Braves Targeting Lowe

Per several sources, agent Scott Boras is meeting with the Atlanta Braves to talk about Derek Lowe.

Lowe had reportedly been offered a 3-year, $35M contract by the New York Mets. Boras is seeking at least four years at around $16M per season for his client.

In desperate need to add starting pitching, the Atlanta ended trade talks with the Padres for Jake Peavy a month ago, and most recently were spurned by longtime Brave John Smoltz, who just agreed to a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Seeing the talent pool thin, and Lowe’s price tag dropping to below-market standards, Braves GM Frank Wren reached out to Boras. In addition, manager Bobby Cox met with Lowe in Atlanta, and Chipper Jones placed a phone call to the free agent pitcher in hopes of turning him on to “America’s Team”.

Despite this three-way blitz from Atlanta, Ken Rosenthal claims,

“From what I understand, the Braves are not interested in going beyond the three-year, $36 million offer from the Mets… I still don’t see the Braves going where Scott Boras will want them to go.”

Well then Ken, they’re putting on an Oscar-winning performance in the art of the bluff.

Meanwhile, the Mets are standing firm with an offer that pales in comparison to what Carlos Silva received last year from the Seattle Mariners.

While they have Boras’ ear, one must wonder if the Braves will also inquire about Oliver Perez, another free agent handled by the superagent? After all, the 27-year-old lefty has a 6-4 record and 3.46 ERA, including one shutout, in his career against Atlanta.

Actually, the best scenario for Boras is for the Braves to sign Lowe, which would in turn jack up the price on Perez for the Mets. But while the Mets continue to play chicken, the market for both pitchers continues to swell — some reports have the Phillies and Brewers looking at Lowe, and the Angels could be in the bidding for either pitcher.

What if the Mets lose out on BOTH Lowe AND Perez? The next-best starter on the market is probably Jon Garland, who would be a nice innings-eater at the back end of the rotation, but doesn’t project to be much else — even with a change to the NL. After Garland, the quality drops off considerably, with Tim Redding and Randy Wolf — both of whom have been linked to the Mets this winter — leading the pack.

This should be a significant concern for Omar Minaya, who as of now has two healthy starting pitchers heading into spring training (which by the way is only 36 days away). Should Lowe, Perez, Garland, and Redding sign elsewhere — which is a distinct possibility — Minaya’s best chance of putting together a championship rotation will begin with a novena. Hope he has knee pads.

Take a look for yourself at the starters available after Perez and Lowe:

Healthy, but Mediocre to Adequate:

Jon Garland
Tim Redding
Randy Wolf
Braden Looper

Healthy, but Awful to Mediocre:

Chuck James
Livan Hernandez
Odalis Perez
Sidney Ponson
Josh Fogg
Elmer Dessens

Good Potential, Questionable Health:

Ben Sheets
Jason Jennings
Mark Prior
Andy Pettitte
Mark Mulder
Curt Schilling

Questionable Potential, Questionable Health:

Bartolo Colon
Pedro Martinez
Freddy Garcia
Orlando Hernandez
Tom Glavine
Tony Armas

Now, let’s consider a few things. First, Tom Glavine is not coming back, and neither is Braden Looper. In addition, the Mets won’t roll the dice on dicey arms such as Mulder, Jennings, and Prior. They might take a chance on Freddy Garcia, and might be forced to gamble on Sheets. Pedro and El Duque would love to come back, but then it would feel like Groundhog Day. If Schilling were a possibility — which he likely isn’t — he wouldn’t be available until at least July. I’m not even going to qualify Dessens, Fogg, and Ponson. Odalis Perez and Livan Hernandez have been linked to the Mets in the past, and they could get ST invites — the question is, would we care? Pettitte would be a nice coup to annoy the crosstown Yankees, but he’s already turned down a $10M offer the Mets aren’t likely to top. Chuck James had a 9.10 ERA last year; he’s a guy who would be nice to have at AAA — not someone holding up the middle of your rotation. That leaves the underwhelming trio of Garland, Redding, and Wolf as the last men standing — they’re not necessarily coveted, but rather the default values left over when the quality has exited the market.

Should the Mets be stuck with a combination of Redding, Garland, and/or Wolf supporting the back end of their rotation, they will have no choice but to bring in Manny Ramirez. If you can’t keep the other team from scoring, then you have to outscore ’em, right?

