Braves still evaluating remaining needs
With the acquisition of Dan Uggla, the Braves gained the powerful right-handed bat that they were seeking to place in the middle of the lineup. Now as Frank Wren constructs his Christmas wish list, he might want to request the acquisition of a creative accountant.
The Braves didn’t enter this offseason with a lot of financial flexibility and they obviously now have even less. With Uggla set to make around $10 million as an arb.-eligible player, the Braves essentially took on about $7 million payroll with last week’s trade with the Marlins (Infante $2.5 million and Dunn $450,000).
Looking at the projected 25-man roster, the Braves could benefit from adding a veteran reliever and improving their depth in both the infield and outfield. With Diory Hernandez standing as the most likely candidate to begin the season as a utility infielder who can play shortstop, there would certainly be reason to believe this could be a priority.
But before strengthening his outfield or infield depth, Wren may look to ensure he has enough money to provide Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters the influence of somebody who has previously closed in the Majors.
Somebody like J.J. Putz would fit the description of what Wren is seeking in this role. But Putz, who is drawing interest from the D-backs, could prove to be too expensive for the Braves who have these multiple roster needs and somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million left to spend.
Wren might find some more financial breathing room if Kenshin Kawakami suddenly reveals that he is willing to return to his native land and pitch for one of the Japanese professional clubs that have said they are willing to eat a portion of the $6.67 million the Braves still owe him next year.
Before opening myself up to be criticized by those who believe I have bashed Kawakami while writing about this in the past, let’s remember that he’s not the one who offered himself the three-year, $23 million contract that he agreed upon before the start of the 2009 season.
Nor has he had a chance to control the limited run support he’s received while going 8-20 with a 4.30 ERA in 41 career starts at the Major League level.
Still with this being said, it’s clear that Kawakami’s days of pitching for the Braves are complete. At the same time, it’s become apparent that there aren’t too many Major League clubs currently showing strong interest in him.
Even with the possibility that he might spend this entire season in the Minors, Kawakami has indicated he wants to remain in the United States. If he returns to his native Japan, he feels he would erase his final opportunity to prove that he can be successful in the U.S.
Kawakami didn’t mind continuing to enjoy the U.S. lifestyle when the Braves optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett last August. The ballpark was just a short drive from the suburban Atlanta mansion (formerly resided in by rapper Lil’ Bow Wow) that he has rented the past two summers.
I’m going to have to guess he won’t find these same luxuries in Pearl, Mississippi. Now that he might have realized the Braves are more than willing to keep him on the Double-A Mississippi roster, he might have to at least start reconsidering the possibility of pitching for one of those Japanese clubs that have shown interest.
There really shouldn’t be any Braves-related surprises Tuesday when all
Major League clubs must decide whether to make arbitration offers to
their free agents. This deadline really only applies to first baseman Derrek Lee, who is their only free agent who was ranked a Type A or Type B free agent by the Elias Sports Bureau.
While the Braves would certainly like to gain the draft pick compensation they would gain courtesy of Lee’s status as a Type A free agent, they certainly aren’t in position to deal with the consequences of him accepting the offer to gain a one-year deal worth at least $13 million.