Frank Wren wasted no time in making his first move of the offseason. The Atlanta Braves traded starting pitcher Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians on Monday. The Braves will also pay $10 million of Lowe's $15 million salary in the 2012 season. The Braves received Single-A left-handed pitcher Chris Jones in return.
The move officially frees up a rotation spot for one of the Braves' young pitchers. At the conclusion of the Braves' season, Wren intimated that it was unlikely Lowe would be in the rotation next season. With the Braves' plethora of young arms, Wren's statement was not all that surprising.
The trade also provides the Braves with $5 million of salary relief. For a team with a relatively fixed payroll and a couple of expensive veterans, that extra money is very significant. It will give the Braves roughly $10 million to spend this offseason in their search for a shortstop, corner outfielder, and utility player.
Jones, the player the Braves received in return, went 7-1 with a 3.36 ERA while striking out 66 batters in 72 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. He also held left-handed hitters to a .145 average, a strong indicator that he may one day serve as a lefty specialist in the bullpen.
As for Lowe, he was never as bad as fans made him out to be, but he certainly didn't live up to his contract. He did, however, prove to be a hard-working and durable starter, as he missed only one start in his three years with Atlanta. Despite his monumental struggles this year, Braves fans should not be quick to forget his incredible September in the 2010 season. Lowe went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA that month, and the Braves would never have made the playoffs without him.
“He gave us 31 wins the first two years,” Wren said. “If you told me I could sign a free agent that averaged a little over 15 wins a year, you’d take it every time. He did exactly what we wanted him to do. This year, he had a tough time at the finish. But he still won nine games and won 40 in three years.”
Lowe went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA this past season to put his overall numbers with Atlanta at 40-39 with a 4.57 ERA. He is certainly a candidate to rebound this upcoming season, but it was time to give one of the kids a chance.
As it stands now, the Braves would likely go into the season with a rotation of Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy. The fifth spot could go to Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, or even Kris Medlen. Regardless, the Braves have excellent starting pitching depth and may even look to move one of those starters in another deal. It will undoubtedly be an exciting offseason.
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