Throughout the first half of the season, Atlanta looked poised to be a lock in the National League wild card and legitimate contenders to the division title. But as the second half has gotten underway, it appears this may not hold true. Since the end of the all-star break, the Braves pitching staff is tossing an awful ERA of over 5.00. Even the heroic Jurrjens has been beaten and bruised, posting and ERA over 8.00. The only fragments left of the once lights out pitching staff that remain in pre-break form are Kimbrel, Venters and 0'Flarety. The major problem there is this...we can't seem to get them a chance to pitch anymore. Why bring any of the three in when the team is down by 5 plus runs?
The argument all season long has been "we need to trade for some offense". That is still true..very true, and the past few games have only made that more clear. But what we have also learned from the games since the all-star break is that our pitching staff is not as good as we thought. At the trade deadline, Frank Wren needs not only make a move for a big bat, but also some moves for the pitching staff. Most importantly, Wren must trade Derek I can't get past the 5th inning Lowe.
Today's game against the Reds showed me something, something even I was denying to myself, Lowe must go! The guy was pitching lights out through five innings, tossing only half as many pitches as his counter part Bailey. As soon as I started thinking, hey maybe this guy can pitch more than 5 innings, he surrenders hit after hit after hit, blowing a lead and opening the door for the Reds offense. Lowe IS incapable of pitching beyond 5 innings, he doesn't have the "stuff" to do it after that point. By the 5th inning, his sinker won't sink, as we all learned today. All season long Lowe has been the weakest link of an otherwise strong starting rotation, trading him will not hurt us. He can easily be replaced by one of our talented young prospects, most likely Teheran or Minor. Not to mention trading Lowe would open up a big hunk of change for the Braves to play with, which would only help in the pursuit of a big bat.
Detroit has made it known that they are fond of Lowe and would be interested in his services. While Lowe isn't the best pitcher available, he is much better than what Detroit has at the back end of their rotation and unlike the Braves, they cannot fill that spot. One stipulation here is that Detroit may not want to eat Lowe's contract. My solution is that Atlanta ask only for prospects in return for Lowe, whatever Detroit would be willing to part with, well the best of what they'd be willing to part with. If they gave us a B- grade prospect and ate Lowe's contract, I'd be more than satisfied. Here's why this would be helpful to Atlanta:
With Lowe's contract off the books, Atlanta could seriously begin to search for some much needed offense, and no I do not mean Johnny Gomes. The guy I'd go after is Hunter Pence. The astros are in rebuilding mode and they need prospects. Here is where getting the prospect in the Lowe deal helps, it is going to take a significant chunk of prospects to pry Pence away from Houston, but it can be done. Using the prospect from Detroit, Atlanta could package a deal of 4-5 prospects and still be in good standing for the future with Teheran and other top guys intact. I would send the Detroit prospect, minor, bethancourt, pastornicky and McClouth to Houston in a heart-beat for Pence, I'd even throw in another prospect if they sent a relief pitcher our way as well, (two birds with one stone).
Pence is the solution in Atlanta, flat out. The listed package above is one I think most people could live with and I doubt many people would be angered by the loss of Lowe. His spot can be filled in the rotation relatively easy considering his ERA is above 4, it won't be hard to match that. Plus this would give guys like Teheran extra time to develop in the majors. As today's game further proved, the Braves need help driving runs in. They had plenty of opportunities to knock runs in, in fact, had they cashed in on all or most of their opportunities, they still would have had a shot at winning the game even after the Reds put up 11 runs. We can't always rely on Mac to drive runs in as we saw today.
Even with the progressively better play of Uggla, who just barely got under two balls that he could've hit for homers, the Braves need some help bringing guys home. Pence provides them with this luxery and best of all, he is not a rental like Beltran would be. I would love to see the Braves make a play for Pence, but if they feel the price is still too steep even with the above mentioned Lowe trade, there are still other options.
His name is BJ Upton. He won't cost as much to get and still has some pop in his bat and best of all, he is a RH bat who plays CF and who the Rays are listening to offers for. Either Upton or Pence would be fantastic pick-ups for the Braves. If the Braves front office makes a move for Gomes or Beltran... well then folks, we lose in those deals. Beltran is good, but he'd only be a rental that's obvious. Gomes would be fantastic against the Philly southpaws, but he wouldn't provide us the everyday threat to drive in runs that we need and that Upton and Pence can provide.
If the Braves are serious about winning and winning now, look for them to make some of the above mentioned moves. Personally, I think they will.