The Cleveland Indians may not have hit a home run today by acquiring pitcher Derek Lowe from the Atlanta Braves, as reported from MLB Trade Rumors and John Kreger, but I think they at least squeaked out a double.
Obviously, Lowe's 9-17 record and 5.05 ERA (75 ERA+) in 2011 paints a pretty negative picture of the 38-year-old pitcher. There is cause for optimism, though. Lowe is a good pitcher that has been a key member of a World Series winner. He'll bring some needed experience to a still young Tribe team.
Another plus is that, according to Buster Olney, the Braves will be paying $10 million of the $15 million Lowe is owed in 2012. Considering that the Indians are scheduled to pay Fausto Carmona $7 million for similar 2011 stats (7-15 record, 5.25 ERA), this seems like a good salary for the Tribe.
Looking deeper at Lowe's 2011 campaign, there's reason to believe he'll regain a better form in 2012. Sure, his ERA was pretty high, but his peripherals are in line with his career numbers:
2011: 3.70 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, 3.75 SIERA, 6.59 SO/9, 3.39 BB/9, 1.96 SO:BB, 0.67 HR/9, 65.9 LOB%, .327 BABIP
Career: 3.79 FIP, 3.66 xFIP, 3.68 SIERA, 5.94 SO/9, 2.65 BB/9, 2.24 SO:BB, 0.73 HR/9, 69.4 LOB%, .295 BABIP
So, Lowe was largely the same pitcher in 2011, yet his ERA jumped a full run? I don't buy it. It's more likely that a slightly higher walk rate, combined with poor luck with stranded runners and an unusually high BABIP torpedoed Lowe's season. These things typically regress back to the mean, pointing to better things in 2012.
There's no way to know anything for sure, but Derek Lowe fits very well as the No. 3 starter in the Tribe's rotation. Check out how the rotation looks from their 2011 stats (and yes, I'm going to use a pitching slash line of FIP/xFIP/SIERA. It's more accurate, I swear.):
Sure, I'd like the Indians to trade Carmona and upgrade that spot (maybe Erik Bedard or Wandy Rodriguez, otherwise try Jeanmar Gomez), but that rotation isn't bad at all. If the Tribe's offense bounces back from an injury-riddled 2011, this pitching staff should be enough to get the Tribe into playoff contention.
The Indians gave up next to nothing (Chris Jones, not a high-level prospect per Indians Prospect Insider) to get a useful pitcher.
This may not be a flashy move, but it sure helps take the sting off of declining Grady Sizemore's option.