Fake trade: Carlos Lee for Derek Lowe

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Braves acquire OF Carlos Lee from the Astros for RHP Derek Lowe and OF Brandon Jones.
Why it works for Atlanta: the Braves would love to bring Tim Hudson back, yet they already have five starters in Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Kenshin Kawakami. One of the vets needs to go, and the Braves could surely use some right-handed power in return. Enter Lee, who has three years and $55.5 million left on his contract. He’s not an ideal choice, given that the Braves could have an inexpensive and productive Nate McLouth-Jordan Schafer-Jason Heyward outfield in 2011. However, he’d look awfully nice in the middle of the order next year and the Braves probably aren’t going to be able to move Lowe without taking another large contract in return.
Why it works for Houston: the Astros finished 13th in the NL in ERA and 14th in runs scored this season, so they need help any way they can get it. Lee’s poor defense in left field really cuts into his value, and there’s a good case to be made for Lowe, as a consistent 200-inning-per-year guy, as the better property even before salary gets factored in. Lowe, like Lee, is signed through 2012, but the Astros would save $3.5 million per year by making the deal. It’s money that could be used to shore up the infield defense. That’s something they need to do anyway, but it’d be a must with a sinkerballer like Lowe in the rotation. They’d also get a possible fourth outfielder in Jones, who hit .281/.360/.419 in Triple-A this season.
Why it won’t happen: Lee has a no-trade clause through the end of next year, and he owns a ranch outside of Houston. He might want to stick around even if he realizes that the Braves are in a much better position to contend next year. The Astros have already foolishly committed $3 million to Brian Moehler, a pitcher who wouldn’t have much business remaining in the rotation with Lowe around. The Braves are concerned about their defense, which is one reason they didn’t pursue Adam Dunn when he was served to them on a platter last winter. They’ll likely focus on finding short-term upgrades for the offense.

Watch: Shohei Ohtani strikes out his first spring training batter

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Sure, spring training games don’t count toward anything “real,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Angels’ star pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani mowing down his first big league competitors.

On Saturday, Ohtani took the mound against the Brewers for his first official outing in an Angels uniform. After allowing a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar, the 23-year-old righty settled down and issued a three-pitch strikeout to Nate Orf, his first of the spring.

It wasn’t the cleanest inning for the right-hander: the Brewers plated their first run on a walk, wild pitch and subsequent throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado. Ohtani didn’t let things unravel further, however, and induced a pop-up for the second out before catching Brett Phillips looking on a called strike three to end the inning.

While the two-way phenom only lasted another two batters (a Keon Broxton dinger finished him off in the second), he’s already started to look like a formidable presence on the mound. Time will tell whether he can deliver at the plate as well — rumor has it he could feature in the Angels’ lineup as soon as Monday.