Trade Bait: Indians buy Low on Lowe

The Atlanta Braves are becoming well known for making notable moves within days of the beginning of the offseason. Last year it was a trade for Dan Uggla in mid-November, a few years ago it was trading Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers. They’ve done it again, this time it’s Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians. The Braves will include Lowe, and all but $5 million of his salary in return for Single-A reliever Chris Jones.

Lowe certainly hasn’t been the pitcher for the Bravos that he was in Los Angeles and the team had already noted that he would be moved to a relief spot if he was on the team still in 2011. Yet, even with his regression (10.2 H/9 and 3.4 BB/9), Derek owned the second largest groundball rate in all of baseball last season. But that doesn’t typically work out too well with Uggla at second and an aging Chipper Jones at the hot corner.

With Lowe, the Indians now have three of the top groundball pitchers in baseball in their rotation. Between he,  Justin Masterson, and Fausto Carmona the Indians infielders will not be bored in 2012. Lowe also brings a veteran pressence and signficant post season experience to a rotation that also includes Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin. If Derek can survive in his return to the American League, he should be a good addition to this young team.

The Braves on the other hand free up $5 million in dedicated payroll and open up a spot in their rotation for Randall Delgado or top pitching prospect Julio Teheran, as well as allow Mike Minor to move out of the 5th spot. Either pitcher was likely to outperform Lowe in 2012 and certainly beyond. When teamed with the $9.4 million the team will save in paying the buyout on Nate McLouth‘s recently declined option, the Braves have freed up approximately $14.4 million of possible payroll. However, declining McLouth’s option was already assumed and the team has a couple players eligible for healthy jumps in arbitration in Michael Bourn and Jair Jurrjens.

Reliever Chris Jones is nearly a throw-in on the deal. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein notes that he has a good breaking ball and deception and profiles as possible future LOOGY. It’ll be a bonus if Jones develops into that relief role, but not something the Braves are ultimately counting on. 

It’s possible that the extra $5 million will help the team land a notable free agent bat in the outfield, but it is unlikely. Though it has surpassed a $100 million payroll a couple times in the past decade, the team keeps crying “poor”.

But you never know what GM Frank Wren has up his sleve. Rather than letting Jair Jurrjens retire for the offseason, they sent him to instructional league, possibly as a showcase. With Delgado, Teheran, and Arodys Vizcaino knocking on the door and Kris Medlen returning, the Braves are stocked with pitching talent. Don’t rule a Jurrjens trade for a big bat out of the question.

Overall, this is a decent move for both sides. It’s a relatively risky move for the Indians if they want to count on Lowe in the rotation. But if that doesn’t work out, Lowe pitched well as a closer in the past. A $5 million reliever isn’t all that bad.

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What to do with Zambrano?

Carlos Zambrano has worn out his stay in Chicago. The former ace of the Cubs rotation has flirted with retirement and isn’t too enthralled with being in the Windy City as well. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts told ESPN’s Dan Shulman that he found it hard to imagine Zambrano would ever pitch for the Cubs again. The time has come for Zambrano and the Cubs to part ways.

But who would take Zambrano? ESPN’s Jayson Stark posted a column the other day discussing the situation. In it he mentions that a few baseball insiders he spoke to thought that with the right veteran team or manager Zambrano could be useful. Stark would go on to speculate that Zambrano could be dumped for Carlos Lee, A.J. Burnett, Barry Zito, or Derek Lowe. MLBTR even posted 11 Zambrano trade scenarios as well.

But let’s take a look at Stark’s suggestions. First was Carlos Lee. This could be relatively plausible. Carlos Lee is a defensive hindrance in left field and he is blocking playing time for Brett Wallace at first base. Sure, Wallace is struggling, but he needs regular at-bats. Lee could “replace” Carlos Pena at first and Zambrano could eat innings near the top of the rotation, protecting a young starting staff.

Then there’s A.J. Burnett who could certainly use a change of scenery. But could Zambrano do any better under the pressure cooker that is New York? Doubtful, he’s more likely to explode….completely….in the Big Apple. Not a good fit.

Then there’s Barry Zito. Zito doesn’t really have a spot anymore in the Giants’ rotation, how would Zambrano have one? Would he be even more frustrated in relief?

Finally there’s Derek Lowe. The main reason that the Braves would want to get rid of Lowe, a better clubhouse presence than Zambrano, would be to open up a spot for one of their young pitchers. They’re not looking for pitching in return.

Both the Astros and Braves situations also bring to mind the thought; “Do you really want to have Zambrano around the numerous young, impressionable pitchers on your staff?”

The Astros’ situation looks the best, but I wouldn’t do it if I were Ed Wade. Then again, it’s Ed Wade.

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Braves Fill Out their Rotation

After a horrid start to the off-season that saw them lose out on Jake Peavy, lose out on A.J. Burnett, and lose icon John Smoltz, the Atlanta Braves are trying to pick up the pieces and move on.  They now have Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami in the fold to round out their rotation.

Lowe will likely take the ‘ace’ position in the rotation after signing a four-year contract with the Bravos.  No one wanted to go to a fourth year, but the Braves were desperate for a staff ace.  Lowe is not a true ‘ace’, but he’ll keep the team in games with a chance to win.

Kawakami is the Braves first dip into the Japanese market.  He projects as a solid, middle-rotation starter and will likely land in the three hole.  Kenshin was signed to a very affordable three-year contract that will pay him supposedly $23 million over three years.

So the rotation will aparently be Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens, and Jorge Campillo.  It’s not a great one, but it’ll eat innings until uber prospect Tommy Hanson is ready and even possibly Tim Hudson comes back. 

The questions this leaves are, 1) Does this leave Tom Glavine out?  2) Will they fill their left-field hole as well?

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