ATLANTA -- Four seasons ago, Jordan Schafer was a highly regarded prospect preparing to begin his Major League career as the Braves' starting center fielder. Now the 26-year-old outfielder will return to Atlanta with the hopes of proving he can still provide value off the bench.

The Braves announced Thursday afternoon that they have claimed Schafer off waivers from the Astros. They had traded him to Houston in the July 31, 2011, deal that brought Michael Bourn to Atlanta.

With the possibility that Bourn could sign elsewhere as a free agent this winter, the Braves are currently evaluating their options to acquire one or two front-line outfielders via trade or free agency. This acquisition of Schafer will not alter those plans.

Recognized as a solid defensive player who can run, Schafer will have a chance to begin the 2013 season as one of Atlanta's backup outfielders. His acquisition likely lessens the odds of Jose Constanza beginning next season with the Braves.

"We feel [Schafer] has the ability to help you in a number of different ways," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "This provides us with depth."

Schafer hit .211 with four home runs, 27 stolen bases and a .591 OPS in 313 at-bats with the Astros this past season. A left shoulder injury limited him to 15 games and 21 at-bats during the season's final two months.

After the Astros placed Schafer on waivers on Tuesday, the Braves grew interested in bringing him back to increase their outfield depth.

Schafer hit .228 with four home runs and a .616 OPS in the 132 games he combined to play for the Braves during the 2009 and '11 seasons. He homered in the first at-bat of his career and tallied two home runs in his first three games. But Schafer was never the same after suffering a left wrist injury during the fourth game of his career.

The Braves sent Schafer to Triple-A Gwinnett near the end of May 2009. He missed most of the rest of that season because of the wrist injury and spent all of the '10 season at the Minor League level.

When Nate McLouth struggled during the first two months of the 2011 season, the Braves brought Schafer back to Atlanta. He hit .240 with a .623 OPS in 52 games before headlining the package that brought Bourn to the Braves.

The Braves also announced that three players -- catcher J.C. Boscan, left-handed pitcher Robert Fish and right-handed pitcher Erik Cordier -- have been outrighted off their 40-man roster. Boscan has elected to become a free agent.