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This move tells me that the Atlanta front office looked long and hard at the Braves and decided that the team needed to be polished, not renovated. Paul Maholm is not Jon Lester, nor is he Zack Greinke, but Frank Wren apparently believes that he can be comparable to Tom Glavine, a strike-throwing, soft-tossing lefty that relies on pinpoint command.
Reed Johnson is also an excellent pickup, bolstering an Atlanta bench with his right-handed bat (much needed in the lefty heavy Braves lineup), aggressive approach, and fiery attitude.
In finality, I have two concerns. One deals with Arodys Vizcaino. If he is inserted into the Cubs rotation next year and blossoms into a great starter (of which he is fully capable), this trade will go down as a failure. However, if he sticks in the bullpen (which is where Wren obviously believes Vizcaino is headed), Atlanta comes out ahead here.
Lastly, will the Braves rotation step up in the second half? Maholm solidifies the rotation, but the Braves are still left without an ace for October—someone who can go toe-to-toe with Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Jordan Zimmermann, and Madison Bumgarner. It's a very solid rotation, but who is going to rise above and play the hero?
Maybe Tommy Hanson turns his season around. Maybe Tim Hudson reaches deep into the tank and pitches like the ace he used to be. Maybe Mike Minor irons out his inconsistencies and pitches like the frontline starter he has been in the past four starts—27.1 innings, 26 strikeouts, 1.98 ERA. Maybe Paul Maholm continues his recent dominance. Maybe Ben Sheets only allows one run every 18 innings (I'd be fine with that).
Regardless, at least one Braves starting pitcher needs to step up.
So with that said, let's grade the trade. We can't know for certain the outcome of this trade until the season's end, but assuming Vizcaino pitches in relief for Chicago, Maholm and Johnson should give Atlanta a big enough boost for this trade to warrant a solid grade.
ATLANTA BRAVES TRADE GRADE: B