Weekly Wroundtable: Grading the Derek Lowe Trade

The Indians made two important option-related decisions this week—picking up Fausto Carmona‘s and declining Grady Sizemore‘s—but the biggest news out of the front office was Cleveland’s acquisition of Derek Lowe.

In case you missed it, the Tribe sent minor-league relief pitcher Chris Jones to the Braves for Lowe and $10 million to help cover his $15 million 2012 salary. It was the first major trade of the offseason for any team, and it’s safe to say no one really saw it coming.

In this week’s Weekly Wroundtable, each of us weighed in on the question: How would you grade the Lowe deal? In addition to the usual suspects from Wahoo’s on First, we had the honor of hearing from The Tribe Daily‘s Nino Colla and Waiting for Next Year‘s Craig Lyndall.

We hope you enjoy reaping the benefits of our collective wisdom. Thanks to Nino and Craig for their guest contributions, and be sure to check out their sites.

Lewie Pollis: I give it a solid A, no question—this might be Chris Antonetti’s best move yet. Lowe’s not the pitcher he used to be, but his 5.05 ERA this year was due largely to bad luck, as evidenced by his 3.70 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, and 3.75 SIERA. He has a history of underperforming his peripherals, but that doesn’t mean the defense-neutral ERA estimators are meaningless—a discrepancy as big as that can’t just be explained by his pitching style.

If the Indians were taking on the entirety of Lowe’s contract this deal would be terrible, but for $5 million? That’s a small price to pay for a pitcher who can reliably contribute at least 180 innings of roughly average pitching. Even if David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister all get injured, this deal means Cleveland will still have five solid starters.

As for Jones, he’s got the potential to be a very useful player—Baseball America‘s Kevin Goldstein sees him as a future lefty specialist and says southpaw hitters “can’t touch him.” But he’s 23 and has yet to reach Double-A, so is ceiling can’t be too high. Plus, there’s at least a decent chance Lowe will net the Indians a compensation pick in the 2013 draft.

Nino Colla: The Indians did two things by acquiring Lowe so early in the offseason. The first is that they established themselves as not being complacent in terms of improving next year’s squad, which bodes well for the rest of the offseason in getting other things they need. The second is that they really took a low-risk chance on someone who probably won’t give you a high reward, but someone you can be close to certain on in terms of at least giving you production.

Lowe will pitch, he will eat up innings. He will have to re-adjust to the American League and some numbers suggest last year was a blip on what he can do as a ground-ball pitcher. Given the success of Justin Masterson last year, I think Lowe can come into Cleveland and be well set with the defense behind him. Overall, I’d give the trade a grade of a B- because there really is minimal risk involved.

Craig Lyndall: The Lowe deal is something that Indians fans have been conditioned to appreciate and I like it.  Sometimes deals like this even, you know, work. While it’s not the same scenario as the Carl Pavano reclamation project or the Kevin Millwood experiment, it has a similar prospect for boom or bust.

Any pitcher with the amount of innings that Derek Lowe has pitched is a risk at his age. That being said, the upside is different for the Tribe with Lowe than it was with Pavano or Millwood. Lowe should bring a veteran presence and experience that the Tribe was sorely lacking over the last year, unless you count Chad Durbin.

Hopefully Lowe will do his job and eat innings while also providing some leadership and influence to a pitching staff that has potential but lacks maturity. All for the bargain price of one year and $5 million bucks? Sounds like a solid bet even if it doesn’t work out. I give it a B. Low cost, medium potential reward.

Jonathan Rudder: B+. It’s really hard to see how the Indians lose on this one, unless Lowe totally flops this year. Even then, they still didn’t give up anything for him. They have to pay just $5 million of his salary, he’s a durable arm that hasn’t been on the disabled list in seemingly forever, and he’s a veteran that can be a welcomed addition to a youthful  Indians rotation.

Finding someone of equal or greater caliber for the same or a lesser price would be difficult for the Indians to do this offseason. They addressed a need for an arm in the rotation, especially considering that Carlos Carrasco will miss all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

My only concerns are his numbers in September, and his factoring into a collapse for the Braves down the stretch.  Over the years he has accumulated a lot of innings, and at 38 we will see how he fares down the stretch should the Indians contend again. Still, it’s a deal that the Indians would have really had trouble passing up, and one that signals that the front office is doing what they can to continue the improvements made from this season.

Geordy Boveroux: It’s hard not to love the Lowe acquisition. Sure, he had a paltry 75 ERA+, but Antonetti didn’t trade for him to lead Cleveland into the playoffs. Lowe was acquired to eat innings and if the 38-year-old can do anything, that’s it.

In addition, Lowe adds experience to the staff. He’s the only pitcher to win the clinching game in each postseason series in the same year back when he was with the 2004 Red Sox.

The cost was remarkably low for the veteran righty. Jones is a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) at best, and $5 million is affordable especially after declining Sizemore’s option.

Ed Carroll: I like the Indians’ acquisition of Lowe a lot. The team didn’t give up much of anything in terms of players, as Jones is not a real prospect (he’s in A-ball and projects as no better than a middle reliever or lefty specialist). Basically the team gave the Braves a warm body and $5 million to acquire a durable innings-eater (32+ starts in 10 straight seasons).

Lowe is probably only worth about two wins over Mitch Talbot, who opened 2011 at the back of the Tribe’s rotation, but the price is definitely right for the Tribe. The only problem I see is that Lowe is an extreme ground ball pitcher, and the Indians don’t have a great defensive infield. On the plus side, the trade keeps the Indians from overpaying for pitching depth, and they can now allocate those funds elsewhere.

How would you grade the Lowe trade?

  • B (49%, 41 Votes)
  • A (21%, 18 Votes)
  • C (19%, 16 Votes)
  • D (6%, 5 Votes)
  • F (5%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 84

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