Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Trade Paul Maholm: Guest Column

Welcome to Walk-Off Walk's first guest column.  My friend Bryce has offered his thoughts on a certain pitcher and if you don't know who, please kindly read the title.  Anyway, please read and I have some comments below.  Maybe if you're nice to Bryce, he will continue to add to the blog.


The Atlanta Braves have what can only be conceived as an enviable situation on their hands as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaches. Their rotation has remained remarkably healthy through the All-Star break and no starter has posted an ERA above 4 aside from rotation’s elder statesman, Tim Hudson (4.02). With the continuing rehab of Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood lurking nearby in the minor leagues, the Braves find themselves with an excellent conundrum on their hands—an excess of starting pitchers.

Obviously, this brings up a very real question that must be answered. Who gets the boot, if anyone, when Brandon Beachy completes his rehab assignment?

I’ve heard suggestions from many different sources over the last month ranging from sending Kris Medlen or Julio Teheran to the bullpen to cap their innings loads, to sending Maholm to the bullpen for his ability to handcuff lefties, to simply sending Beachy to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

Assuming Beachy does not suffer any setbacks in his second set of rehab starts, none of the proposed moves are incorrect. However, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a possibility that I feel should be talked about, which isn’t currently being discussed at all: Trading Paul Maholm.

I can hear the rebuttals coming, so I will address a couple of the popular retorts that will arise from this suggestion.

Are you nuts? Trade a healthy workhorse and rely on a guy coming off surgery?

While it is unorthodox (and potentially ill-advised) to do such a thing, Maholm has been the team’s least productive starting pitcher according to WAR (0.7 in 19 starts) and the least entrenched in the rotation and the hearts of Braves fans.

Beyond that, the “guy coming off surgery” is Beachy. The same guy who posted 1.3 WAR in 13 starts in 2012 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. While it is silly to expect that kind of output, the potential is something the Braves need to get back into their rotation down the stretch.

If the Braves were to need a 6th starting pitcher between August 1st and the end of the season, there’s also the presence of Wood. If the Braves were to need more than that, you could probably argue that they are in bigger trouble than Maholm’s presence could have solved in the first place.

Paul Maholm is average and a rental. What do you really expect to get?

The first two statements are true. Maholm is, in fact, average and a free agent-to-be. To the average observer, those two things should limit his overall value in a trade. However, those are not the only factors in play here.

The biggest factor, as always, is the supply and demand of the trade market and as always the market is hot for starting pitching.

Obviously, in a vacuum no contending team is going to opt for Maholm over Matt Garza, but luckily for the Braves that is not how things work. Only one team will be able to satisfy the Cubs in a trade for the market’s top pitching prize and once the Matt Garza domino falls, things will begin to fall into place for the Atlanta Braves.

After Garza, the market drops off steeply into an abyss of bad contracts and/or questionable health/performance issues. Could I interest any contenders in Phil Hughes? No? How about Tim Lincecum at $8M for the remainder of the season at the cost of a top prospect or two? How about Yovani Gallardo and his declining velocity/strikeout rate and contractual obligation through 2015?

While I’m not here to run down every option teams can look into, you can see why Maholm could quickly float to upper echelon of the pile of available starting pitchers when factoring in effectiveness, salary and future obligation. Maholm, if made available, would surely draw enough interest to get the Braves something useful.

So what should the Braves look for?

Luckily, we have somewhat of a precedent to look at: Scott Feldman.

Through 15 starts, Feldman posted a 7-6 record with a 3.86 ERA and 1.15 WHIP for the Chicago Cubs before being sent to Baltimore along with backup catcher Steve Clevenger in exchange for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Not bad for a rental, I must say.

While I caution not to expect that much (as Maholm’s peripherals don’t match up well to Feldman’s this season) the Braves could reasonably expect to get someone useful out of a trade involving Maholm. If not a major league bench piece, the Braves could definitely get a useful young arm that could be worthwhile in the future. Maybe a prospect like Eury De La Rosa out of the Diamondbacks system; or a Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox to come off our bench.  


I agree with Bryce on trading Maholm if the package is there and it really should be, right?  A few days ago, as part of the Stock Report series, I wrote, "Depending on how Beachy looks, Maholm seems like a possible trade possibility."  That's AWFUL English and I should be smacked for writing a line like that, but the point remains and Bryce further investigates the point that depending on the health of Beachy, there is no better time than now to consider dealing Maholm.  The package needed is up for debate.  An exchange of rentals from one contender to another seems far-fetched, but possibly acquiring prospects, as Bryce points to, would allow the Braves to include a third team in a deal.

For instance, a contender needs to fortify their rotation.  Consider the case of Cleveland, a team whose starting rotation allows 4.52 R/G.  They could use Maholm and might surrender a package similar to the ones the Orioles gave up for Feldman.  The Braves could use those prospects in a trade to acquire Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox.  

That's just rosterbating, but potentially, Maholm's greatest value to the Braves could come in a trade rather than with him on the mound.  Thank you Bryce for your post and comment with your thoughts.

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