Braves Scoop Up Useful Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson

The Braves are taking a long-term risk for a short-term gain in trading Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman for Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm. The most talented player in the deal is obviously Arodys Vizcaino, but he also comes with a ton of question marks.

Johnson and Maholm will be asked to do exactly what they did in Chicago. Johnson will be a spot starter in the outfield against tough left-handed pitchers or on days when Chipper Jones rests, and Maholm is expected to fill in the back end of a rotation that has been troubled by inconsistency all season.

The Braves were one of the big names courting Ryan Dempster, but may have made out better for the cheaper Maholm, who also has a $6.5 club option for 2013. Here are their respective FIP- over the past three years:

Dempster: of 96, 98, 84
Maholm: 106, 100, 101

Obviously, Dempster is more talented, but not by a significant enough margin that would justify the cost of a player with as high of a floor in Randall Delgado for two months of Dempster. In the past, Maholm showed the ability to limit home runs, mostly due to pitching in a pitcher friendly ballpark in Pittsburgh. He has a career HR/9 of 0.68 at home and 1.01 in away games, and his move to a relatively pitcher friendly park in Turner Field should allow his home run rate to tick back near its former levels. For comparison, his HR/9 this year jumped up to 0.88 in his first year in Wrigley Field while he maintained a comparable 0.92 HR/9 away from Chicago.

If Maholm is able to lower his home run rate back down closer to the levels he became accustomed to in Pittsburgh, he should be a very effective starter. The addition of his cutter over the past few years, specifically in an uptick in frequency this year, has allowed him to post a career high strikeout percentage and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those numbers combined with a move to a pitcher friendly park could push his FIP- to a better than league average mark. With four consecutive years with a WAR above 2 and a current mark of 1.6, it is easy to expect Maholm to be worth the $6.5 million option next season. He is far from a flashy pitcher as his fastball velocity sits at around 87 mph, but he changes speeds well and induces ground balls roughly 50% of the time which allows him to be a a surprisingly effective pitcher. With Ben Sheets always being an injury risk, Tommy Hanson‘s velocity dropping, Mike Minor having an up-and-down season despite solid performances as of late, a solid starter like Maholm fits perfectly into the Braves plans for the next year and a half.

Johnson is the type of player the Braves have been trying to acquire for years. In trading for Matt Diaz last season, the Braves attempted to fill in the right-handed bat to spell their plethora of left-handed hitters and round out their bench. Diaz’s injury and ineffectiveness made it necessary to search for a player like Johnson, a more versatile outfielder who still hits lefties at a high level. The Braves bench has been a problem, as outside of Juan Francisco they lack a quality hitter due to Eric Hinske‘s problems at the plate and Fredi Gonzalez’s unwillingness to burn David Ross as a pinch hitter. Johnson gives the team a solid late game pinch hitter against left-handed relievers, and will allow Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward to stay fresh down the stretch run.

These are not the two players that will necessarily cause the Braves to jump over the Nationals or to run away in the wild card race, but they help round out their roster nicely. The rotation still looks underwhelming when planning for the playoffs, but with an offense that has scored more runs than every team in the NL outside of St. Louis, a pitcher who can keep the team in the game and a lefty masher are quality acquisitions to enhance the Braves postseason chances.



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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.


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bgrasso12
Member
bgrasso12
3 years 11 months ago

The Braves seem to have pegged Vizcaino as a reliever. Between that and the injury, I can see where they’re coming from. That said, it’s hard to give up someone with his ceiling for a league average-ish started and a (good) bench bat.

I really wish the Braves could commit to Medlen starting. I really think he could at least match Maholm’s production, and therefore enable them to keep Vizcaino. But the move does make them a deeper/better team for the remainder of the year at least.

Nathaniel
Member
Nathaniel
3 years 11 months ago

I say at least give Kris Medlen the start tonight. On ESPN they are claiming that Maholm will get the ball tonight. It’s the Marlins, and the Braves should take the chance to see if Medlen has some ability to start at the Major League level.

Just Jim
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Just Jim
3 years 11 months ago

I wish the Braves wouldn’t have traded for Maholm. Medlen did well in the minors, did well as a RP and has done everything they’ve asked of him. He deserves a shot and a long look in the rotation.

Jason
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Jason
3 years 11 months ago

Medlen doesn’t give them anywhere near enough starting depth (and leaves their bullpen without enough depth, though that could have been fixed for cheaper).

Hanson just hit the DL, there’s all sorts of consistency questions from the younger half (half!) of the rotation… The Braves needed a solid stand in, which is Medlen’s role this year. If he had a regular spot, then there’s no margin at all.

TKDC
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TKDC
3 years 11 months ago

Remember that Vizcaino had TJ this spring, so there is no guarantee for what his health will be like in 2013. And since he never even pitched anything close to a full season as a starter, it is probable that he won’t be a reliable full-season starter until 2015 at the earliest. Yet due to his place on the ML roster, he is burning pre-arb years right now (this is my understanding anyway). He’ll be arb. eligible in 2015, so you’re likely getting one pre-arb year of decent value out of him and 3 years of arbitration. That is really best case scenario.

