With word coming down yesterday that the Braves and Tim Hudson have come to terms on a contract extension, the Braves officially have a surplus of starting pitching. In addition to Hudson, the Braves have Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, and Javier Vazquez. Six starters for five rotation spots.
Even though too much starting pitching is never a bad thing, but the Braves need a big bat in the middle of the order. With their surplus of starting pitching, the Braves can now move one of their starting pitchers in return for a big bat.
So which starting pitcher should the Braves look to move?
Jair Jurrjens: There has been some talk that Jurrjens might be the guy to move, but there is no way that the Braves should move Jurrjens.
Tommy Hanson: No chance.
Derek Lowe: The Braves would love to move Lowe and the $45 million dollars owed to him, but the chances of the Braves actually finding a taker are slim to none. And even if the Braves find a taker for Lowe, the chances of them receiving anything of value in return is next to nothing.
Kenshin Kawakami: Kawakami put together a good first season with the Braves and is signed for a very reasonable 2 year/$13 million dollar contract. While Kawakami has value, I'm not sure he can bring back the type of power hitter the Braves are looking for.
(I suggested Kawakami for Corey Hart a few weeks back)
Javier Vazquez: Vazquez is coming off the best season of his career in which he won 15 games, struck out 238 hitters, and produced an ERA of 2.87. Simply put, he was one of the best pitchers in the National League.
Obviously, Vazquez has a good deal of value. I've heard the argument that the Braves should take advantage of Vazquez's stellar 2009 season and trade him for the best power hitter they can find. However, I'm skeptical that the Braves would be able to get a significant package for Vazquez for two reasons:
1. free agency
-After the 2010 season, Vazquez will be a free agent. Is there any team out there willing to trade a potent power bat for one season of Vazquez?
2. no trade clause
-Vazquez can turn down any trade to teams in the NL West and AL West. That significantly limits the market for Vazquez and probably eliminates two teams that need an ace (Angels and Dodgers).
In short, I don't know if the Braves will be able to get a legitimate power hitter in return for Vazquez. However, if the Braves can find a taker for Vazquez's salary and receive some quality prospects in return, that'd be something GM Frank Wren should consider only if he can parlay the Vazquez savings into signing a power hitter that would help the Braves compete in 2010. It remains to be seen if the Braves are willing to take on another long term contract, but acquiring a power hitter needs to be their priority this offseason.
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