Trade talks could soon heat up for the Braves
There hasn’t been a lot of buzz surrounding the Braves during the early portion of this Hot Stove Season. But there’s a sense that things might heat up after Frank Wren assembles with his peers at the general manager meetings in Orlando early next week.
While the Braves might eventually land a veteran reliever or possibly another starting pitcher on the free-agent market, their primary focus is to find at least one outfielder. With anywhere from $10-15 million to spend, it appears they’ll most likely fill this need via the trade market.
The Braves have seemingly shown some interest in free agent outfielder Pat Burrell, who rejuvenated his career while helping the Giants win the World Series. But early indications are that the veteran, defensively-challenged outfielder might prove to be too expensive.
Thus it appears more likely that the Braves will find themselves taking a gamble on an outfielder available via trade. The Dodgers don’t seem interested in trading Matt Kemp and the Braves don’t seem too interested in even contemplating the idea of taking a chance on B.J. Upton.
There’s a chance that Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox) or Colby Rasmus could be acquired for the right price. But the Braves seem intent on finding a right-handed outfielder to fill their already left-handed heavy lineup.
Thus it seems more likely that they would pursue somebody like Josh Willingham from the Nationals or maybe a potential leadoff hitter like Rajai Davis from the A’s.
Davis produced a mediocre .320 on-base percentage while hitting .284 and recording 50 stolen bases this past year. Willingham’s injury woes increased this past summer when he was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery in August to repair meniscus in his left knee.
With limited funds, the Braves are likely going to have to acquire an outfielder who will be viewed as “having some warts.” But as the Giants proved this past year, you can benefit from taking chances on guys like Burrell and Aubrey Huff when you have a solid pitching staff.
The Braves will have a better idea of how much money they can spend once they determine where Kenshin Kawakami will be pitching next year. A month ago, it appeared they had found a Japanese club willing to acquire Kawakami and offset about $3 million of the $6.67 million the Braves owe him in the final year of his contract.
There has sense been some reason to believe that Kawakami would rather continue pitching in the United States. The Yomuri Giants were believed to be one of the clubs interested in the 34-year-old right-hander.
Kawakami has said that he doesn’t like pitching in the Tokyo Dome, which serves as the Giants home. My only response to that is, “Would he rather pitch in Gwinnett County’s Coolray Field?
If they need additional funds to land the outfielder they are seeking or simply need to enhance a trade package, the Braves might opt to trade one of their projected starters for the 2011 season. They won’t deal Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson or Mike Minor. Nor do they seem very excited about the possibility of trading Jair Jurrjens.
Thus we’re back where we were last year, when they were contemplating the idea of trading either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez. But this year, it doesn’t appear they’ll be actively shopping Lowe like they were last year before reaching the point where they had to deal Vazquez to the Yankees.
Having gone 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in his final five regular season starts and then impressing in his two postseason starts, Lowe certainly looks more appealing than he did at this time last year. But the Braves would certainly be hard pressed to deal him without eating at least a portion of the $30 million they owe him over the next two years.
If the Braves end up trading a pitcher, Vazquez will certainly be among the pitchers that they target to fill the rotation void. But there is a belief that the Nationals or Marlins will be willing to offer more to give him a chance to rekindle the success he enjoyed in the NL East in 2009.
Minor League hires: When the Braves announce their Minor League coaching staff within the next couple of days, there will be a couple of familiar names. Former Orioles manager Dave Trembley has reportedly been hired to serve as the Minor League field coordinator.
In addition, Jonathan Schuerholz is expected to be named the manager for the Gulf Coast League Braves. Schuerholz is the son of former Braves GM and current president John Schuerholz.
After playing his college ball at Auburn University, the younger Schuerholz played six seasons in the Braves organization, advancing as far as the Triple-A level. He has spent the past couple seasons serving as the club’s Minor League infield instructor.
This role provided Schuerholz the opportunity to be around the game on a daily basis and spend countless hours interacting with the likes of Triple-A Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage and former Double-A Mississippi Phil Wellman.