Start waving the green flag on the Cubs fire sale. In addition to trading Geovany Soto to the Rangers, the Cubs have also dealt starting pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves in exchange for pitching prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman.
Johnson is the fourth outfielder that the Braves have desperately needed all year. Matt Diaz (currently on the DL) and Eric Hinske have been fixtures on the Braves bench this year, and neither has performed well at all. Hinske has just a .590 OPS with only one homer in 124 plate appearances, and looks pretty much done as a player. Diaz hasn't been much better, logging a .613 OPS in 118 plate appearances, homering twice. When those are your two best options off the bench, things aren't looking good for your team. The 35-year old Johnson has a .799 OPS for the Cubs this year in 183 plate appearances, including an .890 mark against lefties. The Braves really shouldn't be platooning any of their three dynamic outfielders under any circumstances, but Johnson gives them a good option when Chipper Jones needs a day off at third (allowing Martin Prado to shift from left to third).
As for Maholm...well, he's Paul Maholm. that is, he's entirely mediocre. He has one three win season in his career, his career high strikeout rate is a hair over six batters per nine, and his velocity is stitting at 87 mph this year. Honestly, I'm not sure he's an upgrade at all for Atlanta. He's not better than Tim Hudson, Ben Sheets (really), or the current Mike Minor, and I'm not sure he's much better than Tommy Hanson or the newly converted Kris Medlen.
The return going to Chicago revolves around Vizcaino, the #2 prospect in the Braves organization coming into the year before Tommy John surgery in the spring knocked him out for the year. Vizcaino has the potential to either be a dominant late-game reliever or a solid starter, depending on how his arm holds up. At any rate, his ceiling is much higher than that of either player heading to Atlanta in the trade. Chapman is another minor league relief arm for the Braves that never got a chance in the majors, due to spotty control. However, Chapman does strike hitters out in bunches, and for a Cubs team that isn't going anywhere this year, there's no reason for them to not bring him to the majors and let things roll wiht him right away.
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com
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