Dan
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Dan
3 years 11 months ago

All excellent points–but the injury will keep his arb salaries down. Also, I would be willing to bet he pitches most of the year in 2013 in AAA. That will keep him from accruing more a lot of service time next year, and if he’s in the Cubs rotation in 2014 to start the season, the Cubs are likely to get 5 seasons of control.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 11 months ago

Yeah, I’m not sure how the rules go as far as accruing service time. As long as he’s on the DL, he is. Can they remove him from the DL and send him down at the same time? Does he have to be fully healthy for that to stop the clock on his service time? Anyway, you might be right if he does spend any significant time in 2013 at the minor league level, the Cubs will control him 2014-18, though he could be eligible for Super-2 status if he accrues enough ML time next season.

And of course he could end as a high end starter for several seasons with the Cubs, which will make this trade painful for Braves fans to look back on.

Yakker
Guest
Yakker
3 years 11 months ago

Regarding sending him down while on the major league DL, I believe this is what Nick Hagadone just filed a complaint over.

nik
Guest
nik
3 years 11 months ago

Where is the analysis of what the Braves gave up? Its easy to paint a trade so rosy when you only talk about what you’re getting.

selling jeans
Member
selling jeans
3 years 11 months ago

Sorry fot the placement of this comment, but just saw Mr. Duronio’s Power Rankings over at SI.com.

I understand the game, and the modern way to analzye the game, as much as the next person. FIP, WAR, BABIP, OPSs+, UZR– come on down.

But at some point you have to trust and believe what your eyes tell you. I live in Wisconsin and I can watch the nightly Brewers bullpen blowup at about 915-930 Central as regularly as the sun going down. To have a rating system that continues to say that the Brewers are a better team than– oh, let me pick a team out of the hat– the team that is one win away from the 2nd best July in MLB HISTORY and whose bullpen regularly does mini-versions of what they did last night (hold TB scoreless for 8 innings)– IS A JOKE. Oakland at #19???? Come on. They are playing in the far tougher league (someone try to tell me that over 200 games where one league essentially was the equivalent of 91-71 better than the other isn’t relevant) and are now 30-11 in their last 41 games. Where they hit 63 HRs, With the best ERA in their league. And the 2nd best run differential for those 7+ weeks. Number 19??? Quoting John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious”.

Paul
Guest
Paul
3 years 11 months ago

Maybe it’s just the addition of the cutter, but if you look at Maholm’s splits, when he was in Pittsburgh up till last season his ERA was very heavily dependent on lefthanded hitters, meaning if he faced a lot of lefthanders in a season his ERA was quite a bit lower than in seasons where he faced an average number. Now he is getting righthanders out over the past two seasons, to the point where his splits are about even this year. He’s not likely to regress against lefthanded hitters, so I’d say that’s a SSS fluke. So while the HR/FB is one factor going forward, so is the fact that his numbers may be inflated a tad due to flukish results against lefthanded batters. A move to the NL East where batters may not have seen as much of him could lead to a few dominant performances. Given this wildcard (no pun intended), Maholm could be the steal of the deadline.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 11 months ago

Hope you’re right, both as a Braves fan and as a guy who just took a flyer on him in his fantasy league.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
3 years 11 months ago

I like the trade. Medlen might be a good starter, but why risk it this year? He hasn’t been stretched out. Plus taking Medlen out of the pen really hurts the pen. Adding a starter keeps Medlen out of the pen and adds basically what you’d probably get if Medlen were a starter.

I love the addition of Reed. I wanted Atlanta to get bench help, I felt like due to Chipper being Chipper, the Braves having a solid bench is more important to them than it would be to most other teams.

Good trade. With the Braves having a ridiculously tough interleague schedule and June in general. They’re in the midst of a pretty easy stretch against a bunch of sellers and bottom dwellers. By mid August, the series against Washington could be for the NL East.

blwfish
Guest
blwfish
3 years 11 months ago

There may not have been a good place for Vizcaino in the Braves rotation plans, either. If it took the year to return from injury and then another year to stretch him out and develop another pitch, some of the next wave were likely to overtake him – Gilmartin, s one example. Of course, none of them could pan out, that’s why it’s all a guessing game. I think most observers expected Teheran to be an established MLB player by now, especially after he tore up AAA last year.

Jason
Guest
Jason
3 years 11 months ago

I think the Braves decided that post injury, stretching him out to go the innings for a starter had a higher chance of failure, add to that there’s a chance he wasn’t capable of developing another pitch… that’s a reasonable element of risk that is *completely* mitigated by making him a reliever. He’s already pretty much complete as a reliever.

IMO, if you’ve got a guy with an elite skill set, you take the path that gives him the highest chance of reaching that ceiling, and that’s as a reliever.

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