ESPN’s Law: The Braves overpaid for Maholm and Johnson

The young and gifted Arodys Vizcaino: A Brave no longer. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The young and gifted Arodys Vizcaino: A Brave no longer. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Keith Law might or might not be the shrewdest analyst of minor-league talent — me, I think he’s pretty sharp — but because he works for the Worldwide Leader he has the biggest audience. And when Law writes something on ESPN Insider, it resonates.

About the Braves’ trade with the Cubs, Law wrote this (link requires registration): “The price for Atlanta … was too high.”

Also this: “Atlanta gets marginally better for this year with the additions of [Paul] Maholm and [Reed] Johnson, but the Cubs land the best prospect they’re likely to obtain in this year’s trade market in exchange for two players they didn’t need.”

Law calls Maholm “a back-end starter with a proven record for durability” and Johnson “a capable extra outfielder … who has a long history of mashing left-handed pitching.”

About Arodys Vizcaino, the 21-year-old pitcher the Braves sent to the Cubs: This spring, Law ranked him as the No. 14 prospect in baseball, ahead of Julio Teheran (No. 18) and Randall Delgado (No. 98). Vizcaino underwent Tommy John surgery in April, but Law still projects him as “a No. 2 or better starter.”

A couple of things: The Braves weren’t sure if Vizcaino is more suited to be a reliever — in a brief big-league stint last season, he did only bullpen duty — and organizations tend to regard starters a bit more highly than relievers. We should also note that the Cubs, whose biggest deadline lure was Ryan Dempster, wanted Delgado in that trade with Atlanta that never was. Should we infer that the Cubs themselves saw Delgado as a better prospect than Vizcaino?

The belief here is that the Braves made a good trade, and not every good trade is a swindle. (The Fred McGriff trade? That was a swindle.) They addressed their two weaknesses – starting pitching and the bench – and yielded a prized young arm to do it. In the years ahead, it will be intriguing to monitor Vizcaino’s career path. It will also be intriguing to watch these Braves in the 2012 playoffs.

By Mark Bradley

206 comments Add your comment

Tumbledown

August 1st, 2012
10:43 am

First, maybe!!

Mike Lum

August 1st, 2012
10:44 am

Good points. I agree with you, Mark. We needed them for the stretch run, not the long haul.

Mark Bradley

August 1st, 2012
10:45 am

First, definitely, Kudos, T.

SC

August 1st, 2012
10:46 am

Yeah, I hate giving up Vizcaino, but I like that we made the deal to make us better. 2.5 games out, and starting pitching looks like it’s made a turn for the better. (Get better Tommy)

I wouldn’t mind keeping JJ in the pen to eat up innings w a good lead or down a good bit.

Moe

August 1st, 2012
10:47 am

That’s not Vizcaino in that picture. That’s Julio Teheran….

NCBravesFan

August 1st, 2012
10:47 am

Well NCBravesFan thinks the Braves did just fine. I guess we’ll have to wait five years to see who’s right. :)

Randy

August 1st, 2012
10:47 am

Dave…Um…That picture is of Teheran…

Clemson Brad

August 1st, 2012
10:47 am

I think a very fair trade, and a great one by the Braves and Cubs. Both walked away in a better situation then before…..and that is what a trade should do.

You hit it on the head Mark….This makes the Braves a better team in 2012 and in a better place to win it all…and this makes the cubs a better team in the future. Both teams goals were accomplished.

PMC

August 1st, 2012
10:48 am

Injured prospects never win anything in the postseason.

The Braves can’t afford to wait another year or two for Vizcaino to be healthy. The Cubs have already waited 100 years whats another 2

Randy

August 1st, 2012
10:48 am

And you’re not Dave…womp…womp…Sorry Mark!

Ease

August 1st, 2012
10:48 am

Keith Law hates the Braves anyway, so what does it matter what he thinks?

Tumbledown

August 1st, 2012
10:49 am

it is difficult to evaluate a trade at the time it happens. We will have to wait a few years to know for sure. We know the Texiera deal was bad, but there were a lot of supporters of the trade at the time the deal was done. Hopefully, these guys will help the Braves this year and next. Even if Vizcaino has a fine career with the Cubs, there is nothing wrong with a win-win trade.

