When the Atlanta Braves picked up their club option for Paul Maholm, they once more ran into the familiar problem of having too much starting pitching. But the move very well may have provided them the flexibility to make a deal this offseason without decimating their starting rotation.
The 30-year-old lefty went 13-11 with a 3.67 ERA with the Chicago Cubs and Braves. He came to Atlanta with Reed Johnson in July in exchange for prospects Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino, who missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery.
Maholm ended his Chicago 5-0 over his last seven games with a 1.00 ERA and .210 opponents' average, but he was unable to quite replicate that success in Atlanta. Maholm's 4-5 record with the Braves is misleading though; he only received 2.75 runs of support per nine innings pitched, and the offense scored either one or no runs for him in six of his last eight starts.
The option to keep Maholm in 2013 joined with Tim Hudson's option means they will likely be the Braves' number two and three starters, teaming up with Kris Medlen and Mike Minor in the starting rotation. Assuming the Braves were as unhappy as their fans with Tommy Hanson's performance last season, particularly the last half, he may be forced to compete with Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran for the fifth spot.
Hanson, Delgado or Teheran could also end up as trade bait to acquire a left fielder or third baseman after the retirement of Chipper Jones.
Brandon Beachy also figures to return from Tommy John surgery around the All-Star break, further crowding out the rotation, but he would almost certainly be afforded a spot.
Maholm's option was only $6.5 million, but it it helps solidify a rotation that was shaky and inconsistent last season. He should provide them with a measure of consistency in their efforts to overtake the Washington Nationals.
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