Sifting through the rumors: Braves – Lowe, Uggla and Soriano

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lowe.jpg*With Tim Hudson re-signed to a bargain three-year deal, the Braves are likely to step up efforts to move Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez or Kenshin Kawakami, according to the AJC’s David O’Brien.
It’s a given. Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson are all locks for the rotation next year, meaning that one of the expensive veterans will have to go. Vazquez, who has just one year and $11.5 million left on his deal, is the one of the three capable of bringing something substantial in return. Vazquez is a better option than every free agent starter besides John Lackey. He does have limited no-trade protection that prevents the Braves from sending him to the West Coast. The East and Central teams in both leagues are in play, though.
Lowe and Kawakami would likely have to be traded for other players with significant contracts. Lowe is owed $45 million for three seasons, while Kawakami will receive $13.33 million over the next two years. I made the case for a Lowe-for-Carlos Lee swap last month, but that’s not going to happen. If the Nationals were interested in playing with the big boys, Lowe and cash for Josh Willingham would make some sense for both teams. I do believe Lowe is the most likely of the trio to go, even though there will be few teams capable of taking on his contract.
*O’Brien also notes in his blog that the Braves have interest in Florida’s Dan Uggla as a left fielder.
The Braves clearly want to add some right-handed power, ideally without taking on a long-term commitment in the process. They currently have holes at first base and in the outfield corners, but by the time 2011 rolls around, Jason Heyward should already be installed as the everyday right fielder and Freddie Freeman could be ready to play first base. Jordan Schafer also can’t be forgotten about. The Braves have the option of going back to him in center and shifting Nate McLouth to left field.
That’s why the Braves are likely to stay away from the top free agents and try to get creative. Uggla, who has two years of arbitration eligibility left, would probably be a bit above average in left field and the Marlins might not get much in return because he’s due at least $8 million next year. O’Brien mentions Kelly Johnson as a possibility to go the other way in a deal. Johnson is almost certainly done in Atlanta, but he could be a more-than-adequate replacement for Uggla in Florida. The problem there is cost. Johnson still offers a fair amount of upside, but the Marlins may not want to spend $3 million-$3.5 million next year on a player who is a pretty big question mark. Florida might prefer someone making the minimum, like right-handed swingman Kris Medlen.
*Both Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez were recently declared Type A free agents, meaning any team signing one of the two would have to surrender a draft pick.
That is, of course, assuming that the Braves offer the two arbitration. There’s been speculation that they wouldn’t with Soriano, and if that’s the case, GM Frank Wren deserves some blame.
In Jan. 2008, the Braves signed Soriano to a two-year, $9 million deal that bought out his first year of free agency. It was a perfectly reasonable agreement, but it was set up so that Soriano would make just $2.9 million in 2008 and then $6.1 million in 2009. If Soriano had made, say, $5 million last season, offering him arbitration now would be a safer proposition, since it’d be difficult for him to ask for much more than $7 million-$7.5 million. Because of the higher starting point, he can now go beyond that, and the Braves don’t want to risk paying the injury-prone right-hander $8 million-$9 million in 2010.
Gonzalez, who made a much more reasonable $3.45 million last season, is likely to get an arbitration offer. So, the Braves will most likely get two extra draft picks if he leaves.
Expectations are that both relievers will depart, and the Braves will try to find a modestly priced replacement. Billy Wagner is one name that makes a lot of sense.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights.

Pirates 4, Brewers 2; Orioles 9, Rangers 7: I’ve been doing these recaps for ten seasons now. In each of those ten seasons I get to a point when, due to the repetitiveness of it all, my brain starts to play tricks on me. Usually it’s around now — late July and into August. There are a lot of different tricks, but one of the recurring ones is believing that the Pirates and Brewers play each other every single night for, like, two months running, and that the Orioles and Rangers play each other about 40-50 times a year. I know, intellectually, that this is not true, but if you strapped me to a machine that reads deeply held beliefs, rooted in one’s soul, it would swear this to be the case.

