December 2012

Braves odds and ends from Day 2 of the Winter Meetings

Braves general manager Frank Wren has been evaluating his internal options in the event that he does not land another outfielder before the start of next season.  But as we progress through this first week of December, this still has to be viewed as Plan B.

There is no doubt that it is good to have options such as keeping Martin Prado in left field and playing Juan Francisco at third base.  But if I had to guess, I’d say that Wren will end up acquiring another outfielder at some point over the next few days or weeks.

As things currently stand, the Braves do not seem too interested in any of the outfielders remaining on the free-agent market.  This could certainly change as contractual demands lessen over the course of the next few weeks.

But for now, the Braves are focusing their attention on trying to find attractive outfielders on the trade market.  In a perfect world, they would have signed B.J. Upton and then signed Denard Span to play left field and serve as their leadoff hitter.  But the Nationals beat them to the punch by trading for Span at the same time that Upton was signing his five-year, $75.25 million contract.

UPDATED GRAPH: One of the players on their wish list is Toronto’s Emilio Bonifacio, who would bring speed, versatility and the ability to hit potentially fill the leadoff spot.  But the Blue Jays were quite high on Bonifacio when they landed him via the 12-man trade with the Marlins three weeks ago.  So he’s certainly not going to come cheap.

Had the Braves landed Span, they would have simply had to find a player or two to fill out their bench. They are expected to continue evaluating the possibility of re-signing Reed Johnson to return as a backup outfielder. At the same time, they could make a bid for a veteran like Mark DeRosa with the hope to replace some of the clubhouse leadership that was lost with the departures of Chipper Jones, Eric Hinske and David Ross.

DeRosa lives in Atlanta and is one of Brian McCann’s closest friends.  There is no doubt that he would like the chance to play for the Braves again.

JUST A PINCH:  By now you’ve heard all about how much Upton appreciated the way the Braves treated him when he met with them at Turner Field on Nov. 15.  At the time, Upton assumed he would end up with the Phillies. But his thoughts quickly turned once general manager Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and former manager Bobby Cox made him feel quite relaxed during this meeting.

A key assist also has to be credit to hitting coach Greg Walker.

As the group sat at a table talking about various items, Walker pulled out his can of smokeless tobacco and offered Upton a dip.   Upton gladly accepted and felt even more at home while sharing a dip with Walker and talking baseball with the rest of the Braves’ brass.

Adding to the significance of the gesture was the fact that Walker was using the same brand of dip that Upton has used over the years. But this proved to be simply coincidental.

“I did my homework, but not that in depth,” Walker said via text.

ODDS and ENDS: The Braves have signed catcher  Matt Pagnozzi to a Minor League contract.  Pagnozzi will be targeted to serve as Atlanta’s backup catcher while Brian McCann misses most of April while recovering from shoulder surgery.   When McCann returns, Pagnozzi will be sent to Triple-A Gwinnett…Closer Craig Kimbrel is planning to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this year.  The rosters will be announced in January.  Kimbrel got married in Atlanta this past weekend.

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