Derek Lowe in a May outing
One of the many reasons why the general manager position on any sports team is among the highest paid is because of the difficulty of the position.
Each year, the GM is dealt a brand new hand, with veterans retiring, young players coming up, free agents signing with other teams, and injuries coming out of the blue.
In terms of the objective of a GM, it seems simple enough. The owners give him a check with which he is told to build the best club possible.
For general managers such as Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein—of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox—the job is mitigated by very deep pockets. These teams can usually go out and get whoever they want. For others, such as Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, financial restrictions are an everyday occurrence.
Frank Wren—the Atlanta Braves general manager—lies in the middle of the pack in terms of how much money ownership gives him to play with. However, just like every other GM in sports, he has an additional task. He has to focus on the 2011 season but still every season afterward has to be accounted for.
Contenders trade valuable pieces for young talent all the time. Often, these moves are met with vitriol and hate. Fans get attached to players who have been in the organization a long time, and sometimes the move is viewed as condemning the team to failure.
For example, Danny Ainge—GM of the NBA's Boston Celtics—has received much flack for trading veteran center Kendrick Perkins for the young power forward/small forward hybrid of Jeff Green. The Celtics were a definite contender for the NBA title, and Perkins had been an important asset the entire way through but they eventually fell short without him.
The Braves are definitely a contender in 2011. Although they do not possess a loaded roster like the Philadelphia Phillies, they do have considerable talent on their pitching staff, bullpen, and position players.
As important as 2011 is, 2012 is looming.
Derek Lowe is still owed over thirty million dollars for 2011 and 2012 and is pitching pretty well so far (4.03 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). These aren't Cy Young numbers, but they are good enough to be a third starter on most teams. With two pitchers not consistently on the 40-man roster who go as a fifth starter (Mike Minor and Julio Teheran), Lowe seems like an obvious candidate for a trade.
Phil Hughes after a rough April start
The New York Yankees were counting on Phil Hughes to be a number two starter in the American League East. In terms of an ace, very few teams can compete with C.C. Sabathia. However in an already thin starting staff, the Yankees did not need a 13.94 ERA from the former All-Star and World Series champ.
Other pitchers on the staff are not exactly the model of efficiency.
A.J. Burnett has been infamously inconsistent over the past few seasons. Although he has pitched well out of the gate, no one is entirely confident when he is on the mound.
Bartolo Colon has been a ray of hope for the Yankees, but he was thought to be washed up before this season and nobody knows how long he will last.
Derek Lowe could provide the Yankees with a veteran staff presence as well as World Series experience on a team that always plans on playing into late October. If the Yankees want to give the Jeter-Posada-Rivera core one last run, Lowe could help push them over the top.
Dustin Pedroia and Alex Gonzalez
The Boston Red Sox have put their infamous 1918 struggles well behind them. They have been one of the best teams in all of baseball in the past decade.
While very well endowed on offense, pitching has been a staple of their playoff runs. Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester have all won titles while manning the bump for the Sox.
Much like the Yankees expected more out of their young stud Phil Hughes, the Red Sox expected much more from their young pitchers. Jon Lester has been predictably lights-out, but Clay Buchholz was shaky coming out of the gate. He's settled down very nicely, but in the most competitive division in all of sports the good team is usually trumped by the great one.
In competing with the Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays, and now the upstart Baltimore Orioles, a strong pitching staff is a necessity. Derek Lowe achieved international fame both closing and starting for the Red Sox, and it may be time he made his homecoming.
Jay Bruce congratulated after a homer
For a team that made what many believed to be a surprise appearance in the 2010 Playoffs, the Cincinnati Reds expected a lot from the 2011 season.
Offensively, the team has stepped up to the challenge, as they rank first in runs scored in all of baseball.
Pitching has been horrendous however. In what many are calling the Second Year of the Pitcher, the Reds rank 25th and 24th in ERA and WHIP respectively. They are luckily still over .500, but only marginally so.
Not that many teams are willing to part with their staff ace. If they are, teams are demanding huge prices for them.
Derek Lowe may not be the sexiest option, but when Travis Wood leads your pitching staff with above a five ERA, beggars can't be choosers.