Braves Acquire Scott Downs For Basically Nothing

It’s bullpen upgrade day. A few hours after the Tigers added Jose Veras, the Braves got the lefty reliever they’ve been hunting for, landing Scott Downs from the Angels, and they got him for what amounts to a hill of beans.

Working against Downs’ value was his age (37), his contract (remainder of $5M salary), and his splits (basically a LOOGY at this point). Adding a couple of million in payroll for a guy who is probably a situational reliever at this point in his career seems to have been enough to scare off most bidders, because the Braves only had to give up reliever Cory Rasmus to get him.

Rasmus isn’t completely without talent, as he’s 25 and posted a 32.4% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year. But his command is terrible (14.9% BB%), the stuff is more good than great, and at the end of the day, he’s basically a run of the mill relief prospect. Every organization in baseball has 20 relievers in the minors who sit at 93 and would be good if only they could throw strikes. These guys are everywhere.

Maybe Rasmus figures things out and becomes a solid middle reliever. Given Downs’ age and impending free agent status, there wasn’t any value to the Angels keeping him around, and so they turned nothing into something just north of nothing. But, as far as value goes, generic relief prospects who don’t throw strikes are about as close to nothing as you can get.

The Braves, meanwhile, are building their playoff roster. They’re basically a near lock for postseason play, and Downs fits in well as a death-to-lefties specialist who can be matched up against the likes of Joey Votto or Adrian Gonzalez in October. He’s declined enough to where he probably shouldn’t ever face a right-handed hitter in a high leverage situation, but there’s definitely a spot on winning teams for specialist relievers, especially with the way bullpens are arranged in the playoffs.

It’s going to be one of the more minor trades of the deadline, but don’t be too surprised to see Downs feature prominently in Atlanta’s playoff games this fall. He won’t stick around long, but for a batter or two, he’s going to be very useful in important situations.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


49 Responses to “Braves Acquire Scott Downs For Basically Nothing”

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  1. Braves Fan says:

    Too bad Fredi is too dumb to use him as just a lefty specialist.

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    • Tim says:

      I don’t even think Fredi could screw this up.

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      • PraiseTrout says:

        You’d be shocked.

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        • Snowman says:

          They’re absolutely correct. He’ll consistently try to bring him in to pitch whole innings, even if it’s a lefty leadoff guy and then two awesome righties. And no amount of failure of this strategy will ever deter him from continuing in that vein. The man just does not believe in using anyone, ever, as a LOOGY, regardless of how big their splits may be.

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        • Paul says:

          I think there needs to a be community fan post where fans lay out their case for why their team’s manager is the worst in the game. Then the community could vote and come up with the five or ten worst. Without question Ned Yost and Clint Hurdle would be in there, probably Rod Gardenhire from what I’ve seen also. And poor Braves fans, I remember the four Marlins fans expressing the same kinds of sentiments about him.

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        • Scraps says:

          Eric Wedge!

          Okay, I don’t think I’d pick Wedge as the worst. But he’d be in the running.

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        • WooIsMe says:

          Rangers fans will be happy to add Ron Washington. Use a time machine and go back to May, and you’ll find Dodgers fans ready to pile on Mattingly.

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        • Baltar says:

          Dusty Baker.

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      • MLB The Show 2008 says:

        Fredi: “alright lets see, Downs has a career 3.47, so he will pitch the whole 7th inning”.

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      • Dan Ugglas Forearm says:

        Remember that Cory Gearrin guy that was a righty killer that shouldn’t ever face lefties? Yeah, he faced a lot of lefties. And now he’s back in the minors. So….

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        • cthabeerman says:

          He also faced a lot of righties this season, and wasn’t particularly good against them, either.

          That’s one strike for the performance of the player rather than mismanagement of a pitcher, at least in 2013. Fredi didn’t really screw this one up so bad.

          -C

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    • harpago17 says:

      As an avid Braves fan who has done his fair share of Fredi bashing, I feel like I’ve got to come to his defense a little. As many mistakes as Gonzalez makes as a manager, year over year he does appear to be learning from past mistakes, and even showing a willingness to “think outside the box” in certain situations. Last night Fredi’s lineup started with Jason Heyward batting leadoff, and Andrelton Simmons relegated to the 8th spot. This gave him Heyward, Upton, Freeman, Gattis, and McCann as his first 5 hitters, which is pretty close to an optimal lineup for the players he has.

      That said, I guarantee you that in the next few weeks, Downs will be used against right-handers, likely extensively. The reason for this will be that Fredi needs to “see” how Downs handles them. You could argue either way on the value in that, but the fact is that the Braves currently have enough of a lead that doing a little bit of experimenting to figure out how you want to use players in the postseason is actually pretty defensible. Once the playoffs actually get here, my guess is that Fredi will have learned that Downs should primarly face LHH only, and use him in that way.

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      • Braves Fan says:

        And it only took him 100 games to get that lineup correct!

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        • harpago17 says:

          90% of managers in baseball never even try that lineup. Most would look at Chris Johnson’s batting average and have him leading off. Fredi has his warts, but I think a lot of the criticism of him is based on his first year managing the Braves, and he’s gotten a lot better since then.

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        • R. Johnson says:

          Don’t know if lineup is correct yet.

          Unless there’s some intangible mental issue with Chris Johnson that would prevent him from succeeding in spots 1-5, he should be batting 2nd (behind Heyward and in front of Freeman, JUpton, McCann, Gattis and Uggla). Also, going forward, BJ needs to be benched when healthy. That last outfield spot should be open for me and Schafer.

