-It looks like Frank Wren took my rant to heart last week. Facing the fallout over the failures to land either Peavy or Burnett and then letting Smoltzie leave to Boston it became apparent that the Atlanta Braves long offseason had become a nightmare. But in the last couple of days they have reached agreements with free agent Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami. Lowe is a #1 starter and in my opinion is a great signing. Sure the Braves overpaid for him and would have been better off signing him to a 3 year contract instead of the 4 years at $60 million they wound up giving him but Lowe was a must get for the Braves pitching staff. He is good for 200 plus innings and the guy gets ground balls with his incredible sinker. Lowe's sinker is one of the hardest pitches to hit and also one of the hardest to lay off. It literally drops off the table about 6 inches from the plate making a hitter look like he was auditioning for a Cirque Du Soleil play. Plus the guy has a sweaty mullet which should be a hit in Atlanta.
Kawakami is another Japanese pitcher who I honestly haven't seen much of besides the Youtube stuff. He is the first Japanese born player to ever play for the Braves and scouts claim he can be a good 3 or 4 starter for the Braves. Of course the Braves overpaid for him too giving him a 3 year deal worth $24 million but it was essential to land a former MVP of his league as his stuff is not overpowering but his cutter and curve are graded out above average. Here is some Youtube video of him and his delivery brings back memories of David Cone...
So with the additions of starters Lowe, Kawakami and yes, even Vasquez stat nerd the Braves and Frank Wren in particular have answered the call when it comes to adding quality arms to a struggling pitching staff. Right now this is what I would predict Bobby Cox's 2009 rotation will look like:
1. Derek Lowe-Big postseason pitcher and a proven winner.
2. Javier Vasquez-Innings eater who should benefit from switch to NL.
3. Jair Jurrjens-Had a great rookie season and should continue to progress.
4. Kenshin Kawakami-Will win a ton of games as the 4th starter.
5. Tommy Hanson-I think the kid has a great spring and forces the Braves to put him into the rotation.
I still don't think the Braves can win the division with what they got but if they can add an outfield bat (Bobby Abreu or Jermaine Dye would be great additions to what looks like on paper as being the Major's worst outfield right now) they could be a good sleeper pick to at least contend for the Wild Card. It's going to depend on the pitching staff staying healthy and hitters like Francoeur and Kotchman maturing and matching up to their potential.