5 Reasons Paul Maholm Was Actually a Better Acquisition Than Ryan Dempster

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterAugust 1, 2012

5 Reasons Paul Maholm Was Actually a Better Acquisition Than Ryan Dempster

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    In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline, the general anticipation was that Ryan Dempster would be the first Chicago Cubs hurler to be dealt elsewhere.

    It looked like this was going to be the case when the Cubs and the Atlanta Braves agreed on a trade that would have sent young right-hander Randall Delgado to the Windy City, but that trade fell apart due to a variety of circumstances.

    Just don't accuse Dempster of rejecting the trade, because he apparently never said no to the deal (whatever you say, old sport).

    Instead, the Braves ended up with veteran lefty Paul Maholm, acquiring him and outfielder Reed Johnson for young hurlers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman.

    Going for Dempster and ending up with Maholm may seem like a defeat at first glance, but it's not. On the contrary, Braves general manager Frank Wren made a much better deal in landing Maholm instead of Dempster.

    No, Maholm can't match Dempster's 2.25 ERA, but there are other dynamics to this deal that make him a more valuable acquisition for the Braves.

    Ahead of you is a super-duper helpful breakdown.

    Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Maholm Has Been Pitching Just as Well as Dempster Recently

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    There's no question that Ryan Dempster has been a better pitcher than Paul Maholm this season. Dempster's 2.25 ERA is slightly misleading, but a 2.25 ERA is a 2.25 ERA is a 2.25 ERA, if you get my drift.

    But lately, Maholm has been just as good as Dempster out on the mound.

    Maholm has made seven appearances (six starts) since June 29, pitching an even 45 innings and allowing just five earned runs. That's good for an ERA of an even 1.00. He's struck out 32 in these 45 innings and held opponents to a .551 OPS.

    Dempster has also been solid in his last seven appearances (all starts), pitching 45 innings with seven earned runs allowed (that's a 1.40 ERA). He's held opponents to a .520 OPS.

    I won't go so far as to say that Maholm has been head-and-shoulders better than Dempster in the last couple of weeks, but you'll be surprised to hear how Maholm's month of July stacks up against the best of the best in the National League.

    Per FanGraphs, the only NL pitchers who posted higher WARs than Maholm in July were Clayton Kershaw, Jordan Zimmermann, Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto.

    Pretty good company right there.

    In short, the Braves landed one of the hottest pitchers in all of baseball when they acquired Maholm. He ought to pitch well for them, especially when they play at home at Turner Field.

    And that brings us to our next point.

Maholm Has an Impressive Track Record at Turner Field

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    There's been a lot of noise in the last 24 hours about Ryan Dempster being a bad fit for the American League, as his smoke-and-mirrors act won't go over so well in the offensively superior junior circuit as it does in the senior circuit.

    That's a legit concern. The fact that Dempster will be pitching primarily at a launching pad such as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is another legit concern.

    The Braves wouldn't have had to worry about any such concerns had they acquired Dempster, as he would have stayed in the National League and been pitching at a park that he knows well. Dempster has made 10 starts at Turner Field in his career.

    He does, however, own a 4.77 ERA for his career when pitching at Turner Field. Maholm's track record at Atlanta's home digs is a little better.

    Maholm has only made five career starts at Turner Field, but he's put together a dazzling 1.69 ERA in these five starts. He's allowed only one home run in 32 career innings in Atlanta.

    What's curious is that Maholm has been successful at Turner Field despite a career BABIP close to .400 in his five starts there. With Atlanta's superior defense at his back, he shouldn't have to worry about having to work around such a high BABIP.

    And that, obviously, bodes well for the Braves.

Maholm Is Less of an Injury Risk

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    Part of the reason the Cubs were so desperate to move Dempster before the trade deadline was because they had no way of knowing when his body was going to betray him again.

    Dempster has been money this season when he's been healthy, but staying healthy has been a problem. He's had to spend time on the disabled list twice, once with a bad quad and again with a tight side muscle. Run-of-the-mill stuff for a 35-year-old pitcher like him.

    Maholm is by no means indestructible in his own right, but 21 appearances by the end of July is par for the course for major league starting pitchers at this point. He's also five years younger than Dempster, which helps.

    Keep in mind that the last thing the Braves need to deal with in the final two months of the season is an injured starting pitcher. They've already lost Brandon Beachy for the season, and they just put Tommy Hanson on the disabled list with a bad back. 

    Had they acquired Dempster, few members of Atlanta's front office would have been able to sleep easy in August and September.

    Frank Wren needed to go out and find an able-bodied pitcher for his rotation. Maholm's body has proved to be more able than Dempster's this season.

Maholm Didn't Cost the Braves a Healthy Prospect

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    Had the trade that would have sent Dempster to Atlanta actually gone through, the Braves would have given up 22-year-old righty Randall Delgado.

    That probably doesn't appear so bad, seeing as how Delgado has a 4.42 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in 17 starts this season. He was one of Atlanta's least effective starting pitchers.

    But where Delgado is concerned, his appeal has less to do with the pitcher he is now and more to do with the pitcher he might be later.

    Before the start of the season, Baseball America ranked Delgado as Atlanta's third-best prospect behind Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) wrote that Delgado has "star potential."

    Holding onto Delgado was always in Atlanta's best interest, as he promises to be a key part of the team's plans moving forward.

    Parting with Vizcaino is something that the Braves could afford to do because his future is a little uncertain at the moment. He's currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    It's true that pitchers have a tendency to come back strong from Tommy John surgery, but the choice between trading an injured prospect and trading a healthy prospect is a no-brainer. If you can, you trade the injured prospect and don't look back.

    That's what the Braves did. And as we've already established, they got a pitcher who's been just as good as Dempster in recent weeks.

    As for Jaye Chapman, the other prospect involved in the trade, he's merely a decent relief prospect. No big loss.

Maholm Need Not Be a Rental

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    One of the big hurdles in trading for Dempster was the fact that his contract is only good through the end of the season. 

    This wouldn't have been such a big deal in the past, but trading for rental players is more problematic now than ever before. Teams can't get draft picks if their rental players walk as free agents in the winter, meaning there's now a chance that teams can trade prospects for rental players and walk away with absolutely nothing to show for it.

    This is a reality the Braves would have had to deal with if they acquired Dempster. In acquiring Maholm instead, they saved themselves from a big offseason headache.

    Maholm is technically only under contract through the end of the season, but he has an option for 2013 at a rate of $6.5 million. That's a price the Braves can afford, and they may actually prefer to pick up Maholm's option rather than Tim Hudson's $9 million option. They'll also have plenty of money coming off the books with Chipper Jones set to retire.

    In other words, it's a virtual lock that Atlanta's partnership with Maholm will continue beyond this season. In picking up Maholm, they added a hot pitcher with controllability; a very hot commodity this season.

    So Braves fans should not lament the club's failure to acquire Dempster. In landing Maholm, Frank Wren did well.

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