Derek Lowe Derek Lowe

Trade Derek Lowe? To Who?


Saturday’s report that the Tigers were interested in Derek Lowe stirred up already bubbling trade rumors around the veteran hurler. From the Braves point of view such a trade to the Tigers would purely be a salary dump. Lowe is as good a fifth starter as any in the league, we simply don’t score for him. Before you tell me I’m an idiot check, his numbers against his peers. He is however overpaid in that rotation spot and moving him would allow us payroll flexibility this year and next.  I took a look at the the Tigers and one other possible trade partner to see what how the trade might go for both sides.The Tigers are interesting. Lowe is from Michigan and might enjoy going home. The Tigers seriously need a starter who can give them 6 innings most games and start every fifth day. Lowe will do that. Comerica is a huge ballpark suited to a guy like Lowe whose ground balls will keep scores low and give the Tigers a chance to win. The Tigers will give him run support he isn’t getting here – they score over a run a game more than the Braves – so he would theoretically get more wins there. Comerica has been a pleasant place to visit for Lowe. In 6 games there (3 starts) he’s thrown 24 innings has an ERA 0f 2.25 and a WHIP of 1.000.  Most of those numbers came when he was with Boston. His last visit here was 2008 with the Dodgers when he threw 7 innings allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, walked none and struck out 5.  So statistically he’s a fit though the Tigers would prefer a good lefty; who wouldn’t? What can the Tigers offer the Braves? Not much.

Like us Detroit is looking for a right handed outfield so they can’t provide that. (Those dreaming of  Austin Jackson need to wake up and have some coffee.) It would be Lowe + cash in exchange for players to be named later. In other words nothing of substance unless we get lucky. Just a salary dump that would allow us to get a bat this year and have off season payroll flexibility to perhaps extend Martin Prado for five years.

Will it happen? Who knows? The Tigers under Jim Leyland are a notoriously bad second half club. Contracts for both Leyland and Dave Dombrowski are up at the end of the year and their jobs are at stake if the Tigers fail again in a mediocre division. Dombrowksi and Braves GM Frank Wren are close friends from their days with Florida and have done business before, we took Wilkin Ramirez off their hands last year. All of those indicate it could happen. Their payroll is about $106 this year with about $73.8 on the books now for 2012.  Adding Lowe would mean $69 million invested in Miguel Cabrera (21), Justin Verlander(20), Victor Martinez (13) and Lowe, with a team $9 million option for Jose Valverde they will certainly pick up bring the total to just over $98.3 million committed to ten players. Looming arbitration for Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson is likely to take that number over $112 million meaning the final amount could be close to $118 million.  Even if the send minor league pitcher Jacob Turner to us shedding about 1.2 million it’s a $10 million increase over 2011 so the trade will definitely be a factor in the final decision. On the other hand the last two pitchers they sent us worked out well so. . . nah probably not.

The Tiger rumor may or may not have real substance. It did get me thinking however, if not the Tigers, who would make a realistic trading partner if Lowe is to be traded.The Yankees may be interested but they really should avoid taking pitchers from the NL East; Carl Pavano, Javier Vasquez. etc. didn’t work well for them. Boston? Probably not. Lowe left there under less than amicable circumstances. A team that might fit for everyone including Lowe is the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers really need another starter. Alexi Ogando who started the year so well is finding the season longer as a starter than it was as a reliever and they recently sent Dave Bush off to seek his fortune elsewhere. The Rangers might prefer James Shields kind of starter but the Rays may not sell and the market is slim. Lowe would bring to Texas the same things he offers Detroit and his sinker would be particularly welcome in the Arlington launching pad.  The Rangers would provide a lot more run support than either the Tigers or the Braves and the Nolan Ryan / Mike Maddux duo might be a great help to him. How Lowe who sweats a gallon an inning in Atlanta would stay hydrated in Arlington I don’t know. That aside, he’s not a bad fit.  The Rangers do have a right handed bat we might be able to use right away as well. No, not Michael Young, he’s going nowhere; Craig Gentry.

Gentry isn’t a slugger or a even well known hitter; though he had a cup of coffee the last two years, he’s virtually a rookie. This year he’s appeared in 34 games for the Rangers with 77 at bats (90PA) with a line of .260/.341/.325 with 17 Ks. At AAA Round Rock this year he’s been in 25 games with 101 at bats and a line of .239/.337/.307. That can be attributed to going back and forth to Arlington early in the year, his 2010 final AAA line was .309/.393/.413.

The 27 year old, 6’2” 190 pound outfielder is fast but has never hit leadoff for the Rangers, they have Ian Kinsler in that slot and use Elvis Andrus when Kinsler isn’t available. Gentry has been on base 29 times (20 hits, 8 walks, 1 ROE) and stolen 11 bases this year without being thrown out or picked off. In comparison Jordan Schafer has been on base 60 times (41 hits, 16 walks, 4ROE) stealing 11 bases while being thrown out 4 times. While NL catching is better at throwing at runners than the AL, Gentry’s base stealing numbers are interesting.

As a trading chip for Derek Lowe he would be a nice fit for us. He’s inexpensive with about $175K left this year of his $416K salary and is pre-arb eligible next year which means we pay him almost anything we want as long as it’s more than the league minimum and isn’t a pay cut. That fit’s our apparently restricted payroll structure nicely. As a fast right handed outfielder capable of playing center fielder as well as either corner he fits perfectly and would certainly be an improvement on strikeout prone Wilkin Ramirez. While I always expect a little drop off in average when changing leagues, Gentry should adapt as well as he has moving back and forth from Round Rock to Arlington and be up to speed quickly. This trade would also free up some money this year and next even if we pay a couple of million of Lowe’s salary. That money could then go towards getting some bullpen help – like say Grant Balfour – or perhaps a super utility guy like Omar Infante if the Fish are ready to let him go, to replace the useless Julio Lugo .

It seems that for the Braves Craig Gentry, like the Padres Chris Denorfia fits our bench needs better than a rental of Josh Willingham or most other over valued players rumored to be available. How Frank Wren, Dave Dombrowski, Jon Daniels or any other GM sees things only they know.