Braves1995

August 1st, 2012
10:50 am

I support the deal and overall, commend Wren for this. Was it a fantastic deal? No, but a very solid deal and helps us in 2, key areas.

I also have a hard time taking Keith Law too seriously. Law is notorious for being pretty anti Brave in his analysis, both majors and minors.

Alan

August 1st, 2012
10:50 am

Who is Keith Law?

archie

August 1st, 2012
10:50 am

ESPN said it? That’s the Chris Berman network, right? Very relevant.

Mark Bradley

August 1st, 2012
10:52 am

Picture changed. Thanks for noticing. Obviously I didn’t.

Brian

August 1st, 2012
10:58 am

We gave up a 2 pitch pitcher who at best is a reliever.

CamiloAtlanta

August 1st, 2012
11:01 am

Can’t take anything seriously from ESPN. In MB I trust.

Hillbilly D

August 1st, 2012
11:02 am

Was the price too high? That’s a question that won’t be answered for a while. It’ll depend on whether or not this deal gets the Braves deep into the post season and how much impact Johnson and Maholm have on that. It also depends on how Chapman and Vizcaino do the next few years.

Who watches ESPN for baseball news?

I think the Cubs wanted Delgado over Vizcaino, originally, probably because of the Tommy John surgery. A lot of pitchers bounce back from that but some don’t. Any player with an injury is always a risk. In the long run, Vizcaino may turn out to be the better pitcher; time will tell.

Since when has ESPN gotten anything right?

August 1st, 2012
11:03 am

A young, hardthrowing righthander who projects as a closer unless he learns another pitch or two, and this only after he comes back from ARM SURGERY !
(Last I checked, our closer is pretty good.) In return we get an above average lefty starter and an outfielder who will allow us to not have to suffer through Hinske or Diaz in left field, and is raking the ball as a pinch hitter.
Once again, ESPN is wrong. What’s new?

Supes

August 1st, 2012
11:04 am

Keith Law is a notorious Braves “hater”, he’s been wrong a lot more than right…nothing to see here just move on…

Ricky bobby

August 1st, 2012
11:05 am

Ricky bobby says good trade

Herschel Talker

August 1st, 2012
11:06 am

MB:

The Mark Teixeira trade. Now that was a swindle.

Here’s the deal: this trade helps the Braves this year, a year in which the NL is wide open. But, yes, it may work out that we overpaid if Arodys ends up being a stud.

HT

Shaun

August 1st, 2012
11:08 am

I also have a hard time taking Keith Law too seriously. Law is notorious for being pretty anti Brave in his analysis, both majors and minors.

Really? Show us. You have the evidence?

Who is Keith Law?

Worked for the Blue Jays. ESPN thought highly enough of his ability to evaluate prospects, he’s pretty much there guy in that department. The Astros tried to hire him away from ESPN this past offseason.

I agree with him in that trading Vizcaino is a risk. The trade seems to suggest the Braves viewed Vizcaino as a reliever or possibly an injury risk for the longer term. If the Braves saw him as a starter, I’m not sure they make the trade.

I tend to think it was an appropriate risk to take. If a pitcher went down or if an outfielder or Chipper went down for the year, it may have been tough for the Braves to hang in there and make a division title run.

With Bourn possibly leaving next season and Chipper retiring, I think the Braves need to take the opportunity to make a run this season. I feel confident that the front office can keep the Braves in contention next season and beyond, most years, but you never know. Flags fly forever. Got to go for it when you have an opening.

steve whitmire

August 1st, 2012
11:09 am

Frank Wren get bashed on this forum often and vigorously, but I think this was a good trade. Now, hopefully, we have the starting arms to get in the playoffs. Our bench has been terrible all year. I love Hinske but he’s just not hitting this year. If it was me I would start Johnson in left, put Prado on second and stick Uggla on the bench and use him as a very poor pinch hitter. Play a .280 hitter instead of a .200 hitter. I don’t understand starting Uggla every night and hoping that someday he’ll start to hit like a major leaguer.

Benjamin

August 1st, 2012
11:10 am

Here’s a question I don’t see anyone asking:

If we get the wild card and lose the play-in game – a result that would’ve been likely had we not added a fourth starter and a fourth OF, and a result that is probably still likely, considering how well the Nats are playing – was it worth it?

