Braves acquire Maholm, Johnson from Cubs
Four-player swap sends hurlers Vizcaino, Chapman to Chicago
ATLANTA -- After Ryan Dempster chose not to spend the season's final two months in Atlanta, the Braves went back to the Cubs to satisfy their desire to add a pitcher to their rotation and an experienced right-handed bat to their bench.
The Braves acquired right-handed-hitting outfielder Reed Johnson and left-hander Paul Maholm from the Cubs in exchange for two Minor League pitchers, one of them heralded pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino.
"It was a perfect fit for us," general manager Frank Wren said. "We got two real key pieces for us that we were looking for. If we are done, if nothing else materializes for us tomorrow, we'll be very happy with where we are right now."
There is a chance the Braves will attempt to add a reliever before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, but with the acquisitions of Maholm and Johnson, they have likely completed all of their heavy lifting without having to part ways with Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Sean Gilmartin or many of the other young pitching prospects coveted by other teams.
Prospects acquired by Cubs
- Arodys Vizcaino, RHP: One of the big three pitching prospects in the Braves' system, Vizcaino was still No. 54 overall on MLB.com's Top 100 list and No. 3 on the Braves' Top 20 despite missing the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. When healthy, he has the makings of three above-average to plus pitches with his fastball, curve and improving changeup. He has decent command, giving him the chance to be a starter, but his power stuff does play up out of the bullpen and with concerns about his durability, that could be his eventual long-term role.
- Jaye Chapman, RHP: Drafted by the Braves back in 2005, Chapman has had success pitching out of the bullpen and was added to the 40-man rosters as a result last offseason. He doesn't have closer's stuff, though he has finished games in the Minors, now spending his second season in Triple-A. He's struggled a bit with command, with a 4.3 BB/9 ratio, but he's also struck out 9.6 per nine in his career. Now 25, the Cubs may give him his first big league opportunity and he has a ceiling as a middle man.
- Top 20 Prospects: Cubs | Braves
- -- Jonathan Mayo
To get this deal done, the Braves part ways with Vizcaino, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March, and right-hander Jaye Chapman, who has spent this season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Vizcaino, ranked as the Braves' third-best prospect by MLB.com, is a hard-throwing right-hander who spent the final two months of the 2011 season in Atlanta's bullpen. If healthy, the 21-year-old has the potential to be a dominant force at the back end of a bullpen or, possibly, as a starter.
"He's a good-looking young pitcher, and we gave up a quality prospect," Wren said. "But to not give up some of the guys that have been mentioned, that was a real plus for us. The Cubs are in a different spot than we're in. They're looking for a long-range young pitcher that they can hold on to for a long time. We're in a spot where we feel like we have a team that can win."
When the Braves began their search for a starter, they put Zack Greinke at the top of their wish list and viewed Dempster as an option. It appeared they landed Dempster last week in a trade that would have sent Delgado to the Cubs, but when Dempster used his right to block the deal, the Braves began looking at other options and focused on Maholm, who has gone 5-0 with a 1.02 ERA in the six starts he has made dating back to June 29.
The 30-year-old has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 21 starts.
"The thing that kept coming back from scouts is that he is not going to give in," Wren said. "When I say that, [it means] he's not going to throw a fastball just because he's behind in the count. He's not going to throw you a fastball in fastball counts. He's going to pitch his game, and he's been very good at that."
Part of Maholm's appeal is his $6.5 million option for 2013, and his presence will give the Braves the option to send Kris Medlen back to the bullpen -- where they value his versatility -- after he makes his first start of the year, and first since 2010, on Tuesday.
Wren attempted to acquire the 35-year-old Johnson before last year's Trade Deadline and has always liked the talented outfielder. And with some uncertainty surrounding Matt Diaz's injured right thumb, the Braves had an even greater need to acquire Johnson this season.
Johnson has batted .307 with three home runs and a .807 OPS in 166 at-bats in 2012. He has batted .280 with a .743 OPS in 161 career pinch-hit at-bats.
"He gives you a professional at-bat, and he plays the game the right way," Wren said. "It's hard to find right-handed hitters who can play center field and left field as well. With our club, that is so important. We need another right-handed hitter that you feel comfortable to put out there for a number of at-bats."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.