December 2010

Braves make Sherrill signing official

The Braves were able to announce Friday morning that George Sherrill is indeed the newest member of their bullpen.  

Sherrill and the Braves agreed to terms of a one-year, $1.2 million contract Wednesday.  The club couldn’t officially announce the deal until the 33-year-old left-handed reliever completed his physical. 

After enjoying the two finest seasons of his career in 2008 and ’09, Sherrill struggled this past summer —  posting a 6.69 ERA in 65 appearances with the Dodgers.   Most of his struggles came courtesy of right-handed hitters, who compiled a .427 batting average and .516 on-base percentage against him.

Sherrill limited left-handed hitters to a .192 batting average (14-for-73) and .286 on-base percentage.  He will likely team with Eric O’Flaherty to serve as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’s primary left-handed specialists. 

“He’s a very effective guy against lefties,” Wren said. “We also felt like he made great strides in the second half of (the 2010 season).” 

Braves nearing deal with Sherrill

The Braves and George Sherrill have agreed to the terms of a one-year, $1.2 million contract.  The signing will not be made official until the veteran left-handed reliever undergoes a physical exam on Thursday or Friday.

While not able to confirm the agreement, Braves general manager Frank Wren was willing to explain why he was excited about the possibility of Sherrill serving as the left-handed specialist he wanted to add to his bullpen mix.

While posting a 6.69 ERA in 65 appearances with the Dodgers this year, Sherrill limited left-handed hitters to a .192 batting average (14-for-73) and .286 on-base percentage.  Right-handed hitters damaged him with a .427 batting average and .516 on-base percentage.  

“He’s a very effective guy against lefties,” Wren said. “We also felt like he made great strides in the second half of (the 2010 season).” 

With Jonny Venters set to serve as the primary setup man and occasional closer, the Braves will use Sherrill and Eric O’Flaherty as their primary left-handed specialists in the middle innings. 

“He’s got the good breaking ball,” Wren said. “He’s one of those guys that goes right after them.  He knows how to get guys out.”  

Sherrill earned All-Star status on the way to notching a career-high 31 saves with the Orioles in 2008 and posted a 1.70 ERA in the 72 appearance he combined to make with the Orioles and Dodgers in 2009.  

Braves and Brewers still attempting to match pieces

The Braves and Brewers have continued to attempt to find the matching pieces to swap a young pitcher for an outfielder.  But late Wednesday morning, they both seemed reluctant to move the piece the other club was seeking. 

There’s no doubt that the Braves have interest in Lorenzo Cain, a 24-year-old center fielder from Valdosta, Ga. But they weren’t willing to acquire at the expense of losing Mike Minor, the 2009 first-round selection that the Brewers requested in exchange. 

The Brewers seem more willing to move Carlos Gomez, a 25-year outfielder who previously played for the Mets and Twins.  Likewise, the Braves seem much more interested in moving any of their young pitching prospects not named Minor, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino. 

Speaking of Arodys Vizcaino, a scout said that he saw him touch 96 during an Instructional League game a couple months ago.  That’s very encouraging considering it appeared the 20-year-old right-hander’s elbow was ailing to the point that it appeared he would eventually need to undergo Tommy John surgery this past summer.

Braves general manager Frank Wren has started making inquiries about some left-handed relievers.  But if a refreshed Jose Ortegano continues to pitch like he has recently in Venezuela, he might find himself as a candidate to join Eric O’Flaherty as a situational left-hander.

Ortegano struggled after arriving in Spring Training this past year with a lot of hype.  When his struggles continued into the regular season, the Braves gained the belief that he was simply overworked during last year’s Venezuela Winter League and the Caribbean World Series.

Through his first three appearances (one start) this year, Ortegano has worked 10 1/3 innings, recorded 13 strikeouts, surrendered seven hits and allowed two earned runs. 

Rule 5 outlook: Because he was optioned to Double-A Mississippi a couple weeks ago, Kenshin Kawakami will be eligible for selection in both the Major League and Minor League phases of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.

But there’s essentially no reason to believe he will be selected.  The selecting team would be responsible for all of the $6.67 million he is owed this year. 

