Wren increases optimism with in-season shopping spree
Braves general manager Frank Wren had plenty of reason to feel proud as he exited Turner Field late Wednesday night. Over the course of the previous 12 hours, he had completed his shopping list with the acquisitions of Matt Diaz and backup infielder Jack Wilson.
While these obviously weren’t earth-shattering deals, they were the kind of August trades that can prove profitable down the stretch and in October. With Diaz he gained right-handed hitter who balances a left-handed heavy outfield mix. With Wilson, he gained a high-character veteran infielder who certainly stands as a better option than Julio Lugo.
As the Braves exited June and prepared for the July 31 Trade Deadline, their shopping list included a right-handed hitting outfielder, a right-handed reliever and a middle infielder. As July progressed, they determined that they could not afford to remain patient with Jordan Schafer and overlook that this year’s team desperately needed a centerfielder/leadoff hitter.
Wren gained the centerfielder/leadoff hitter with Michael Bourn and proved correct in his assessment that Arodys Vizcaino would serve as the extra right-handed reliever his bullpen needed. Then of course he completed his in-season shopping with Wednesday’s additions.
Over the course of the past month, Wren has made his team much stronger without having to part ways with any of his top pitching prospects — Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor and Vizcaino.
Of course when Wren said he wasn’t parting ways with any of these arms, he didn’t know the Braves would enter Aug. 31 with reason to legitimately wonder if their postseason rotation would consist of Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy and either Minor/Teheran or Delgado.
Seriously if you were sitting at home projecting the rotation at any point yesterday (after watching Jair Jurrjens Tuesday night), you had to seriously mention Minor/Teheran or Delgado as potential candidates without chuckling. Then of course Derek Lowe went out and pitched well enough last night to give you hope that he might repeat last year’s remarkable late-season turnaround.
Jurrjens has five more starts to attempt to right himself by either proving he’s healthy or allowing himself to trust that he can push off the rubber without having to worry about his right knee. Yesterday’s post focused on his drop in velocity.
Before last night’s game, a National League scout who had last seen Jurrjens in early July said, “He doesn’t even look like the same guy.”
Instead of using a variety of different numbers, it’s easy to sum up Jurrjens’ decline by simply saying he is not getting away with mistakes and escaping jams like he did through the first half. There’s certainly a chance he could turn things around. But right now, he would have to be considered questionable at best to earn a spot in the playoff rotation.
Along with hitting the first legitimate homer of his life (click here for video proof), Lowe limited the Nationals to one run and three hits over six innings. The only run he allowed came when his only pitch of the seventh inning was hit over the right-centerfield wall by Mike Morse.
Lowe has been good in four of his past five starts and he has limited opponents to a .172 batting average while posting a 1.50 ERA in his past three starts. Suddenly it looks like he is primed to make a late-season run similar to the ones he enjoyed in 2008 and again last year.
Before going 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his final five starts last year, Lowe entered September with a 4.53 ERA. This year he enters with a 4.52 ERA.
If the Braves needed to form their playoff rotation right now, it would likely consist of Hudson, Brandon Beachy and Lowe. But as we saw last year, a lot can change in the season’s final month.
At this time last year, Lowe was battling right elbow discomfort and there was reason to wonder if he would pitch again. As for Beachy, well we’re still a couple weeks away from the anniversary of the day when many of you likely heard his name for the first time.