You’ve heard what Frank Wren had to say, and maybe you’ve even read my cool-headed thoughts on the matter. Today we leave it to outsiders. Or, in point of fact, to folks like ESPN.com’s Insiders. We start with the estimable Keith Law, who says the Braves didn’t get completely fleeced. (Link requires registration.) Writes Law:
“The key player in this trade for Atlanta is Arodys Vizcaino, who becomes one of the top five prospects in the Braves’ system and gives them a trio of potential No. 1 or No. 2 starters in the low minors with Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado. Vizcaino, who pitched at short-season Staten Island this past season, has a live fastball that sits 91-93 mph and touches a little higher. He throws a curveball that flashes plus and should miss bats at the big league level when he reaches it. He already has good feel for pitching and just needs experience and a little cleanup in his delivery, as he often finds his arm slot drifting down, at which point he starts to sling the ball instead of just throwing it.
“The Braves also get a few years of control of Melky Cabrera, a capable fourth outfielder who can play an average center field and has a plus arm. I don’t think Cabrera has the offensive skills to play every day in a corner outfield spot, particularly because of his willingness to expand the zone and chase pitches that most hitters wouldn’t consider. Atlanta could use him as a platoonmate for Matt Diaz, a right-handed hitter who has a 200-point career platoon split, or as a backup at all three outfield spots, playing him behind Diaz, Nate McLouth and — assuming he makes the club — Jason Heyward, the top prospect in baseball.
“Cabrera was a Super Two [eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service] this past offseason and should earn between $2.5 million and $3 million this offseason in arbitration, which is fairly pricey for a fourth outfielder. The third piece going to the Braves, Mike Dunn, is a converted outfielder with arm strength — he hit 94 repeatedly when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League — but he has 40 command at best on the 20-80 scale. He also has an inconsistent slider with some late break but that he has trouble finishing. It’s possible he’ll improve his command and/or control with more experience, but after nearly 400 pro innings, he’s still below-average in both departments.
“Atlanta’s need to make this deal dates back a full year to the signing of Kenshin Kawakami, to whom the team owes more than $13 million in the next two years. The Braves signed Kawakami despite having Tommy Hanson knocking on the door of the majors last winter and Tim Hudson returning from injury — a situation perfect for a one-year stopgap but one that made signing Kawakami [along with Derek Lowe] superfluous. Kawakami is untradable given his contract, and to clear a roster spot and payroll, they had to move their best starter from 2009. It’s a salary dump, and one in which Atlanta is lucky to get a young pitcher as good as Vizcaino, who is among the top 100 prospects in the game.”
And now we turn to the equally estimable Jayson Stark, who believes (as many have suggested) the Braves aren’t finished dealing. (Link also requires registration.) Writes Mr. Stark:
“Let’s characterize the Braves’ next move this way: The [Javier] Vazquez deal frees up about $9 million for the Braves to spend on upgrading their offense — Vazquez’s $11.5-million salary and the half-million in cash they’ll get from the Yankees, minus the $3 million or so Cabrera will make via arbitration. They’ll now look to use that surplus on an outfield bat, a first baseman or possibly both.
Johnny Damon is one possibility, particularly because his home in Orlando is within minutes of the Braves’ spring-training complex. Another option is free agent Xavier Nady, who could play first or the outfield and would come at a relatively low base because he is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery. Or the Braves could look to deal an outfielder — either Cabrera or possibly Jordan Schafer — for a bat. They’ve been linked in trade rumors to Florida’s Dan Uggla, who could potentially slide to first base.”
Writing for SI.com, Andrew Marchman also sees the Braves’ glass as being half-full. Quoth Mr. Marchman:
“The Braves got, it should be said, a better package for Vazquez than the Phillies did for Cliff Lee last week. The most important player they acquired is righthander Arodys Vizcaino , who, like any other teenage pitcher, is liable to break his team’s heart but who has, by all accounts, a serious chance at becoming a star.
“Melky Cabrera is a bad fit for the Braves, as they already have a crowded outfield and a very good center fielder, and most of Cabrera’s value is in his ability to provide vaguely average offense and solid defense in center, but at least he’s a valuable player who gives the team a lot of options. The third player, lefty Mike Dunn, is the proverbial live arm.
“For the Braves, the deal will be judged a success or failure based on what they do with the roughly $8 million that they freed up by moving Vazquez. They have enough starting pitching to sustain the loss, so if they can add a needed bat with that money and trade a spare outfielder to fill another need, they’ll likely come out ahead. If not, they’ll have missed an opportunity. But judged in its own right, this is a fair trade.”
Finally, Danny Knobler of CBSsports.com believes this deal could be a precursor to another. But not, apparently, the needed Big Bat Trade. Writes Mr. Knobler:
“The Braves always intended to trade either Vazquez or Derek Lowe for a much-needed bat. Cabrera could help them, but he’s not really that bat. So the Braves will take the approximately $9 million they save and keep shopping. They say they still can’t afford Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (and probably not even Johnny Damon), but who does that leave them with? Jermaine Dye? Marlon Byrd? Or another trade? [And] if the Braves believe that the 25-year-old Cabrera can be a long-term answer in center field, does that mean they’d make Jordan Schafer available in a trade?”