There is a chance the Braves could lose right-handed pitcher Michael Broadway or left-handed pitcher Scott Diamond in the Rule 5 Draft.

Diamond combined to go 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 27 starts with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this past summer. He was 4-1 with a 3.36 ERA in his 10 starts with Gwinnett.

Broadway posted a 4.39 ERA and recorded 57 strikeouts in the 53 1/3 innings he combined to throw for Mississippi and Gwinnett this year. 

Impressed by Hurdle:  After it was announced that he had agreed to a two-year deal with the Pirates late Tuesday night, Matt Diaz said that he was really impressed while meeting Monday night with new Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. 

Less than one week after being non-tendered, the former Braves outfielder was also comforted with the reality that he will receive $4.25 million over the next two years.  

   
  
 

 

Diaz signs two-year deal with Pirates

Former Brave Matt Diaz has landed a two-year deal with the Pirates.  Financial terms were unknown. 

The Phillies, D-Backs and Dodgers were among the many teams who showed strong interest in Diaz, who ultimately chose to go with the opportunity to pursue the regular role the Pirates have projected for him. 

Diaz batted .305 with an .815 OPS during his five-season stint in Atlanta. He has hit .335 and produced a .533 slugging percentage in his career against left-handed pitchers.

Looking ahead to Day 2

It has been encouraging to see the amount of interest Matt Diaz has garnered from clubs looking for a right-handed.  The Phillies and Pirates appear to be among the many interested clubs.  But early indication is that Mississippi State has made the most lucrative offer. 

All joking aside, Diaz could easily land a job before this week ends and it appears he would like to sign with a club located on the East Coast.

Things currently seem quiet on the Braves front and it still wouldn’t be surprising if they don’t make a move before this year’s Winter Meetings conclude Thursday.

With this being said, it’s never safe to make assumptions when the Hot Stove season is simmering.  Less than twenty-four hours before the Braves acquired Dan Uggla, many still assumed the Marlins wouldn’t be willing to trade him to a division rival, especially one skippered by the guy they had fired a few months earlier. 

There might be another Lorenzo Cain-type angle that arises today.  My guess is the Brewers probably aren’t going to deal him unless they get somebody like Jair Jurrjens or Zack Greinke in return.  This is something the Braves certainly wouldn’t be willing to do.

Bobby Cox returned to Atlanta last night to be with a family member who became ill.  He was really looking forward to being present for this morning’s ceremony, during which Major League Baseball will honor his career and those completed by Joe Torre, Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston.

Braves showing interest in Cain

The Braves are among the teams showing interest in trading for Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain.  They are also very capable of providing the Brewers with the talented young pitching prospects they’re seeking in exchange for Cain. 

Cain hit .306 with a .763 OPS and seven stolen bases in 43 games with Milwaukee this past summer.  The 24-year-old outfielder has hit .291 with a .366 on-base percentage during a six-year Minor League career. 

If the Braves acquired Cain, he would provide immediate insurance.  He could serve as the everyday center fielder in the event that Nate McLouth’s struggles extend into the upcoming season.

The Braves also need to guard against the possibility that Chipper Jones’ knee proves problematic enough that Martin Prado spends a lot of time at third base.  If this happens, they could play Cain in center and have McLouth and Joe Mather share left field.

It appears the Braves and Brewers have talked.  But it doesn’t look like they are aggressively working toward completing this deal at this time.   

Welcome to the Winter Meetings

Welcome to Lake Buena Vista, Fla. where the Braves pitchers and catchers have reported to manager Fredi Gonzalez’s first Spring Training.   Sorry, that will actually be the intro to my Feb. 14 blog entry.  Just wanted to prove that there are times when I don’t procrastinate. 

Truth be told, the temperatures here on Disney’s grounds are quite colder than they are when we gather here during Spring Training.  But with Jayson Werth going to the Nats, the Red Sox securing Adrian Gonzalez and the Brewers landing Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays, it’s obvious the Hot Stove is simmering at the start of these Winter Meetings.

