7/31 The Braves’ take on Cubs deal
Ryan Dempster’s decision to block a deal to the Braves may have benefitted Atlanta. One week ago, the Cubs and Braves had a deal in place which would’ve sent Dempster to Atlanta for 22-year-old pitcher Randall Delgado. But Dempster apparently exercised his 10-and-5 rights, and said no. Now, the Braves have a starting pitcher and an experience right-handed bat on the bench after Monday night’s deal which sent Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to Atlanta for two Minor League pitchers. The Cubs are looking to the future. They get heralded right-handed pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino and Minor League right-hander Jaye Chapman.
“It was a perfect fit for us,” Braves GM Frank Wren told reporters in Atlanta Monday night, including MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. “We got two real key pieces for us that we were looking for. If we are done, if nothing else materializes for us [Tuesday], we’ll be very happy with where we are right now.”
Vizcaino, ranked as the Braves’ third-best prospect by MLB.com, is a hard-throwing right-hander who spent the final two months of the 2011 season in Atlanta’s bullpen. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March. Once he is healthy, the 21- year-old hurler has the potential to be a dominant force at the back end of the bullpen or possibly a starting pitcher.
“He’s a good-looking young pitcher and we gave up a quality prospect,” Wren said. “But to not give up some of the guys that have been mentioned, that was a real plus for us. The Cubs are in a different spot than we’re in. They’re looking for a long-range young pitcher that they can hold on to for a long time. We’re in a spot where we feel like we have a team that can win.”
When the Braves began their search for a starting pitcher, they put Zack Greinke at the top of their wish list. It appeared they had Dempster but once he rejected that deal, the Braves began looking at other options. Maholm is 5-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his last six starts.
“The thing that kept coming back from scouts is that he is not going to give in,” Wren said. “When I say that, he’s not going to throw a fastball just because he’s behind in the count. He’s not going to throw you a fastball in fastball counts. He’s going to pitch his game and he’s been very good at that.”
The Cubs also will send some cash to the Braves. Maholm isn’t just a rental; he has a $6.5 million option for the 2013 season. His presence allows the Braves the choice to send Kris Medlen back to the bullpen after he makes his first start of the year on Tuesday.
Wren said he tried to acquire Johnson before last year’s Trade Deadline and has always liked the talented outfielder. With some uncertainty surrounding Matt Diaz’s injured right thumb, the Braves had an even greater need to acquire Johnson this year. Johnson has batted .307 with three home runs and a .807 OPS in 166 at-bats with the Cubs this season. The 35-year-old outfielder has batted .280 with a .743 OPS in 161 career pinch-hit at-bats.
“He gives you a professional at-bat and he plays the game the right way,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to find right-handed hitters who can play center field and left field as well. With our club, that is so important. We need another right- handed hitter that you feel comfortable to put out there for a number of at-bats.”
– Carrie Muskat