ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Frank Wren said he did not see a way Derek Lowe would be part of his starting rotation next year. Now Wren can be satisfied that Lowe's entire salary will no longer be a heavy burden on his 2012 payroll.
Making a cost-cutting move that will aid the attempt to upgrade their offense, the Braves traded Lowe and cash considerations to the Indians on Monday in exchange for left-handed Minor League reliever Chris Jones. The Indians have agreed to pay $5 million of the $15 million still owed the 38-year-old Lowe as he enters the final year of his contract.
When Wren signed Lowe to a four-year, $60 million contract in January 2009, he didn't envision having to eat $10 million during the final year of the deal. But this is better than the alternative, which would have kept the Braves on the hook for all of the $15 million still owed a veteran pitcher who no longer fits their rotation plans.
With the additional $5 million freed up, the Braves should have just slightly more than $10 million to spend as they look for a starting shortstop, search for potential outfield upgrades and find a versatile utility man who can play the shortstop position if necessary.
Two days after the conclusion of the regular season, Wren met with a few reporters and essentially said Lowe did not fit in his future plans. Now that he has moved the right-hander, he has opened a rotation spot that will likely be filled by either left-hander Mike Minor or righty Julio Teheran at the beginning of the 2012 season.
Finishing a three-year tenure in Atlanta, Lowe went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA in 34 starts this past year. In 101 starts with the Braves, he went 40-39 with a 4.57 ERA. Lowe served as the club's Opening Day starter each of the past three years, and he started two of the four games played against the Giants in the 2010 National League Division Series.
Age has seemingly diminished Lowe's once-effective sinker, forcing him to spend most of the past couple seasons making adjustments. His most beneficial adjustment came late last year, when he relocated the slider that he had found success with a few years earlier while pitching for the Dodgers.
Proving less predictable toward the end of the 2010 season, Lowe went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in five September starts. This surprising turnaround was a significant reason the Braves clinched the NL Wild Card entry on the regular season's final day that year.
But the optimism surrounding Lowe was short-lived as he struggled through the final five months of 2011. He went 0-5 with an 8.75 ERA in five September starts; the Braves were eliminated from the playoff race on the final day of the regular season.
Jones posted a 3.36 ERA in 43 relief appearances for Class A Kinston this past season. The 23-year-old southpaw recorded 65 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings and limited left-handed batters to a .143 (12-for-83) batting average.
To consider the trade from the perspective of Cleveland read Tribe acquires veteran Lowe from Braves
The Braves have officially bid adieu to Nate McLouth and announced Eric Hinske will return to Atlanta for at least one more season.
Making the first of many decisions that will shape what could be an interesting offseason, the Braves announced Monday that they have exercised Hinske's $1.5 million option for the 2012 season. The club also ended McLouth's disappointing tenure in Atlanta by declining his $10.65 million option. He had a $1.5 million buyout clause.
There really was not a lot of suspense regarding Hinske, who has provided a strong veteran presence to the Braves' bench and clubhouse the past two seasons. The 34-year-old veteran utility man batted .233 with 10 homers and a .403 slugging percentage in 236 at-bats this past season. His 10 homers ranked third among all National League players with fewer than 240 at-bats.
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt