LONG BEACH— The Braves have reportedly agreed to terms with the veteran pitcher Derek Lowe, the last pitcher they had on their list. The deal is said to be 4 years and $60 million dollars.
That’s $15 million a year for a 36 year old pitcher. Lowe will turn 40 in the final year of his contract. This is down from what Lowe was reportedly seeking, about 5 years and around $17 million. But Lowe is a Boras client. And Boras clients are always “seeking” something unattainable and always end up getting something unimaginable. An aging sinker baller at $15 million a year. That’s expensive. No way around it. But that is what the Braves had to do.
All off-season the Braves have been trying to give their money away. They even threw some towards a shortstop when they didn’t even need a shortstop. But said shortstop stumbled back to LaLa Land, broken back and all.
I’m not displeased with this deal. I am disappointed that Lowe is the “ace” the team has acquired. I would have liked a younger, stronger ace. But in this day and age of a lack-luster Braves Franchise, Lowe will have to do.
The Braves rotation is shaping up…. to be rather average. With Derek Lowe at the helm the Braves have a 200 inning sinker baller on the wrong side of 35. He is followed up by a 200 inning “stuff” guy that has trouble keeping runs from crossing the plate. Behind him is a young promising pitcher who struggled in the second half of last year, either due to exhaustion (having pitched more innings than he’d ever pitched in a single season in his career) or from advanced scouting (having been exposed more to scouts and ball players more than ever in his career). Behind the young man is a 100 inning pitcher from Japan, who came to America fresh off a season shortened with back injuries. And behind this Eastern Promise is a slew of young potentials (Morton, Reyes, Parr, and Hanson) and old hopes (Tom Glavine).
The rotation isn’t like the old days for the Braves. In those days the first three or four guys could be considered strong candidates for the top three or four spots in Cy Young voting. This rotation doesn’t have a single man capable of putting up such a season. But it does offer the ever so need adjective “solid”, assuming of course that Jair can hold up this year and not fall prey to the Verducci Effect.
The Verducci Effect was first written about by SI writer Tom Verducci. He studied pitchers under the age of 30, I think it was, who saw a sudden increase in total innings pitched from one season to the next. What he found was, when a young pitcher exceeded about 40 innings pitched from one season to the next, they had a very high probability of falling victim to arm injuries in the following season. Pitchers that maintained a steady, but incremental increase in innings pitched from season to season remained durable and healthy. Jair Jurrjens is on the cusp of the Verducci Effect. So he is one to watch for potential injury.
And of course there is Kawakami. Japanese pitchers are a grab bag of talent. You can sign one and get a rookie of the year, Cy Young caliber pitcher like Hideo Nomo, or you can pull one in like Kei Igawa. Here’s to hoping Kawakami is a Kuruda. He is old though, so that doesn’t leave much promise. And he is coming off an injured plagued season in which he suffered back problems. Those haven’t treated other pitchers well. Needless to say, Kawakami is a bit of a wild card.
If all goes well the Braves won’t have to deal with their “depth”. They did so last year with disastrous results. I’d prefer the depth be used in a revolving door in the 5th spot in the rotation. Actually, as far as the depth goes, I’d perfer Jo Jo Reyes be sent out the revolving front door in a trade for something. I’d be happy if he never pitches in Atlanta again. I have higher hopes for Morton and Hanson than for Jo Jo. Jo Jo has the stain of Davies and James on him. Those were the dark ages of Braves pitching prospects. I’d like to think we are past that time.
But back to Derek Lowe. The biggest thing about this signing? Lowe was courting the Mets and Phillies. Having him sign with the Braves helps the Braves two fold. It gives them a much needed starter. And it prevents the two division rivals from acquiring their much needed starter.
Now, what’s left? Oh yeah… the offense. Where’s that bat??