I think the new wild card rules make deadline deals in terms of prospects for major league help a bit more risky in general, particularly in situations like ours, where we dealt a legitimate arm that has good potential of being a special talent down the line for two months of Maholm and Johnson. And, based on that logic, I don’t like this move. At all.

BAMA Brave

August 1st, 2012
11:12 am

The Braves got better in the short term but long term, gave up a potential dominant starter the Braves have lacked since Smoltz. Kind of saw this coming though. If you are a starter and throw above 92 mph, you can’t pitch for the Braves (maybe in Gwinett County but not in Fulton County). Memo to Braves officials, ground balls sometimes find holes but strikeouts don’t.

Luscious Lucius

August 1st, 2012
11:13 am

Cubs might have thought Vizcaino was off limits when they first asked for Delgado too?

Larry

August 1st, 2012
11:13 am

Because, unless you’re the Yankees that buy it every year, post season opportunities are never guaranteed, we had to make the trade that was simply a fair one for both teams given their current, respective plights.

Larry

August 1st, 2012
11:15 am

Come on, Luscious!

Had the Cubs perferred Viz they would have asked for him and the Braves would have gladly sent him to get Demspter.

GovClintonTyree

August 1st, 2012
11:15 am

Keith Law compared Freddie Freeman to Mark Grace because he only hit 18 homers in the minors two years ago and so didn’t have power and said Mike Minor was a soft-tossing lefty whom the Braves chose for his signability.

Now he says we overpaid for Maholm and Johnson with Vizcaino, who comes with substantial injury risk and only two pitches.

Can’t miss prospects often do. And we’ve got to run down Washington.

For every Ryne Sandberg or John Smoltz, there are 100 Melvin Nieveses.

Luscious Lucius

August 1st, 2012
11:16 am

Plus Makholm will be here next year and R. Johnson could move to CF is Bourn and money hogg agent want too much cashola to resign.

kurula

August 1st, 2012
11:16 am

so far, based on the contributions to the respective players’ new teams, i’d say the trade is a wash.

Patrick

August 1st, 2012
11:17 am

Why is it that when any reporter that is not a Braves reporter writes anything unfavorable about the team, that they are automatically a Braves hater?

What Keith Law wrote is true. We didn’t land Zach Greinke here. Maholm is a #4 starter at best. And when you land a #4 starter, you do not get impactfully better, you get marginally better, exactly as Keith Law put it.

I believe that Liriano would have been a better pick up for the Braves. He is a better pitcher than Maholm and Kenny Williams gave up 2 prospects that were not even in his top 10 and got the Twins to make an inter-division trade! And the White Sox minor league system is one of the worst in baseball to begin with!

So, I know I’m in the minority here and so be it. But the fact is…if we had a better GM, this trade could have been made without giving up our #2 prospect.

Luscious Lucius

August 1st, 2012
11:18 am

How u know if the Cubs asked for Delgado or not. He might have been the only offering from Wren for Dumpster.

Hillbilly D

August 1st, 2012
11:20 am

Plus Maholm will be here next year and R. Johnson could move to CF is Bourn and money hogg agent want too much cashola to resign.

Johnson is a good role player but at his age and with his back issues, he can’t play every day. About 2-3 weeks is what you’d get before he lands on the DL.

Luscious Lucius

August 1st, 2012
11:20 am

Enter your comments hereThey might have wanted to ask for Teheran,Gilmartin,or A. Simmons too but figured each was off limits!

Curt

August 1st, 2012
11:20 am

So Keith Law has seen and worked with Vizcaino more than the Braves staff? Law can accurately predict when Vizcaino will be ready to play following surgery. Law can look into the future and know that Vizcaino will be a good if not great major league ball player.

The fact is that Vizcaino before having surgery was a prospect with relatively little “big time” experience and the fact is that once (if) he fully recovers, Vizcaino will still be a prospect with little experience. There are other pitchers out there that the Braves can and will in the future have on their team.

The Braves needed a pitcher who can help them NOW. I think giving up an IF for a known quantity is the right thing to do.

