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.

We hoped you liked reading Braves Scoop Up Useful Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson by Ben Duronio!

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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

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

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
Guest
Just Jim

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
Guest
Jason

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
Guest
TKDC

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
Guest
Dan

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

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

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