Fox Sports.com's Jon Paul Morosi has reported something that should not be a big surprise: The Tigers are interested in Atlanta starting pitcher Derek Lowe.
Lowe is from Michigan, and he's been linked to Detroit before. And now the Tigers are looking for a starting pitcher. They saw enough of Lowe in all of his years in the American League to know what he can do for a team late in the season.
The hitch, of course, is the money. Lowe is owed around $6 million more this season of the $15 million dollar salary, along with the same amount ($15 mil) for the 2012 season.
The Braves have a ton of starting pitching, both in the majors and getting ready in AAA and AA. If they traded Lowe, they could easily turn to Mike Minor or Julio Teheran, two top young pitchers.
But the real blessing for Atlanta if they traded Lowe would be the money saved. Whomever replaces Lowe is going to make the minimum salary, so they can instead simply save whatever money is left by upgrading other positions of need – whether it's before the trade deadline or this winter.
Let's say the Braves agree to pay half of the remaining money on Lowe's contract this season, along with $3 million of his 2012 contract. That would allow them to spend the $3 million on getting a bat before the rosters are frozen, and then they would have an additional $12 million off the books to prepare for next year's roster.
If Atlanta did eat a portion of Lowe's remaining money owed, the Tigers may simply trade a prospect or two to the Braves. There are a few names to keep in mind.
First, right-hander Chance Ruffin, son of former Phillies' star Bruce Ruffin and a supplemental first rounder in 2010, is a possibility. He's pitched in 38 games in relief between AA and AAA this season and has a 2.14 ERA, with 54 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched.
There's also Charlie Furbush, who has had some time in Detroit this season but has nine games started in Triple-A. Furbush is a lefty and he has a 2.89 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched this year in Toledo.
The Tigers have a couple of interesting third base prospects that might interest the Braves, a team that might need a third baseman in the near future.
Nick Castellanos was rated as Detroit's second best prospect by Baseball America before the season. He's hitting .301 in High-A West Michigan with six home runs and 53 RBI and a .341 on base percentage.
Also, Francisco Martinez was the Tigers' fourth best prospect prior to 2011. He's in Double-A Erie and is hitting .284 with seven home runs, 41 RBI and a .325 on base percentage in 319 plate appearances.
The Braves might be taking a gamble if they traded Lowe, who was outstanding for Atlanta late last season. But he'd really be replaced by Brandon Beachy, who arguably has been better this season. Then it would be Minor and/or Teheran who would replace Beachy as the number five starter in the Atlanta rotation.
But it's the money that Atlanta would save that would be the best part of a Lowe trade. The Braves already will have Nate McLouth, Alex Gonzalez, Scott Linebrink, Scott Proctor, George Sherrill and most importantly Kenshin Kawakami coming off the books.
When you factor in the salary increases of veteran players, arbitration players and renewals, there should be around a net gain of $7 million available for the Braves to add salary. So then add anything else taken away from Lowe's $15 million, and that would be significant flexibility to add additional talent this offseason.
So this could be a huge plus for the Braves if they can trade Lowe, especially if it's in a trade where a team could take most of his salary off the books. And it might also lead to another big move that could allow the Braves to improve the offense for the 2011 stretch drive.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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