Braves Win–The Game and The Trade


Braves bust their Monday night jinx and solidify the rotation

You may credit Chipper Jones’ new Twitter account or the high socks worn by everyone (except Tommy Hanson?) or you may simply understand that the Marlins are such a deflated team that getting ahead by two or three early means their chances of overcoming the deficit are small. Whatever the cause and effect, last night the Braves put their Monday jinx to rest. Shortly after the game finished and before the Twitterverse had finished celebrating, a trade with the Cubs was announced bringing Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to Atlanta for Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino. There are game recaps everywhere, the real discussion today is the trade.

Maholm, Johnson and the prospects

Paul Maholm

Many have no idea who Paul Maholm is primarily because he was a Pirate for his first seven years in the majors and who outside of Pittsburgh before the 2011 season actually watched the Pirates? Most Braves fans didn’t so an introduction is in order. Yesterday I saw him compared to Tim Hudson and as a groundball pitcher that’s a fair comparison. He doesn’t throw as hard a Huddy however and doesn’t use his sinker as much.Here are some key points about Maholm.

  • Innings eater: He has always thrown 175 or more innings a year and was at 162 when  a shoulder injury sent him to the DL last September.
  • “Crafty lefty,” primarily a sinker (25%) slider (21%) guy pitches to contact and relies on defense.
  • Not a power/strikeout guy. Fastballs both two and four seam versions – max at about 88
  • Slider is his out pitch about half the time no matter who’s at bat.
  • He doesn’t give in. Throws his pitch and accepts the result.
  • Walk rate is about 2.5/9 (7%), K rate about 6/9(16%), HR rate 0.90/9 (2.4%)
  • Groundball 50%, Fly ball 30% Line Drive 20% HR/FB 11%

I’d expect the Braves to split up lefties in the rotation. For example Hudson, Maholm, Ben Sheets, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen (or Tommy – where’s home plate – Hanson.) Maholm $6.5M has a team option for 2013, a very affordable price should the Braves choose to pick it up. I think they may just do that particularly if Huddy decides this is his last year or we trade Hanson.

Reed Johnson

I like Reed Johnson a lot. At 35 he’s no kid but he’s also not worn out. His real value is as a defensive outfield that beats lefties to death. He plays all three outfield positions well and will leave it all on the field every time he plays. He can give Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward a day off and when Martin Prado plays third he can play left.

His current slash is .302/.355/.444 with 3 homers, 3 triples, 9 doubles and 16 RBI in 169 at bats. He slash versus lefties is .321/.367/.524 while against righties it’s .282/.344/.365. As a pinch hitter this year he’s 13 for 29 which translates to a .448/.484/.586 line and he hits well with RISP which is always good news. He’s the perfect RH bat for out bench.

The Price

From my perspective Theo Epstein decided to move older players and allow his young prospects to move up and was willing to pay the price for that decision. In this process he accepted warm bodies and risk in the trade instead of holding out for higher level names. The Cubs are going nowhere soon  so this makes a good deal sense.  The players sent to the Cubs were Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino.

Chapman is having another so-so season in the minors It’s his sixth year and though there were flashes of good pitching mostly he’s been a fringe kind of pitcher. An average fastball and not impressive breaking ball are supported by a very good changeup.  He was not likely to ever reach the big team and if he makes it at all he’ll be a so-so middle reliever

Vizcaino is a 19 year old power arm who’s currently recovering from TJ surgery. I’ve heard a lot of folks complaining about his departure. Baseball Prospectus has a good perspective on Vizcaino in today’s Transaction Analysis (subscription required.)  They highlight the superior stuff everyone says we lost but also the risk taken by the Cubs in accepting him.

Vizcaino entered the year as the no. 3 prospect in the Atlanta system and the no. 62 on the Top 101. . . Vizcaino had a history of arm problems before the surgery and has never thrown more than 120 innings in a season. Now an undersized pitcher with an injury history and far from a pretty delivery, everything points to Vizcaino becoming a permanent reliever, but if his stuff comes all the way back, he’s potentially closer-worthy. (emphasis added)

You should read the entire piece for more details of course.

The Cubs also sent money to Atlanta in the trade further supporting my position that Theo is literally buying time for his prospects.

That’s A Wrap

This deal reminds me of my last new car purchase. I wanted the power lift gate and navigation system with bluetooth as features. When I saw the price I readjusted and took the manual lift gate and bought an after market GPS with bluetooth. While it was not exactly the car I wanted it was everything I needed.  Wren and company started out looking for an Ace but the shortage of those and the plethora of buyers made that difficult. That led to a a reassessment of what was available and of the available arms Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson made the most sense.

As most know I’m not Frank Wren’s biggest fan and this deal feels a lot more like one of John Scheurholz’ trades from the 90’s than anything he’s done. One of my readers will no doubt point out that every deal involves JS and I agree but mostly it’s on the periphery and we don’t see it.  Scheurholz’ letter last fall gave him a vested interest in not allowing the a failure this year. He was sitting next to Wren at the ballpark last night when this all went down so perhaps he had more than a guiding hand in it. We’ll never know of course but whoever put it together I think this is a very good deal for the Braves.  While it’s not the perfect deal, that deal didn’t really exist in this year’s market. It’s also not a Fred McGriff A++ level deal so those turning cartwheels need to dial back their expectations a bit. While encouraging you not over value it, I suggest that you under value it either. It’s certainly a B+ trade that may get us to a division title and under the circumstances the best option available. A division title is our immediate goal. Once there we’ll just wear our high socks, get hot and anything can happen.