Lowe to sign with Atlanta
Lowe was talking to the Braves about a $60-million, four-year contract
The Braves' imminent agreement with Lowe is a hit to the rival Mets
Lowe, who went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA with the Dodgers last year
Star free-agent right-hander Derek Lowe is heading to the Braves, SI.com has learned.
Lowe will soon sign with Atlanta, according to officials with both the Mets and Phillies, the two other National League division rivals in contention for Lowe.
Lowe is closing in on a $60 million, four-year contract with the Braves, SI.com reported early Tuesday morning.
The Braves' imminent agreement with Lowe is a hit to the rival Mets, who had been hoping to add Lowe to their rotation. The Mets, who have been told Lowe will be a Brave, will now turn their attention to free agent left-hander Oliver Perez.
Lowe was hoping to come back east after four successful yet unfulfilling years in Los Angeles. He pitched in Boston before his stint with the Dodgers. Lowe was believed to prefer the National League all along.
Lowe, who went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA with the Dodgers last year and is 126-107 for his career, saves what had been a turbulent offseason for the Braves. Atlanta tried hard but failed to land star right-handers Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett and shortstop Rafael Furcal and also lost franchise icon John Smoltz to Boston. The Braves did, however, previously land Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami for their rotation. With one of baseball's best prospects Tommy Hanson ready to join the rotation in the estimation of many baseball scouts, Atlanta could have one of the better rotations in the league.
The Mets, who had offered Lowe $36 million over three years, recently started talking dollars with Perez as they may have sensed their chances on Lowe were diminishing. The Mets are proposing a three-year deal for close to $30 million for Perez. Although, a four-year deal for Lowe, who at 35 is eight years Perez's senior, may convince them they need to give him another year. Mets general manager Omar Minaya has preferred Perez all along, but other members of their front office wanted Lowe.
The Mets aren't certain which other teams may be bidding on Perez. Should they fail to sign Perez, they are expected to turn to left-hander Randy Wolf. Pedro Martinez looks less likely now that the Mets have signed Tim Redding, who'll probably fill the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Braves general manager Frank Wren declined comment on the agreement, but did say that Lowe would be a welcome addition to a rotation devastated by injuries last year.
"We wanted get back to being a pitching-(oriented) team," Wren said. "If we can do another couple of moves, we can get back to that point."
Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine all went down with season-ending surgeries, and the Braves were determined to rebuild the staff with pitchers who have been largely healthy through their careers. Glavine has yet to resume throwing off a mound, while Hudson isn't expected back until August.
Lowe was a 21-game winner for the Red Sox in 2002 and spent the last four seasons in Los Angeles, where he went 54-48, never had an ERA higher than 3.88 and averaged more than 200 innings a season.
Atlanta also finalized a three-year contract with Japanese all-star pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, the 2004 Central League MVP. He has won 112 games in 11 seasons in Japan and was regarded as one of the top free-agent pitchers from Japan available this offseason. He was 9-5 for the Chunichi Dragons last year, though he missed several weeks with a strained back.
With Kawakami and Lowe, the Braves would have the makings of a solid rotation. They previously acquired Javier Vazquez to join holdover Jair Jurrjens, the team's top starter last season as a rookie with a 13-10 record and 3.68 ERA. Another rookie, Jorge Campillo, was 8-7 with a 3.91 ERA. Vazquez was acquired from the Chicago White Sox for a package of minor leaguers after going 12-16 with a 4.67 ERA.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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