So, that’s official, though the actual press release is missing from the Braves’ site. Hudson’s deal is for three years, $27 million, which actually frees up some money (compared to his option) in 2010.
The Braves find themselves with six starters. In addition to Hudson, the Braves are certainly going to hang on to Tommy Hanson, and almost as certainly to Jair Jurrjens, though arguably the latter’s trade value will never be higher. That leaves three potential trade candidates in Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe, and Kenshin Kawakami.
Vazquez, who has one year left on his deal and was spectacular in 2009, certainly has the highest value of the three. If the Braves are looking to add offense via trade, Vazquez would seem to be the one to go. At the same time, trading him would mean losing a veteran pitcher who was also the one real strikeout force on the roster, and turning into a finesse staff again. I think that’s something to avoid, and it’s pretty clear that the Braves would prefer to hang on to him; there have been rumors that they’re trying to negotiate an extension.
The pitcher that the Braves want to trade is Lowe, whose value is hard to calculate. Getting anything of significance back for him would probably require one of two things: either a dumb team that overvalues his fifteen wins and doesn’t pay attention to the 4.67 ERA and 5.1 K/9, or agreeing to take on a bad contract in return for Lowe’s bad contract. Since dumb teams, being dumb, are usually bad, they aren’t likely to want to add a veteran starter. The bad contracts that come to my mind are Maggio Ordonez, who has been mentioned here, and Carlos Lee, who has not. If the Braves aren’t willing to take on a contract like that, any trade of Lowe would likely be a straight salary dump.
Kawakami’s value isn’t as high as Vazquez’s, but his contract is manageable and he pitched a lot better than Lowe did in 2009. I have some trouble valuing him, but I think that a Kawakami trade would probably be for a middle-of-the-road type position player, as he’s a middle-of-the-road type starter. He could bring in a guy who could help but not help a lot. You’d probably be better off trading him for prospects and using the money from his salary on other things.
There’s always the possibility that they don’t trade anyone. You’re going to need more than five starters. You’d be incredibly lucky to need only six. The Braves could stash Lowe or Kawakami in the bullpen, even though they’re the two pitchers with the weakest stuff and who really shouldn’t be in high-leverage situations. The biggest problem with this is money; with that much money spent on pitchers, it would be hard to import offense, or (alternatively) to keep Adam LaRoche at first base.
It’s a lot better to have too many starters than too few, though.