While some of you Braves fans are still trying to formulate trades that you think will prove fruitful this summer, I really don’t think Frank Wren is going to do a whole lot of roster tampering over the next few days.

In fact, I won’t be surprised if his current projected roster will be any different than the projected roster he will envision entering Spring Training. 

Obviously Wren still wants to move Kenshin Kawakami.  This is a move he would have liked to complete more than a month ago.  But with Kawakami not wanting to return to Japan, the Braves are limited to finding another Major League organization to show some interest in him.

The talent exchanged in any trade involving Kawakami won’t be as important as the amount of money the other organization is willing to offer the Braves to offset a portion of the $6.67 million owed to Kawakami. 

Some Japanese clubs were willing to offer in the neighborhood of $3 million.  It seems pretty safe to assume none of the Major League clubs are going to be offering anything more than $1-2 million.

If Kawakami remains in their organization, the Braves seem committed to sending him to Pearl, Mississippi to begin the 2011 season at the Double-A level.

I’m sure there are plenty of nice homes in Pearl.  But I’m going to have to guess Kawakami won’t find the same luxuries that existed when he spent the past couple of years living in Lil’ Bow-Wow’s former Gwinnett County mansion in suburban Atlanta. 

Still it should once again be noted that Kawakami has every right to remain in the United States and pitch anywhere he wants for at least one more year.  He didn’t exactly offer himself the three-year, $23 million contract that was signed before the start of the 2009 season. 

Along with attempting to move Kawakami, the Braves will spend the next couple of days and weeks looking to fill some minor roles.  If possible they would like to add a left-handed reliever or utility player who could play both the infield and outfield. 

But it doesn’t appear Wren sees these potential acquisitions as necessities.  He said he would be comfortable heading into the season with Diory Hernandez as Alex Gonzalez’s primary backup.  Hernandez has hit .337 with an .850 OPS in 23 games in the Dominican Winter League this year.

 

Braves acquire Linebrink from White Sox

The Braves have acquired veteran right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink and $3.5 million (UPDATED)from the White Sox in exchange for right-handed pitcher Kyle Cofield.
 
Linebrink provides the Braves the veteran experience they were hoping to place around young relievers Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters.  The 34-year-old right-hander  has compiled a 3.50 ERA in 543 career appearances, primarily as a middle reliever and setup man.
 
While pitching for the Padres from 2003 through midway through the 2007 season, Linebrink proved to be one of the National League’s most effective relievers.    He posted a 2.73 ERA in the 306 appearances he made during that span. 

Linebrink went 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA and allowed a .262 batting average in 52 appearances for the White Sox last year.  The money received by the Braves will offset a portion of the  $5.5 million the veteran reliever is owed in 2011.   

Considered a middle-tier prospect, Coffield went 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 18 appearances (10 starts) for Double-A Mississippi this past summer.    The 23-year-old right-handed reliever was selected by the Braves in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. 

Hinske will return to Braves for 2011 season

Eric Hinske delivered a number of timely hits for the Braves last summer and he has now proven that he has the ability to come through in the clutch during the winter months. 

About six hours after the “LeBron returns to Cleveland” storyline had become nauseating, Braves fans were given reason to distance themselves from the basketball world and focus on Hinske’s return.

Hinske might not have received the two-year deal he was seeking.  But the Braves appeased him enough with a one-year contract that includes an option for the 2012 season.

“It’s a perfect fit,” Braves veteran catcher Brian McCann said.  “There
are a lot of guys who are going to be excited to hear about this.” 

Hinske hit .256 with 11 homers  and a .793 OPS in the 320 plate appearances he compiled in 131 games with the Braves last year.
  
With Martin Prado targeted to serve as the primary left fielder, Hinske will likely be primarily utilized as a left-handed pinch-hitter, who will see some time in left field and also serve as insurance in the event that Freddie Freeman struggles during his early days at the Major League level.

The Braves still haven’t announced their decisions leading into tonight’s deadline for arbitration-eligible players.  But there still isn’t any reason to believe that they plan to tender Matt Diaz a contract.

I still think Diaz will wind up with his good friend Charlie Manuel in Philadelphia.   

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