In a tidy bit of salary dumpage, the Atlanta Braves trade inning-eating sweathog Derek Lowe to Cleveland in exchange for an A-ball pitcher Chris Jones.
With Lowe due to earn $15 million next year, the Braves will eating as much as $10M of that total, saving a cool five million bucks to spend on a light-hitting corner outfielder who plays the game the right way.
The Indians? This Tribe is certainly an interesting bunch next year.
In Lowe the Tribe inherit something they already had in spades – a low-strikeout groundball machine able to stay on the field. Between Lowe, Fausto Carmona (he of the recently activated 2012 option), Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin, the Tribe have nearly 1000 innings of starting pitcher locked up. Only Jimenez strikes out batters at an above average rate while the collective groundball rate is nearly 55%.
The Tribe is going whole hog on the wormburners, hoping to keep the ball in the park at a nice price point. Will it work? Consider this graph, mapping ground ball rate against FIP over the past three seasons.
The relationship isn’t overwhelming but it does suggest that more ground balls are indeed good for business. If the Tribe gets 200 innings of ground balls for a mere $5 million dollars they’ve done very well to make their run prevention better, if only in theory.
The biggest thing the Tribe needs now is a strong infield defense to play behind this collection of sinkerballers. Expect to see a lot of Jack Hannahan next to Lake Erie in 2012. The Tribe’s infield defense is a bit of a mixed bag, with Asdrubal Cabrera unlikely to win any Fielding Bible awards and “passably average” serving as Jason Kipnis’ defensive ceiling, the ability to turn all these grounders into out is not a sure thing.
The Braves deal from a position of incredible depth and the Tribe pick up a player in their very specific mould. Other than Derek Lowe being a highly unlikable guy, there is a lot to like in this trade. Interesting it came so soon into the off-season.