Let’s engage in a counting exercise…
- Tim Hudson
- Mike Minor
- Kris Medlen
- Paul Maholm
- Julio Teheran
- Brandon Beachy
- Alex Wood
- A possible Cuban expatriate to be named later (see below*)
- (in the wings) Cody Martin, J.R. Graham, Lucas Sims, et al
Wow – that’s a lots of pitching… both currently near/in the majors and those coming within the next couple of years.
Let’s now count the teams looking for starting pitching:
- Texas (said to be acquiring Matt Garza as I type this)
- Arizona (said to be looking for ‘non-rental’ pitching)
- St. Louis
- Yankees (who are in on Miguel Gonzalez, discussed yesterday)
- Colorado… although they continue to want premium stuff for free
- Baltimore (they have used thirteen different starters this year!)
- Can’t rule out Cleveland, et al.
The trade deadline provides an opportunity for ‘Buying’ teams to overpay for assets held by ‘Selling’ teams. So much more when the demand exceeds the supply by a fair margin.
Now that Ricky Nolasco and (likely) Matt Garza are off the market, that starting pitching supply is looking real thin. But what if the Braves decided to become both buyers (for relief help) and sellers (of starting pitching)?
There is one asset Atlanta has that could help satisfy the needs of one of these teams: Paul Maholm.
He’s been mentioned a lot in this kind of context all year, but there’s good reasons for it.
From Atlanta’s perspective, he has pitched well enough to earn himself a sizeable multi-year deal this off-season… a bidding war that the Braves are likely not willing to enter (see that first lengthy list above). He also is not likely to have a contract offer to reach the magical $14 million ‘Qualifying Offer’ threshold – the point at which Atlanta could command a compensatory draft pick upon losing Maholm’s services at end of year.
Thus the only way Atlanta could receive a perk for losing Paul this winter is … to go ahead and lose him now. Sell him to an interested club in exchange for something else the Braves need.
What do the Braves need again, exactly?
- a lefty bullpen arm, for sure
- Possibly another bullpen guy (internal options available here)
- a utility infielder with at least some semblance of an offensive contribution
- a future third baseman
- AAA pitching, catching depth
Is Maholm worth enough to fill one of these needs? As a guy whose contract ends this year? Yes – because the words “worth” and “value” get fuzzy at this time of year. But heck – his ERA is under 4.00 and he’s provided 110+ reliable innings. What’s not to like?
Additionally, the idea of using Maholm in this way would certainly overcome the need to dig deep into the farm system in order to ‘buy’ (at typically premium prices, don’t forget) the bullpen arms the Braves need right now. The number of premium prospects available now is such that the team needs to be very careful how they are used. They are a couple of them (Joey Terdoslavich, Todd Cunningham notably) who are more-or-less blocked from the majors and could be used as part of a deal, but many others that we would cringe at losing (Christian Bethancourt, any pitcher not named Sean Gilmartin).
There’s one other team I’ll throw in that could be a viable trade partner for Atlanta: the Cubs… the very team that we obtained Maholm from last year. If they would entertain resigning him back in Chicago, he could certainly help replace Garza while they continue to build their team for 2014 and beyond. Certainly, Chicago has the kind of pieces that Atlanta wants/needs now that could be the centerpieces of a deadline deal that could help both clubs for the future (James Russell or Kevin Gregg for the bullpen, Luis Valbuena for third base).
I like Paul Maholm. He’s a nice guy. He works hard and has been an asset for the Braves. He’s also a fellow southpaw and a fellow brother in Christ. But this is about business, unfortunately, and the business reasons for moving him make great sense – more so than standing pat at this time.
* Now – about that Cuban pitcher thing
I added a comment to yesterday’s piece about Miguel Gonzalez and his quest to be fast-tracked to the major leagues. This will expand on that thought.
Part of this stuff written above about Maholm includes the assumption that the Braves can cover his spot in the rotation for at least the rest of this season. There are multiple ways this could be done (add Beachy, add Wood)… and the Braves are definitely working on that. But what if they were to add Gonzalez? Could they afford to compete in and win a bidding war for him?
My answer today is definitely, yes. It makes good business sense to do so as well: adding a top-of-the-rotation arm on a 5-6 year deal in the $11-12 million per year range would be awesome. Especially when giving up no prospects to do so. But let’s examine the money angle more closely:
Contracts ending after this season: Brian McCann ($12 million), Tim Hudson ($9 million), Maholm ($6.5 million). Others they could choose to non-tender: Eric O’Flaherty ($4.32 million), Jonny Venters ($1.625 million), Cristhian Martinez ($750K), and Chris Johnson ($2.875 million). Option guys: Reed Johnson ($150,000 buyout option on him $1.725 million deal),
Now depending on circumstances/needs, they could certainly choose to pursue arbitration with the non-tender candidates. Reed’s deal is entirely the Braves’ call to make. But if you add up all of these numbers, there’s a possible cash purse of over $38 million available to spend. That’s on top of the new ESPN contract money that should boost their overall payroll in the neighborhood of $118 million (based on early season quotes from CEO Terry McGuirk). This year’s payroll is close to $93 million (or $90 million, depending how you count B.J. Upton‘s off-season signing bonus).
Can they afford Gonzalez? And afford to consider contract extension offers for Heyward, Freeman, etc.? Definitely.
This next two weeks before the trade deadline could be fairly routine – or perhaps more than just a little interesting for Atlanta.