Wren heading to Indy with a shorter shopping list

Now that we know that Tiger Woods wasn’t slipping out in the middle of the night to take advantage of one of last week’s door-buster sales, it’s time to focus on the remaining shopping list that Braves general manager Frank Wren will take to next week’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.
  
Would it have been more appropriate to refer to them as window-busting sales?

Regardless, it’s safe to say Wren certainly came out swinging during the early stages of this offseason.  While bidding adieu to a pair of Type A free agent relievers (Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano) who could net him four picks in next year’s Draft, Wren grabbed a pair of Type A free agent relievers (Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito) while losing just one draft pick.   

Saito would have been labeled a Type A free agent had the Red Sox not dropped them from their 40-man roster in October.  This was simply a procedural move that provided them the opportunity to pursue the Japanese right-hander at a cost cheaper than the option (worth at least $6 million) that was in his contract.

Wren certainly took a small risk by offering arbitration to both Gonzalez and Soriano when he had a good sense that in the next 48 hours he would sign both Saito and Wagner.  But it was a calculated one primarily based on the fact that Gonzalez and Soriano now arguably stand as the two best relief options on a free-agent market that grew thinner this week when the Braves reconstructed the back-end of their bullpen. 

There’s very little reason to believe Gonzalez would align himself with Scott Boras and then opt to take the one-year contract that would come via accepting the arbitration offer.  He’s going to get some of the same attractive multi-year deals that will be offered to Soriano, whose health history provides even more reason for him to find the security provided by a multi-year offer.  

Soriano and Gonzalez have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday to accept these arbitration offers.  It’s hard to imagine them doing this and ignoring the opportunity to field the offers that will be made by those teams that may have seen their wish lists shortened this week by the signings of Wagner and Saito. 

With his bullpen needs filled, Wren will head to Indianapolis with the opportunity to focus his attention on finding at least one bat and a suitor that is willing to deal for either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. 

The Braves still seem hopeful that they’ll be able to move Lowe instead of Vazquez.  My feeling has been that John Lackey, the top starter available on this year’s free-agent market, will sign before the Braves are able to move one of these two hurlers. 

But Wren doesn’t believe this is necessarily true.   

“I think teams have to have some sense of what the market is,” Wren said. “It’s the unknown that makes it difficult for clubs.  The top guy doesn’t necessarily have to sign.  But the top guy has to have a market established.  That will obviously create some players and some non-players.” 

In other words, during next week’s meetings, when we start hearing what clubs are offering Lackey, we may gain a better sense about which teams will prove to be the most likely suitors for Lowe and Vazquez.

Whether the Braves deal Vazquez, who is set to make $11.5 million in the final year of his contract, or Lowe, who is owed $15 million during each of the next three seasons, they will still seemingly have a similar amount of fund to fill their offensive needs. 

If they are able to trade Lowe, it still seems like they will have to eat somewhere between $1-2 million per year.   Thus their potential cost savings made by dealing either of these two hurlers may be only differ by this same range.  

As he evaluates who will play first base and fill his final outfield void, Wren has his sights set on finding a right-handed bat.  Marlon Byrd’s agent, Seth Levinson, said earlier this week that the Braves have “strong interest” in his client. 

But it seems like Byrd, who hit 14 of his career-high 20 homers inside Texas’ offensively-friendly ballpark this year, stands as just one of many candidates that Braves are evaluating.   
Some of the Braves players are lobbying for the club to bring Mark DeRosa back.  DeRosa would certainly prove valuable in the fact that he could play a number of different positions and add some power potential to the roster. 

It’s believed that DeRosa would be willing to take a “hometown discount” from the Braves.  But it might take some time before his view of a discount corresponds with what the Braves are willing to offer.  

As the next week progresses, we’ll likely learn more about the interest being shown to these players and other free-agents like Jermaine Dye, Xavier Nady and Mike Cameron.  In addition, Wren has made it known that he could opt to fill his offensive needs via trade.

“Right now, there are a lot of different possibilities,” Wren said.
 
Odds and ends:  Don’t forget that you can help Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren  and Ernie Johnson, Sr. move one step closer to the Hall of Fame by voting for this year’s Ford C. Frick Award.  Click here for the ballot.
 
You may have noticed that Wagner will wear the No. 13 jersey that was adorned by Nate McLouth last year.  Wagner said that he knows he may have to provide McLouth a portion of his new $7 million contract to show appreciation for the opportunity to continue wearing this number that he has sported dating back to his childhood days in Virginia. 
 
Wagner said the number has gained more sentimental value since his now-deceased grandfather provided him a medal that was engraved with the No. 13.   The medal was one of the ID pieces that his grandfather wore while working in the coal mines.
 
Tim Hudson invited Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen to join him for last week’s Iron Bowl in Auburn, Ala.  As a sign of appreciation the two comical hurlers arrived on Hudson’s former campus and asked where they might be able to buy some Alabama gear.  

13 Comments

DOB:

What’s your take on Marlon Byrd? Do his Home/Away splits in Texas trouble you?

I knew Hanson and Medlen had a great head on their shoulders. Roll Tide!

We love Tim Hudson as well even if he did go to Auburn.

Whatever happened to Ryan Church? At the time of the swap, Francouer for Church, it was described as even up. Now it seems like he’s gone, or at least not being considered in the Braves’ plans.

mark,
would the braves consider derosa for 1st base and sign byrd or cameron? he would be a perfect fit in my opinion because of his versatility and chipper’s potential for injury. Love the blog, keep up the good work.

Church is arbitration eligible and will be making something like 3 to 3.5 million. Way too much for what he provides.

Church wasn’t offered arbitration(deadline passed). Church was never an equal to Francouer(except in the minds of some poorly advised bloggers). He was traded so that the Braves management could try to escape some of their guilt for ruining another big bat. He was traded to a division rival and will likely haunt us for years.

“He was traded so that the Braves management could try to escape some of their guilt for ruining another big bat. He was traded to a division rival and will likely haunt us for years.”

Stating that the Braves “ruined” Francoeur’s bat is a statement that would be pretty tough to prove. If anything, it’s likely that Francoeur’s struggles were a result of him putting too much pressure on himself to impress the hometown fans. Also, despite his initial success, it never seemed like he made the adjustments necessary to account for the league learning how to pitch to him. And whether or not he comes back to haunt us, the fact remains that the Braves are a better team without him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of his, and I wish him nothing but the best. But the numbers clearly show that during his tenure with the Braves from 2008-09, he was one of the worst hitters in major league baseball, and that he showed no real signs of being able to break out of that trend. If the Braves didn’t unload him during the season, then they certainly would have cut him loose this offseason. It’s unfortunate that it had to be to the Mets. But clearly, the Braves played better baseball without someone who was throwing away so many of his plate appearances. I know I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, but you can’t entirely fault Braves management for moving someone that was holding the team down.

So Mark, what number WILL Nate McLouth wear? I know it can’t be 14, cuz of Martin, but is 12 available? Or will he completely change? Interesting, I hadn’t thought about that even though I saw Billy’s “meet the press”. I think the Braves should try and just dump Lowe’s contract on somebody else, then use the approximate 11-15 million we will hav available to go after DeRosa. He could be an all around guy. Another guy who came into my head was that instead of trying to go after LaRoche, what about signing Orlando Hudson, then moving Martin over to first permanently? I don’t know, what do you guys think?

i think if we get derosa, we put him at second and martin at first

Marlon Byrd was drafted in ’99. He’s only had two seasons when he’s hit over 20 homers in a single season. That’s for the Majors AND the Minors combined. Doesn’t sound like the power hitter type bat that I’d want if I was Wren.

billreef,You are wrong once more, but not to fear, the wise and egotistical “Jurrjens4NLCY” is here to steer you right. The deadline for Kelly Johnson and Ryan Church is Dec 12.

He’s right, you know. This past deadline was for arbitration-eligible FREE AGENTS. Church and Johnson are both still under contract, unless the Braves decide to non-tender(meaning, they won’t pay their raise in salary, so they will let other teams sign them for that money).

I hated the Church trade from the get-go. I am a huge Francoeur fan, even while he’s now with the Mets. No doubt Frenchy needed a chage of scenery, but we should have at least got someone who could actually hit the ball. Church’s best year resembled slightly better than that of Francoeur’s worst, and the fact that he hit nothing with us and is due for about a $500k rise in salary makes him useless.

I would also hate to see us get Marlon Byrd. The guy had a decent year in a wayyy pitcher friendly stadium. I say opening day roster needs to be:

McLouth – CF
Prado – 2B
Jones – 3B
McCann – C
LaRoche – 1B
Escobar – SS
Diaz – LF
Schafer – RF
Vazquez/Hudson/Jurrjens/Hanson/Kawakami – P

Our bench needs to be:
Infante – 2B/SS/3B/LF/CF/
Conrad – 2B/3B
Ross – C
Canizares – 1B
Blanco – LF/CF/RF

Bullpen:
Medlen – LR/Spot Start
O’Flaherty – Lefty specialist/7th inning
Logan – Middle relief/Lefty specialist
Proctor – Middle relief
Moylan – 7th inning/ground ball specialist
Saito – Setup man/Spot closer
Wagner – closer

I think Lowe needs to be traded, along with Freddie Freeman to spice up the deal. We could eat $15 million of Lowe’s contract(deferred over his 3 remaining years at $5 million a year) and use the money to resign LaRoche to a 3 year deal, and use the remaining payroll and Lowe money to extend Vazquez for 3 years. Freeman WILL be a good player, in time. We could posses the best defensive first-baseman in the league and a more than legitimate .280/25-30/85-100 bat. My guess is, LaRoche would be willing to accept about $7-7.5 million a year from Atlanta if we offered him a 3 year deal, and Vazquez has made it know he would probably offer the Braves a discount if he had the luxury of years on his contract.

With this team, I have no doubt we could win a World Series in the near future, especially with the all our core players (Jones, Hudson, LaRoche, Vazquez, Jurrjens, Hanson, McCann) under contract for at least 3 more years.

I stand corrected by the mighty JJ. But seriously, does ANYONE believe we are gonna offer Church Arb? That would be as dumb as the deal that brought him here. Can you imagine a full season more with Church with Terry Pendleton desperately trying to correct his stroke. We might as well get Greg Norton back and we could make Johnson our starting 2B again. Now if we could just figure a way to get Nate McDisappointing out of CF. Maybe we could just plug in the guy won the job out of spring training last year. I mean how did everyone sour on Shafer? Because he tried to play through a serious injury for the benefit of the team. Seems like we could use more not less of that in our dugout. You know, like Garret and Chipper who take the day off when their hung over.

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