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Braves Sign Derek Lowe

The Atlanta Braves took a second step toward a legitimate rotation in two days this morning, signing former Dodgers ace and Red Sox World Series champion Derek Lowe to a four-year deal worth $60 million, just a day or so after adding Japanese ace Kenshin Kawakami, keeping him from joining the Orioles, among other suitors.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Dave O'Brien broke the signing, saying that the deal will be finalized after Lowe takes his physical Wednesday.

The Braves pushed hard for Lowe after losing out on retaining John Smoltz last week when the 21-year veteran of the organization left to sign with the Red Sox. There was significant angst spread about missing out on Smoltz, which only added to frustrations from earlier this offseason, when high profile runs at A.J. Burnett (Yankees), Rafael Furcal (Dodgers) and Jake Peavy (as of now, still the Padres) ended empty handed.

Suddenly, with a massive two-day pitching spending spree that spans the Pacific Ocean, the Braves have a relatively formidable rotation, particularly for the NL East. Here's how they could conceivably set up their front five for Opening Day:

  1. Derek Lowe
  2. Tim Hudson/Jair Jurrjens
  3. Tim Hudson/Jair Jurrjens
  4. Kenshin Kawakami
  5. Javier Vazquez

That, folks, is not half bad. If Brian McCann's massive offseason weight loss yields improved productivity -- he lost 40 pounds in the first six weeks after the end of the season -- and a couple other guys hit well, the Braves might really have something. For the moment, GM Frank Wren insists the team has no plans to bring outfielder Andruw Jones back to Atlanta, but Jones has already openly said he's interested in coming back. If he can resurrect his career anywhere, it might be within the stability of Bobby Cox, if Cox can look beyond his past indiscretions.

By Cameron Smith  |  January 13, 2009; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Braves  
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Isn't Hudson out for half the year?

Posted by: BillyBeane | January 13, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Just four days ago, Dave was giving Atlanta's offseason an F. 96 hours and two FA pitchers later, and they "might really have something."

I'm not accusing BI of being inconsistent. I'm marveling at the quick reversal of fortunes.

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 13, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Hudson is out at least until the all star break. Our rotation depends on one of the young guys stepping up. Namely Hanson, or Campillo pitching like he did last year in the first half. The braves are also a corner outfielder away from being a legitimate contender. Add Adam Dunn to the mix, and then we will be talking.

Posted by: sintona | January 13, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

A great signing by the Braves - he certainly won't hurt them the way Hampton's contract did. I've advocated for Lowe to the Nationals, but not for the price ATL put forward.

Posted by: BinM | January 13, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

JiM, this isn't a post by dave, it's a post by cameron smith. not everyone posting on BI will always agree.

and i'll pile on with the "hudson is out til the AS break" crew.

Posted by: sec231 | January 14, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Isn't $60M kind of a lot for a guy who will be 36, 37, 38 and 39 during the contract? With a 1207-107 lifetime record? Only 20th among active pitchers in career WHIP? Being healthy and reliable are good things but for this kind of money?

Posted by: OutsideTheLaw | January 14, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

In addition to Lowe having no injury history, a few other factors work in his favor.

Last I checked, his career inning total comparable to 32 - 33 year old starter, notwithstanding the load he's taken the past 4 years. He's become an innings eater who gives quality innings. That ERA and WHIP helps his team avoid cruddy middle relievers, so it is better than a lower ERA starter who goes 160 innings.

For Atlanta, he is a groundball pitcher in a flyball park. Even if the WHIP is not elite levels, just very good, consider he is an extreme groundball pitcher who compensates with double plays. He is actually improving his K/BB ratio, so that should lead to fewer damaging bleeders. Top it off, even if he starts to break down a bit, he has shown he can pitch relief.

Here is take on the contract from Fangraphs, which has done pretty good work on contract estimation and value estimates. Their bottom line is it is about right, perhaps $5 million above what he should "earn" given his projections and the current marrket:

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 14, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

40 pounds in six weeks?!? That CANNOT be healthy.

Posted by: Juan-John | January 14, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

There ya go -- the difference between a front office that is determined to do and spend what it will take to win...and a team that won't. The Nationals seem to have secured last place for the next few years.....

Posted by: fischy | January 15, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

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