Sunday, December 12, 2004

Kolb in, Capellan out

The Braves have been looking for a top-notch ace for the starting rotation: turns out he's been in the bullpen the whole time.

GM John Schuerholz made news Saturday by trading highly touted pitching prospect Jose Capellan and a player to be named later to the Brewers for Dan Kolb. The move will allow John Smoltz to return to the starting rotation.

I'm not going to delve into the numbers of each guy involved; lots of other sites have already done a fine job of it. (Other than the stats listed on the backs of bubble-gum cards, I'm not much of a numbers guy, anyway). I'm very much a realist and as such, I look at life in a rather pragmatic fashion:

The Braves needed a legitimate ace of the staff. The guy who's name kept creeping up was Oakland's Tim Hudson. Billy Beane is no dummy; he wanted Marcus Giles in return. Do you give up a great position player for a starting pitcher you'll probably only be able to keep for one year? Not if you want to keep your GM job for very long. Smoltz has been a dominant starter in the not-so-distant past, is practically being paid like one now, and he wants to return to the starting rotation. Why not try to get 200 innings from him, rather than just 80? Many folks question whether his arm can hold up to the rigors of starting over the course of a season. Well, in my neighborhood we don't live with could haves, should haves, and would haves. You just do it, dammit- and deal with the fall-out, if and when it occurs. Smoltz says the arm will hold up: the doctors agree. I'll buy that for a dollar.

A lot of folks are down on Kolb. Was 2004 a fluke, or was it his break-out season? I can't answer that, but I do know he converted 39 of 44 save opportunities with a 2.98 ERA this year. And that was with the Brewers, for crying out loud.

Who knows if the Braves made a mistake trading away Capellan? He's one of the most highly regarded prospects in all of baseball. He's a strike-out machine that can chuck it 100 mph. Hey- so can Kyle Farnsworth. (I got two words for ya: Bull Durham.) The Braves are well known for being able to recognize pitching talent. They've also got a pretty sharp eye when it comes to evaluating said talent. They think Cappy is expendable? Fine by me.

What it all boils down to is the Braves now have an ace, they've still got Marcus Giles, and they've got a pretty good closer locked in through the 2006 season. What else have you got up your sleeve, Mr. Schuerholz?

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