JoshTown

August 1st, 2012
11:21 am

Agreed Mark. It was a good trade overall. We can’t possibly hang on to every arm we covet, and something has to give. Had the Braves not made a trade and we missed October again, people everywhere would’ve been complaining about Wren not trading for an arm or a utility/bench guy. The guys in the locker room don’t seem to be over the moon, but they certainly arn’t angry at the trade. Medlen owned it last night. We’re getting hot at the right time, and this trade has nothing but positives for the organization. …Except in 2014, when Vizcaino shuts us out. Go Braves!

Joe

August 1st, 2012
11:21 am

Law makes the point about the Cubs not needing Maholm and Reed like that makes them less valuable. It has zero bearing on their value as they are exactly what the Braves needed. We desperately needed an effective RH bench bat given the makeup of our starting lineup and Fredi’s ridiculous stance on not using Ross as a pinch hitter and Maholm will help us next year as well. I think that is especially important given my belief that Tommy Hanson needs to have shoulder surgery to fix whatever is ailing him.

Luscious Lucius

August 1st, 2012
11:24 am

Dont enter your comments here

shawn

August 1st, 2012
11:25 am

Vizcaino is not Adam Wainwright who we gave up in 2004 for one hit wonder J.D Drew….I agree with you Mark…

kurula

August 1st, 2012
11:25 am

hey, i’m just glad that wren didn’t trade for derek lowe. . .

Mark Bradley Jr.

August 1st, 2012
11:25 am

If Billy Knight had made this same trade, Mark Bradley would agree with Keith Law. Bradley is a groupie for Frank Wren, Dimitroff and now Ferry. They can do no wrong. Except they keep fielding these blatantly mediocre rosters.

Just The Facts

August 1st, 2012
11:25 am

You can’t hang on to every prospect forever. What if Maholm stays as hot as he has been lately for the rest of the year & becomes a # 3 playoff starter which gives us a lefty starter for the postseason? Also we have him for next year. What if Johnson has a Cody Ross type contribution with some big hits in the playoffs? What then will another ESPN blowhard have to say? They will probably just bang on the Atlanta fans since there won’t be any upper Northeast teams in the NL playoffs. They will have to stir the pot somewhere. I think MLB Network’s coverage & presentation of baseball is far superior to the single male, teenage audience ESPN caters to. Lastly, when was the last time the Cubs stole someone in a trade anyway?

Hillbilly D

August 1st, 2012
11:26 am

Law makes the point about the Cubs not needing Maholm and Reed like that makes them less valuable. It has zero bearing on their value as they are exactly what the Braves needed.

This is a good point. The Cubs and Braves are two teams at vastly different stages of development. Their respective needs are totally different.

Patrick

August 1st, 2012
11:26 am

Frank Wren get bashed on this forum often and vigorously, but I think this was a good trade. Now, hopefully, we have the starting arms to get in the playoffs. Our bench has been terrible all year. I love Hinske but he’s just not hitting this year. If it was me I would start Johnson in left, put Prado on second and stick Uggla on the bench and use him as a very poor pinch hitter. Play a .280 hitter instead of a .200 hitter. I don’t understand starting Uggla every night and hoping that someday he’ll start to hit like a major leaguer

Steve, you’re asking why Uggla is not on the bench.
The reason is because the General Manager whom you believe just pulled off a good trade paid Dan Uggla over 12 million per season to hit under .220 and almost have less rbi’s than our leadoff hitter. So, he will not be sitting on the bench with that salary.

Let’s face another truth here. With this team, the Braves lack what they need in order to win a Championship. So, I actually hope that they do not make the playoffs and Wren is let go.

Alex

August 1st, 2012
11:26 am

Yep, agree. I’m not Keith Law but A) Vizzy has been dealing with injury since he put on a tomohawk and B) most agree that, at best, he’s a great set up guy/closer.

I’m happy to give up a great reliever for two HUGE areas of need for a title run on Chipper and Bourn’s last year with us. Oh, and we get Malholm next year at a good price too.

Another win for Wren. Dude is on it.

chc4

August 1st, 2012
11:27 am

No Mark, what we can infer is that Dempster is a much more impactful acquisition than Maholm/Johnson. Hence the willingness to give up the better prospect in Delgado.

Luscious Lucius

August 1st, 2012
11:27 am

Why Hinske on team? He fat and strike out a lot?