Scouting Notes: Braves Shopping Pair of Arms, and Both Could Be Bargains
The Braves have two of their top starters on the block, Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez, and there's little doubt that at least one of those two pitchers will be moved, according to multiple major league sources. With strong resumes for both, there should be teams lined up for their services.
One source said that the Braves intend to move one of the two pitchers, and who goes will depend on the offers they receive.
Trading for Halladay could take a king's ransom, and Lackey will demand a huge financial commitment. With that in mind, and one of these pitchers clearly on the block, how might the market be impacted, what do each of these Braves hurlers bring to the table and what might it take to get them?
Lowe is more likely depart and would certainly come cheaper than Vazquez, but the Braves won't get nearly the same return for the former as they would the latter. Atlanta could use the contract relief that would come with dealing Lowe, who has three years and around $45 million left on his contract.
Count the Yankees and Mets as possible destinations for Lowe. Would the Yankees go down the Vazquez road again? It seems unlikely, and given his National League success, he might be best served to stay there. Either way, Vazquez' desirability is the reason Atlanta is more likely to try and hold onto him. After all, he's cheaper, younger, and had a fantastic 2009.
Any suitors for Lowe will have to be financially flexible, and that rules out quite a few teams. Not many clubs would give up players and also pay the $45 million left on his contract. For example, the Texas Rangers, who have also been linked to Vazquez and are looking for pitching help, will not be in on either of these two pitchers because of the money each is making. Other than the Yankees, who figure to lead the charge here, the Angels, who have money coming off the books, will likely explore both pitchers. Whether the Braves would trade within the division to the Mets remains to be seen, but they would be a logical destination otherwise.
Although it will take a financial commitment, Vazquez and Lowe are not going to command a haul of prospects that someone like Halladay would. If Halladay isn't moved, one could make the argument that either Vazquez or Lowe would be the best pitcher available this winter.
While his 4.67 ERA in 2009 doesn't look all the glamorous, Lowe was much better than that ERA would indicate and has been a model of consistency since 2003. Minus a few bad starts near the end of the season, Lowe was as good as ever this year. Don't expect teams to be any less impressed with Lowe than they were when he was free agent last offseason
And then there is Vazquez. He likely won't win the Cy Young Award, announced Thursday, but he was a legitimate contender for the hardware in 2009. He mixed his pitches better this season than he ever has in the past, and his walk numbers were way down from 2008. While some scouts may doubt that he can repeat his fantastic 2009 performance, he has been a consistent innings-eater with good strikeout numbers for many years now.
So what can we expect? Finding a home for Derek Lowe's big contract won't be easy, but it appears that he's the one in this pair that Atlanta would prefer to jettison. Vazquez, on the other hand, will draw much more widespread interest, with only a year remaining on his contract and his impressive performance this past season.
In the end, bet on Lowe getting dealt, with the destination being one of the big-market clubs that showed interest in him when he was a free agent. Expect the Yankees to be heavily involved, especially if money is more the issue at hand than the players that Atlanta gets in return.
• It's looking more and more like the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes will be a two-team race. Mid-market teams do not expect to be involved in the bidding, according to sources with several different teams, leaving the Yankees and Red Sox poised to battle it out for the Cuban left-hander's services.
• As the market takes shape, Rafael Soriano has been placed on the top of many wish lists. Few relievers warrant premium free-agent money, but most agree that Soriano is one of those guys. It looks like he'll hit the big money on the open market and Mike Gonzalez could be the one that remains in Atlanta. Soriano has, for many years now, drawn high praise from scouts for his outstanding pure stuff, and it looks like he'll get compensated like a closer with that type of stuff now.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.