Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Trading Post: Reasons to Consider Moving Maholm


 

Let’s engage in a counting exercise…

  1. Tim Hudson
  2. Mike Minor
  3. Kris Medlen
  4. Paul Maholm
  5. Julio Teheran
  6. Brandon Beachy
  7. Alex Wood
  8. A possible Cuban expatriate to be named later (see below*)
  9. (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:

  1. Texas (said to be acquiring Matt  Garza as I type this)
  2. Arizona (said to be looking for ‘non-rental’ pitching)
  3. St. Louis
  4. Boston
  5. Yankees (who are in on Miguel Gonzalez, discussed yesterday)
  6. Colorado… although they continue to want premium stuff for free
  7. Baltimore (they have used thirteen different starters this year!)
  8. 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.

 

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Braves Payroll Miguel Gonzalez Paul Maholm Trade Deadline

  • cheadrick

    I pointed out sometime ago in an article that I felt Paul Maholm could get dealt before the season is over, and it may be the smartest move the Braves can make. I like Maholm too, but with a full slate of possible starting pitchers, and the bullpen needs the Braves have, Maholm is the most logical choice. Meds can go to middle relief (although he has said he doesn’t want to), and they are stretching Wood out now. We may well see Huddy, Minor, Teheran, Wood or Beachy (or both at some point if Meds goes to the bullpen), and Meds (if he doesn’t go to the pen). I have said I disagree with putting Wood in the rotation right now, but there are too many unanswered questions about Beachy, and now Maholm, to know what to do with Wood. Fast-tracking Miguel? I’ll believe it when I see it from the Braves.

    I don’t think the Braves should make any move to bolster 3rd in 2013, and I will argue not in 2014 either (I may write an article to make that point). I do believe that if they can bolster 2nd before the season is over, that would be a smart move, and a replacement sometime before next season would even be better (again, perhaps I’m the odd man out on that).

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    One of my colleagues here on TT pointed out that the $38 million figure cited above will be eaten into by arbitration and contractual raises due to players remaining… so no, that’s not all spendable money, and I should have indicated as such.

    BJ Upton will get either a slight bump… or a little less, depending on how you view his off-season signing bonus.
    Justin will get $4.5m more.
    Jason Heyward will be due for an increase via arbitration of ~$4m.
    Freddie Freeman will get a huge bump for his first arb year: likely up by $4m.

    That’s the big ones… but this still leaves plenty to spend!

  • fireboss

    I agree with your thinking that they could afford Gonzalez, they reportedly have that kind of payroll available without any moves. If the rumored move is true they will need to make a space for him but with the Giants sellers and the Dodgers getting Nolasco the only NL club he fits is St Louis. They could match up with use but would we send him to the Cards and have to face him in September? i doubt that. I don’t think an AL team wants him as a difference maker down the stretch because I think the AL would eat him alive.If you believe he would be a target to whom? The Orioles got Feldman, the Rays need no one and may trade Hernandez for a bat, the Rangers are hard in on Garza but I wouldn’t rule out (and favor) a Rios/Danks to Texas deal. With Ryan out of the decision loop (no way he approves signing Manny) anything could happen however so who knows. The Tigers need a bullpen arm, The Angels may be if they think they’re in the hunt; I don’t. The Indians might if they think they can catch the Tigers and don’t have to give up much. Theoretically Boston might want an arm but not his type of arm – AL East hitters meet the Maholm Buffet, it won’t be pretty.

    Moving Meds to the pen will end his love to the Braves. You’re better off trading him and he’s a far more marketable quantity than Maholm, He’s younger, controllable, inexpensive and can do many jobs. Boston could use him to start until Bucholz comes back then slide him to the pen and provide what we need.
    I see stretching out of Wood as a backup plan. There’s a trade or signing (or both) coming that involves losing a starter. If the acquisition part of a two part plan falls apart we still have Beachy to slot in. Keeping Wood at Gwinnett and stretching him into a starter while trying to make his slider more consistent provides a backup starter to Beachy.

    This is also connecting the dots without them being numbered and might turn into a camel instead of a horse but it’s that time of year.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      Most of my reasoning on trading Maholm is that you’ll most likely lose him at year’s end regardless. If Medlen were moved, then you’ll be in the position of being forced to re-sign either Maholm or Hudson – simply to fill all the slots… and that kills a significant hunk of your dollars flexibility.

      >> Beachy, Minor, Teheran, Wood, ???

      Yes, Meds is more valuable… but he’s also more valuable to Atlanta.

      • fireboss

        I love Meds and wouldn’t trade him myself but, who wants Maholm?

        • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

          Unfortunately, it’s a moot point now…. *sigh*

  • Jerrold Gilbert

    I like your thinking & your writing. The Braves’ success has long been their starting pitching–rotations that can stay together for several years. That means young proven starters They have the core in Minor, Medlen, Beachy, Tehran, Wood, with Martin, Corcoran, & Poveda looking good at Gwinnett. Maholm & Hudson are the more dispensable starters. I agree with trading Maholm for relief pitching & not re-signing Hudson after this season.

    Given the starting options the Braves have & are accumulating, I wouldn’t favor entering a bidding war for Gonzalez.

    Is Carrithers a candidate for 3rd base next year?

    [ps, "a fellow brother in Christ" is inappropriate for this discussion].