Late Monday night, the Atlanta Braves announced that they have acquired outfielder Reed Johnson, pitcher Paul Maholm and cash from the Chicago Cubs for pitchers Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino.
The deal, completed less than a day before the non-waiver trade deadline, ends the Braves' search for a right-handed bench bat and starting pitcher. The Braves still hope to acquire a bullpen arm before the 1 p.m. PST deadline.
In the trade, the Braves get two pieces that will help them contend for a playoff spot down the stretch. Reed Johnson, a 35-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder, was definitely the centerpiece of the trade for Braves general manager Frank Wren. Maholm, 30, wasn't the top-of-the-rotation starter the Braves were seeking, but will help solidify their struggling rotation.
Johnson has enjoyed a very successful season for the Cubs as their fourth outfielder. In 169 at-bats, he's compiled a .302/.355/.444 batting line, including 13-for-29 (.448) as a pinch-hitter. With the Braves, he will primarily be used against left-handers, who he is batting .313 off of since 2003, good for 6th in the MLB (min. 1200 AB). While his defense isn't as good as it used to be (-2.4 UZR/150, -1 DRS), he can play all three outfield positions and is a good option to temporarily spell Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn and Martin Prado. Johnson is a free agent at the end of the season.
Maholm, who was never rumored to be on the Braves' radar, is one of the hottest pitchers in the MLB. In his last 10 starts, he is 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA, including 45 strikeouts and 14 walks in 60.1 innings pitched. Overall, he has a 3.74 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 0.9 HR/9, 2.5 BB/9 and 49.9 percent ground ball rate in 120.1 innings pitched. Since 2006, he ranks 17th among MLB pitchers with a 0.84 HR/9 (min. 1000 IP). Maholm has posted four consecutive seasons of 2.0 WAR or greater, and is on pace for a fifth. His contract includes a $6.5 million club option for 2013, including a $500,000 buyout. He will take the rotation spot of the struggling Jair Jurrjens.
Vizcaino, 21, entered the season as the Braves' third-best prospect according to MLB.com, and the 40th best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America. He has missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery, but had a 4.67 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in 17.1 relief innings last season. He is viewed as a dominant back-end-of-the-bullpen reliever with the potential to start. The success of four members of the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats, Gus Schlosser, Aaron Northcraft, J.R. Graham and Cody Martin, made Vizcaino expendable.
Chapman, 25, was not ranked among the Braves' best prospects heading into the season, but was on their 40-man roster. He has a 3.52 ERA with a 10.1 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 53.2 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett. He is viewed as a potential back-end reliever.
Johnson will join the Braves in Atlanta tomorrow, while Maholm will join the team on Tuesday.