CLEVELAND — Derek Lowe's durability — and price tag — were too much for the Cleveland Indians to resist.
The club acquired the 15-year veteran pitcher from the Atlanta Braves on Monday for a minor leaguer, a low-risk move designed to bolster Cleveland's starting rotation.
The Indians got the 38-year-old Lowe, who has 166 career wins, in exchange for left-hander Chris Jones. As part of the deal, the Indians will only have to pay Lowe $5 million of the $15 million he's scheduled to make in 2012. Lowe signed a four-year $60 million deal as a free agent with Atlanta before the 2009 season.
General manager Chris Antonetti said Lowe immediately assumes a spot in the Indians' starting staff, where he'll join Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Fausto Carmona. Before the deal for Lowe was announced, the Indians picked up Carmona's $7 million option for 2012.
"He's a quality pitcher with durability, pitching 180 innings or more every year since 2002," Antonetti said. "The last time he was on the disabled list was 1995. In addition to his durability, there's some leadership potential. His experience will complement a very young rotation. One of our goals was to improve our starting pitching.
"This goes a long way towards that. Stability is important. Also, he can be a positive influence on young starting pitchers with similar skills."
The Indians contended for most of 2011 before injuries and inexperience dropped them from the AL Central race. And while Lowe has some mileage on his right arm, Cleveland believes he has enough left to keep help next season.
Lowe has pitched in both leagues, as a starter and closer. One of just three pitchers in history with more than 160 wins and 80 saves, Lowe went just 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA in 34 starts last season, his third with Atlanta. His 17 losses led the league.
But with right-hander Carlos Carrasco out for the season following Tommy John surgery, the Indians, who traded top prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to Colorado for Jimenez in July, needed another established starter and made finding one an offseason priority — through trade or free agency.
Atlanta had a surplus of young arms and were looking to move Lowe, a sinkerball pitcher.
Lowe was 0-5 in September for the Braves, and struggled with is mechanics for much of the season. After Atlanta faded down the stretch and missed the postseason, GM Frank Wren said, "It's hard to project him as one of our starters at this point."
However, the Indians have a spot for him and hope he can impact and mentor their young pitchers the way veteran Kevin Millwood did when they signed him in 2005
"We checked with former teammates and believe he can evolve into that type of (mentoring) role," Antonetti said. "He's a guy who loves the game, enjoys talking baseball, likes to help."
The Indians understand there is the risk that a 38-year-old pitcher won't be any better when he turns 39. However, Antonetti is confident Lowe can bounce back from a tough season and he's not concerned about him switching back to the AL after seven seasons in the NL.
"Derek relies a lot upon contact," he said. "He is reliant on his defense, but we are confident that if he pounds the strike zone, gets ground balls and we pick up the ball behind him, he should have a better year."
Lowe is 166-146 with a 3.94 ERA in 356 career starts. In addition to Atlanta, Lowe has pitched with Seattle, Boston and the Los Angeles Dodgers since breaking into the majors in 1997. His 334 games started since 2002 is the most in baseball over the 10-season span.
Jones, 23, went 7-1 with a 3.36 ERA in 43 appearances for Kinston (A).