The Atlanta Braves made a big move on Monday night, acquiring Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm from the Cubs in exchange for right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman. They were known to be in the market for starting pitching and a right-handed bench bat, two needs Johnson and Maholm fill nicely.
Johnson, 35, is an outfielder capable of handling either of the corner outfield positions. He won't draw any comparisons to Michael Bourn or Jason Heyward with his defense, but he's serviceable. The real reason the Braves acquired him is for the bat, where he's hit left-handed pitchers to the tune of .313 with an OPS of .838 throughout his career.
With Matt Diaz likely out for the season with a thumb injury, Atlanta was desperate to add a reliable right-handed hitter to their bench. The addition of Johnson will allow Fredi Gonzalez to both use him in key pinch-hit situations late in games, as well as an occasional starter whenever Bourn, Heyward or Martin Prado need a day off.
Look for Jose Constanza to return to Triple-A to make room for Johnson on the roster.
As for Maholm, he is a 30-year old lefty who spent most of his career with the Pirates before coming over to the Cubs in the offseason. Most would refer to him as a crafty southpaw, throwing a fastball in the mid-to-high 80s with a solid changeup and curveball. His career ERA is 4.30, although it's just 3.74 this season after posting a 3.66 mark in 2011. Maholm doesn't strike many batters out (6.06 K/9), but he doesn't walk many (2.54 BB/9), either.
Look for him to become Atlanta's fifth starter. It would appear Maholm would take Kris Medlen's recently-appointed job in the back of the rotation, although the Braves could elect to keep both around and give Tommy Hanson some time to rest his arm. Given the recent drop in velocity from Hanson, it might not be a bad idea for a week or two.
The loss of Arodys Vizcaino, who is currently recovering from Tommy John Surgery, could come back to haunt the Braves, but he is still yet to stay healthy for an entire season. Most project him to be a late-inning reliever. Jaye Chapman, 25, really doesn't project to be anything more than a bullpen pitcher or spot-starter down the road.
I like the trade for the Braves. The roster did not need to be overhauled, just fine-tuned a bit with the addition of a couple players. Frank Wren gave up two prospects for two proven veterans who will fill big needs this year, and he did so without locking the team up financially.
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