. He has a 2.32 career ERA everywhere else.
"It's one thing if it's just one year," Wren said of the home/road disparity, "but when you see it consistently for the last three years ..."
Ohman had 1.45 ERA and .167 opponents' average in 29 road games last season, and an 8.66 ERA and .376 OA in 27 home games. In 2006, it was 1.73/.169 on the road, and 7.14/.252 at Wrigley.
Ohman's career numbers against the Braves might also have added to his appeal: 10 K, 2.08 ERA in 8.2 IP.
Of Ascanio, meanwhile, O’Brien writes:
The Cubs liked hard-throwing Ascanio, 22, who had 84 strikeouts with 24 walks in 94 innings in 2007, including 13 strikeouts in 16 innings for Atlanta after a promotion from Class AA.
"Ascanio was hard to give up," Wren said, "but the way we looked at it, if we could fill needs with two guys we need, it was something we should do."
The Braves have had concerns about Ascanio's chronic back problems, though he seemed to have it under control last season.
In an interview aired earlier this evening on Comcast Sports Night, Cubs GM Jim Hendry said the team sees the Venezuelan Ascanio as someone who could play a role in the Cubs bullpen this season.
I wonder if he voted Sunday.