It will be interesting to see how this drama develops over the next two weeks …

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude January 9, 2009 at 9:15 am
    The Mets must understand the corner they’ve been backed into, and if they see either Lowe or Perez sign elsewhere, they have to be prepared to up their antes to sign the one that is left remaining. Because any sort of Plan B puts the Mets at no better than a .500 team, which is completely unacceptable.

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Lowe goes to Atlanta and Perez to Anaheim. With Sheets too much of an injury concern, let’s then say Omar signs BOTH Garland and Wolf, which is probably the next best scenario (even though it’s still not that great). That would give the Mets a projected rotation of Johan/Garland/Pelfrey/Wolf/Maine. You would think that on this team, if they all managed to stay healthy for at least 28 starts, all 5 could have a chance at winning 10+ games. And then you also have Stokes, Parnell, Neise, and whatever other ST invites waiting in the wings. Not awful, but is it good enough to go up against the Phillies starting five? The Cubs? Likely no, and the gap only widens when you throw offense into the mix. Also, I’m assuming both Garland and Wolf are brought in, which is not likely, and that all 5 starters manage to stay healthy, also not likely. And knowing the Mets would be backed into a corner regarding their starting pitching, Garland and Wolf would be free to ask for the world in return for their services, because after them the Mets have nothing left to pick from to fill their rotation with. This all means the Mets must get whatever top-flight starter is left on the market, and the only two I can see are Lowe and Ollie.

    That being said, a Johan/Lowe/Pelfrey/Maine/Pedro-Redding-Neise rotation is more desirable. Lowe is a lock for 200 innings, 33 starts, and 12+ wins. And a triumvirate of Pedro/Redding/Neise in the 5 slot should be good for 10+ wins at a relatively low rate (when compared to Wolf or Garland). I’d still love to see the Mets get in on the Peavy sweepstakes, but I guess I’ll have to withhold my argument until a more dire situation arrises.

    In the end, I’m still confident the Mets will get Lowe, who I think the team covets more than Ollie regardless of what the media might say. And I also think the market for Lowe is smaller than what the media (aka, what they are told by his agent) portrays. When the winter meetings got underway, the 5 teams that Lowe seemed most interesting in playing for were the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, and Phillies, likely in that order. Well, the Red Sox now have Beckett/Daisuke/Lester/Wakefield/Masterson/Penny/Smoltz/Buchholz, so I’d say they’re no longer looking for SP. The Yankees also splurged on Sabathia and Burnett, and have Wang, Joba, Hughes, and Kennedy. They could use Lowe, and would probably sign him even if they couldn’t use him just because, but after all the money they dumped into the rotation on the first two guys, I’m inclined to think they’re done spending big bucks on starting pitching. That means the Mets are next up at the plate, and someone is going to have to beat their 3-yr/$36-mil offer. The Dodgers need the pitching and have the money, but may be out of the running as Lowe prefers the East Coast. And if the Phillies are serious about Chan ho Park, then they’ve bowed out too. Potential spenders remain, like Anaheim, Atlanta, Texas, and Baltimore, but I gotta figure none are going to be as desperate as the Mets, and if they do produce better offers, Omar will counter and Lowe will go where he wants – and I think that’s New York. Oliver will then go to the next highest bidder, and the draft pick the Mets lose to sign Lowe will come back when Perez signs elsewhere. I think (and hope) that’s how it’ll all play out.

  2. joe January 9, 2009 at 11:49 am
    Good points, ‘dude. I hope you’re right.

    It’s stunning to me that the market for Lowe (and Ollie, for that matter) has shrunken so much, considering all the teams that could use and afford his services. I suppose teams such as the Angels and Dodgers aren’t bidding because of Lowe’s supposed preference to return to the East Coast — though I rarely put much stock into such location limitations unless a player is in his waning years. Why aren’t the Blue Jays in the bidding? The loss of Burnett created a hole and put money back into the budget. Where are the Tigers? They were so desperate last year they signed Freddy Garcia, and Lowe is a native of Dearborn. What’s up with the Rangers, who annually need pitching? The Brewers lost Sheets and Sabathia, and are going to go into 2009 replacing neither? And though Cleveland and KC are “small market” clubs, they’re both one solid starter away from contention — this is a golden opportunity for either to take advantage of a depressed market and get a pitcher they normally couldn’t afford.

    The quiet worries me, particularly since Boras is the agent. It’s reminiscent of the winter between 06-07, when the Giants came out of nowhere to sign Barry Zito for . Granted, that turned out fine for the Mets in the end, but the situation is eerily similar, and I think you get my point.

    This old article is pretty embarrassing to read now for a number of reasons, but what the hey: