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.
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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.