Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Frank Wren With Yet Another Savvy Deal

The deadline has come and gone, and while the Braves didn't land a top of the rotation-type starting Pitcher, Frank Wren proves yet again that he's one of the more underrated GMs in the game. He's been consistent in saying since day one that one of his main goals has been to continue stockpiling arms (everyone's well aware by now that the old saying that "you can never have enough pitching" continues to be at the top of baseball's Ten Commandments"), and that he'll have to be blown away to be convinced to include any of the organization's top-flight arms in any deal that isn't huge.

Ryan Dempster's preference for the Dodgers may well have "saved" him from having to finally part with one of those arms, but his follow-up deal to obtain Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson could easily turn out to be yet another in a line of great "under the radar" deals that continues to keep the organization's ship sailing smoothly.

Maholm definitely isn't one of the sexy big-name guys who's name was bantered about over the couple weeks leading up to the deadline but he's quietly having his best season, and has been doing so in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field on a bad team. He's 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his last 7 games (6 starts), and if you exclude his first two starts of the season he's 9-4 with a 3.04 ERA. He's also not the rental Dempster would have been - Maholm's contract provides a club option for 2013 at a very affordable $6.5 million.

The really great thing about this is that it provides much more cost-certainty to help with the 2013 budget while also providing another potential 20 months for Delgado and Teheran to develop without having to be "rushed" if they need it. Odds are they won't, but Maholm is a much nicer option than Jair Jurrjens going forward. (Delgado turned in a dominant start for Gwinnett this afternoon by the way.)

Wren addressed all three of the areas the organization hoped to upgrade before the deadline in one fell swoop. Maholm helps stabilize the rotation, allowing Kris Medlen to return to his important bullpen role following tonight's start (assuming they decide to let Delgado take Tommy Hanson's next two turns while he's on the DL with a sore back). He also added a bat off the bench that kills southpaws AND can play above-average defense at all three OF positions, allowing Fredi Gonzalez to be much more flexible with his bench.

While the deal likely signals the end of both Jurrjens' and Matt Diaz' Braves' tenures, it does so without disturbing the organizational pitching depth chart. Yes Arodys Vizcaino has electric stuff, but he's recovering from Tommy John surgery, and there have long been indications that the organization never believed he'd be able to develop enough stamina or refine a sufficiently strong enough third pitch to remain a starter long-term. I actually took a little time to scour a couple threads concerning the deal where some fans screamed (as always) about how terrible the deal was because Vizcaino was included. His most apparent ceiling remained as a high-leverage reliever assuming he successfully returns from the surgery.

The last month has seen Frank Wren turn two RP prospects into 40% of the rotation moving forward (Maholm and the minor league deal Ben Sheets signed) and an extremely valuable PH/4th OF that the organization has been pursuing for a couple years. He did so without increasing payroll (the Cubs included cash in the deal to "upgrade" to Vizcaino - presumably covering the rest Maholm and Johnson's salaries this season) and did so without including anyone the organization presumed would be a member of its rotation any time in the near future.

If it didn't knock your socks off, so be it, it's a great deal. Bravo Frank Wren. Again.  

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