Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.
It wasn't a tricky call for the Braves over the winter - they looked at their respectable offense (fifth in NL runs) and their spotty pitching (12th in ERA) and knew where there money had to go. It cost plenty of cash and resources to completely overhaul the Top 3 spots in the rotation, but that's what GM Frank Wren felt obligated to do. Let's have a look at the new faces on the pitcher's mound.
Signed SP Derek Lowe to a four-year contract
Lowe sticking in LA would have been a tidier fantasy story - he fashioned a solid home ERA in each of the last three seasons (2.30, 3.51, 3.18), but things got away from him on the road (4.42, 4.19, 4.13). That established, it's harder to jack a homer in Turner Field these days than it is Dodger Stadium, and while I wouldn't want to be paying Lowe at the end of his contract (when he'll be 39), he still looks like a safe-floor hurler this year, working that hard sinker in the safer National-League environment. The Braves infield defense doesn't look any worse to me than what the Dodgers had last year (always a key with a sinker pitcher).
Lowe is currently the No. 39 starter by Average Draft Position and No. 38 on the Yahoo! Expert ranks, though he'll be higher in our circle if we can strongarm Brad Evans to change his tune (the other three chaps have Lowe at 30, 35 and 37). That looks like a profit price to me.
Traded for SP Javier Vazquez
He's a riddle in five syllables - how can a high-strikeout pitcher with his stuff routinely finish the year with an ERA over 4? Last year Vazquez rung up 200 whiffs in 208.1 innings and yet a 4.67 ERA came with the package; that's very hard to do. Here's another guy who's likely to be helped by Turner Field; keep in mind Vazquez has toiled with the White Sox, D-Backs and Yankees over the past few seasons. I'm buying into the league switch and slotting Vazquez aggressively (No. 17); my colleagues are less excited (23, 25, 30) and that's where the Wisdom of Crowds falls as well (No. 31, 142.3 ADP). Talk me out of Vazquez, please, in the comments.
Signed SP Kenshin Kawakami to a three-year contract
The deal is worth $23 million, if that matters to you - that at least gives us an idea of what the Braves are expecting from the Japanese import. Kawakami is an 11-year veteran who turns 34 in the middle of the season, so the Braves obviously expect a contribution right away. His fastball settles in around 90 mph but he's got excellent control and a handful of pitches in his arsenal; he'll fit nicely as the team's No. 3 or No. 4 starter. His early rank has settled into the 70 range, both from us and the fantasy nation. Here's a projection to consider as you do your own ranks: 167 innings, 10-8 record, 112 strikeouts, 4.01 ERA, 1.30 WHIP.
Tomahawk Chops: The Braves re-signed Tom Glavine Friday and will slot him at the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Jorge Campillo slides to the bullpen until someone gets hurt . . . Now that Waiting for Godot is over and the Braves didn't get Ken Griffey (much to the chagrin of Tim Hudson, I might add), Matt Diaz, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Jones are left to argue over the left-field at-bats . . . Kelly Johnson was in trade discussions for most of the winter but alas, he's still in the ATL and likely to be the team's leadoff man when the bell rings . . . Chipper Jones and the front office are in discussions about a contract extension that would keep Jones with the Braves through the balance of his career. Jones wasn't thrilled when the team let John Smoltz walk as a free agent, but it didn't keep Chipper from moving into Smoltz's old locker, the first and most prominent one in the Atlanta clubhouse . . . Mike Gonzalez enters the season as Atlanta's clear closer, and he's also in his walk year. He was a capable stopper when he returned to action last June (14 saves, 44 strikeouts in 33.2 innings), though a surprising gopher problem (six homers) pushed his ERA over 4. He's only No. 23 on our relief pitcher board, probably because no one is confident he can stay healthy for a full season . . . Hudson is coming off Tommy John surgery and is hoping he can make it back for the final month or two of the year . . . Let's end with a nod to the estimable Ron Shandler of Baseball HQ, who we play off in this blog header. See you in New York, amigo.
Photo via AP