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        • Dan Ugglas Forearm says:

          You’re the worst.

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        • Billy says:

          Yeah, wait, why WOULD it be so bad to bat Chris Johnson lead off? He has a high BA and OBP. Maybe his speed is sub par, but you can’t steal first. Or maybe regression concerns?

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      • nsacip says:

        Fredi’s a good manager except when it comes to bullpen management.

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        • JRoc says:

          He has the best bullpen ERA in the game…

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        • Antonio Bananas says:

          Because having the most talented closer in the game and an extremely filthy set up group makes up for a lot of his stupidity.

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        • Wil says:

          Makes up for a lot of his stupidity. Yes because all the mistakes and bad that’s on the manager, but all the good, that’s on the players for being so good.

          See how that doesn’t quite work right?

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      • Dennis says:

        is that you Fredi??

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        • Dennis says:

          not to mention he always takes out the starting pitcher or the reliever AFTER the gave up the lead when it was crystal clear 2 batters before that that they had nothing like Beachy today

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  2. alen says:

    why did the angels give him up for nothing if he’s this good?

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    • David says:

      A couple of million bucks they don’t have to spend any more…

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      • Paul says:

        But let me expand the question, because I’m not sure he’s referring to their record. I had the same question, but it’s based on the fact that they have the money and don’t need a warm body like Cory Rasmus. Not to mention that Downs is still effective, and unless he is a clubhouse cancer, seems like a guy they would like to bring back on a much lesser deal. They can still do that of course, and maybe they will and are doing Downs a favor by letting him go compete for a championship, but it seems like a pointless exercise otherwise.

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        • David says:

          Well having the money and wanting to waste it are two different things, first of all. (Insert Josh Hamilton joke here). Then there’s the fact that moving Downs clears a spot on the 40-man that Rasmus probably isn’t going to be using … maybe there’s someone they want to call up? There’s also the possibility that they legitimately LIKE Rasmus and hope he can turn in to something useful, or that were just doing Downs a favor.

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        • Baltar says:

          Incredible as it may seem, the Angels appear to have become sellers, for the purpose of dumping salary. This would be a smart move by a dumb organization, but it is possible.

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    • PraiseTrout says:

      The Angels had basically no leverage with Downs. 2 months of control left, 37, only a LOOGY, team isn’t in contention. The fact they got a warm body is nice enough

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    • Tim says:

      Because of his salary and because he’s going to be a free agent. That’s what teams do when they are sellers and giving up the season.

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    • Nick says:

      Relievers with zero team control left, especially ones near 40 that are lefty specialists, aren’t exactly the hottest asset out there.

      Like Dave said, getting a warm body is pretty much the best you can hope for.

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    • Stan says:

      They’re making room to re-acquire Vernon Wells since they need a right handed power bat to step in Pujols’ shoes.

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  3. Joe says:

    Me being a Braves fan, I know this will end up with Rasmus becoming Neftali Harrison Wainwright for the Angels.

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  4. TKDC says:

    Featured Article on Fangraphs: “Two MLB Teams Conduct Fairly Meaningless Transaction”

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    • Jamie says:

      “Meaningless” is, of course, a relative term, and not one I would be tempted to use on a website devoted to the detailed parsing of the statistical minutiae of a child’s game played by adult men wearing brightly-colored pajamas. Unless I wanted to take a good hard look at the way I have been living my life. Which, obviously, I don’t.

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  5. jcxy says:

    gotta tip the cap to the braves–they always seem to find the right piece at a great price at the deadline (except for, I suppose, teix).

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  6. Carl says:

    Describing Cory Rasmus as “basically nothing” and “a warm body” seems rather harsh. In 2013 he is 3-1 w a 1.72 era a WHIP of 1.14 (very low despite walking 5.4/9 because he allows only 4.9 hits per nine) and 11.8 K/9.

    The Angels save $2 million and get a reliever that is 12 years younger w a live arm. Seems to me that both sides won this trade.

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    • Brian says:

      As an Angels fan I disagree. The Angels need to be making trades but it should be to get better in the future. Maybe they can steal Bud Black back from the Padres so they can fix this guy though.

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  7. John says:

    “Every organization in baseball has 20 relievers in the minors who sit at 93 and would be good if only they could throw strikes.”

    Not in the Angels organization.

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  8. buck2406 says:

    I wonder how many of the Fredi knockers could manage their way out of a paper bag.

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    • Braves Fan says:

      12?

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      We know the maximum number of Freddi Knockers is 2. So 2, because those are some nice knockers.

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    • Billy says:

      Eeeeewwwww, Fredi’s moobs…

      Anyhow, yeah. I have to say I’ve disagreed with my team’s manager and been right on a handful of occasions, usually sac bunts or intentional walks, but really it’s not all that common. Like maybe a handful of times a season. I’m fairly confident it’s far outnumbered by all the smart things he does that I don’t notice but never would have thought of myself. I’m kinda surprised by how many people hate on the managers here. Except Dusty Baker. He’s a barbarian.

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  9. Roody-Poo Jabroni says:

    Yeah, broadcasters just said they’d talked to the scouts earlier today, and scouts described him as a guy who wasn’t just good against lefties, but could pitch a whole inning. So.. here’s hoping a lot of 7th innings are lefty-packed lol.

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  10. bvillebaron says:

    Well FWIW, he obviously got right handers out last night in a key situation in the 19th after arriving just before the game started. Kind of hard to be critical of that.

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