Anyway, Jameson Taillon outdueled Jimmy Nelson as the Pirates sweep the staggering Brewers, reducing Milwaukee’s lead in the Central to a single game over Chicago. In Baltimore Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones both homered and drove in three runs to help the O’s overcome a five-run deficit to sweep the Rangers. After brief series against other teams, Milwaukee will face Pittsburgh 37 more times and the O’s and Rangers will play each other . . . forever.

Mets 3, Cardinals 2: The game was tied 2-2 in the ninth and the Mets had runners on the corners with two outs. Trevor Rosenthal was on the mound for the Cards. Jose Reyes was at the plate and hit the ball down the first base line. Matt Carpenter fielded it but Rosenthal didn’t cover first base, allowing Reyes to reach safely and allowing Yoenis Cespedes to score from third, ending the game. There’s a reason pitchers spend hours and hours each spring on fielding practice. Not to get the mechanics right so much as to drill the process into them so as to make it as automatic and nearly as instinctual as possible. I guess spring was a long time ago.

Diamondbacks 12, Reds 2: Jake Lamb hit two homers — both three-run shots — and Gregor Blanco and Ketel Marte each hit two-run homers. Patrick Corbin made an emergency start, getting moved up a day, due to Taijuan Walker having to bolt for paternity leave. Didn’t matter, as Corbin allowed one run on seven hits and pitched into the eighth inning. The Reds have lost six of seven since the All-Star break and have given up 58 runs in those six losses.

Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 6: Boston jumped out to a 4-0 lead but the Jays rallied for four in the third to tie it. Brock Holt losing a Steve Pearce pop fly in the sun, allowing two runs helped. They ruled that a single, by the way, even though the ball clanked off Holt’s glove. Just one of many reasons to not look at errors or fielding percentage as a defensive metric: no one, apparently, makes errors anymore. The overall effort was helped by Justin Smoak hitting two homers. But this may have been my favorite play:

Royals 16, Tigers 4: Well, some players make errors. The Tigers were charged with three in this game. Not that it mattered as the Royals scored 13 earned runs to go on top of the three unearned ones they got. Brandon Moss drove in four, Mike Moustakas knocked in three and the Royals rattled off 19 hits in all. Kansas City has moved to within one and a half games of the Indians.

Yankees 4, Mariners 1: Luis Severino was fantastic, scattering eight hits over seven shutout innings. He was backed by a Brett Gardner homer and an RBI single from Aaron Judge. Three of the Yankees’ four runs were unearned, with two coming on a Robinson Cano throwing error. What was the secret to Severino’s outing? “”I just tried to bring my A stuff, tried to make pitches, tried to get hitters out.” No word on if he executed them as well.

Braves 6, Dodgers 3: The Dodgers’ 11-game winning streak comes to an end as Mike Foltynewicz allowed three runs on six hits in six and a third innings, striking out five. Freddie Freeman and Kurt Suzuki each knocked in two runs for Atlanta.

Padres 5, Giants 2Jhoulys Chacin and Madison Bumgarner, had each allowed a couple of runs by the seventh, but Cory Spangenberg hit a two-run homer off of the Giants’ ace to break the tie. Hunter Renfroe hit a two-run homer as well as Bumgarner lost in his first home start since coming back from the disabled list. The Giants are 0-6 in his starts this year. He’s gotten ten runs of support in those games.

Dodgers designate Sergio Romo for assignment

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The Dodgers announced on Thursday that the club activated pitcher Grant Dayton from the 10-day disabled list and designated pitcher Sergio Romo for assignment.

Dayton, 29, went on the disabled list earlier this month with neck stiffness. He’ll resume with a 3.63 ERA and a 20/12 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings.

Romo, 34, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Dodgers in February. It didn’t really work out, as the right-hander posted a 6.12 ERA with a 31/12 K/BB ratio in 25 innings. His peripherals are still decent, so it wouldn’t be surprising if a team in need of a bullpen arm makes a deal with the Dodgers within the week.