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Wednesday Triple Play: Pitchers

1. Time to adjust the Braves' offseason grade. If you'll recall, we gave the Braves an emphatic "F" last week, following John Smoltz's unceremonious exit -- which came on top of the Rafael Furcal fiasco and the failed runs at Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett.

But this week they have added Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, seriously overpaying for the former. I'm not sure I'd want to give four years to a starting pitcher who will turn 40 during the final year of the deal -- and in fact, it appears 29 other teams felt the same way. But the Braves were understandably desperate and were facing a public relations nightmare, in addition to a pitching shortage. Plus, as a pure investment, I still like Lowe better than Burnett, who is three years younger and who got about 35 percent more money from the Yankees. Sinkerballers tend to age better than strikeout pitchers, and Lowe should be good for 200 innings a year, at least in the first half of the contract.

Kawakami is a bit of a wild card, but if he's as good as advertised, the Braves could have the makings of a very solid rotation, as Cameron pointed out in the previous post. I'll stop just short of giving them a full letter grade for each of their pitcher signings this week, and bump the Braves up to a C-.

2. I also like Lowe better as an investment than Oliver Perez, who, apparently, is the Mets' preferred consolation prize. Though eight years younger, Perez is the anti-Lowe, a woefully inconsistent talent who has never thrown 200 innings in a season (though, to be fair, he has come close twice). That said, Perez is better than the other guy mentioned in this story.

3. When I asked a Nationals official recently about Randy Wolf as a prospective signee, the official basically laid out this equation: At, say, $7 million (a guess as to what it might cost to sign Wolf), would he be so clearly better than, say, Shairon Martis or Collin Balester (at around $500,000 each) as to warrant the additional cost? The only honest answer is: we don't know. We don't know if Martis or Balester will blossom or crash in 2009. But we can be fairly certain that Wolf will win you 10-12 games and pitch 170-190 innings -- and yes, to me, that (near-) certainty is worth $7 million.

But as I often point out, that's easy for me to say when it's not my money.

By Dave Sheinin  |  January 14, 2009; 9:32 AM ET
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I disagree on Martis and Balester. The rotation of Olsen, Lannan, and Cabrera seems set. Then there is Balester with his 80 mlb innings of 5.51 ERA that seems worth a weak fourth. That leaves Shawn Hill and Martis battling for the fifth spot and Jordan Zimmermann at Columbus if/when two of those three fail.

Randy Wolf is no sure thing. Last season was his first time approaching 200 innings since 2003. So I would think it would be wise to pocket the seven million and spend it on a first baseman who can hit more than 20 home runs or better yet on signing Strasburg.

Posted by: Juliasdad | January 14, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Randy Wolf is a lefty that would give the team that crafty veteran. He may serve as a great mentor for Lannan. That said, I'd still like to see free agent money spent on some offense. Not as if our pitching corps will be feared, but for $7M, I think an everyday player will help the team out more than a SP...

Posted by: -CN- | January 14, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Are the Nats looking at Jon Garland and/or Ben Sheets? Garland seems like a reasonably young guy who could give you 20 competent starts and consume 200 innings, a real value in a rotation loaded with question marks. And, there has to be a price at which the risk/reward ratio on Sheets would be atractive. If the young guys arrive this year and make some older pitcher surplus, it's hard to think Jimbo couldn't find a buyer.

Posted by: advocate2 | January 14, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Why would Randy Wolf be worth $7 million for 10 wins if Tim Redding wasn't worth $2.6 million for 10 wins?

I don't understand.

Posted by: rushfari | January 14, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Does that mean if Balester wins 10 to 12 games per season the next two years he will get a deal that will pay him 7 million a year!!! Man, if I were Balester's agent I would keep this story on file!!! HA!HA!
My Guess is that Balester should have had 6 wins last year.

Wins per pitcher 2009
Lannan 13,Olsen 10, Cabrera 9, Balester 10,Hill/Martis/Zimmermann combo 10 wins.
The Team wins 75 plus games this year barring injury.

Posted by: Spinman | January 14, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I take it from the "official" that saying that the last rotation slot is a pick'em between Balester and Martis that Zimmermann would have to spit the bit worse than both of those two not to be in the rotation in April. That's consistent with a lot of the quotes Chico has supplied.

I'm a bit surprised. I would figure that they would not want to start Zimmermann's service clock. I guess they figure they'll let him hit arbitration at the end of 2011 rather than hold him back until late May and get an extra year. Maybe they also figure the "super two" rule might get changed in the next collective bargaing agreement so why try to calculate super 2 status too finely.

As for the Lowe signing, 3 years, $45 I guess would not have gotten it done. He's pitched 200+ innings every year since 2002 except but two, one being 199 and the other 182. His only bad year was his walk year in Boston (ERA over 5). The Braves are unlikely to regret his starts until that 4th year, and he can always slide back to the bullpen.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 14, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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