Braves seeking veteran rotation presence at Meetings
Wren to continue to gauge likelihood of trading Uggla; bench, 'pen depth also on list
ATLANTA -- One year after making a flurry of offseason moves, highlighted by the acquisitions of the Upton brothers, the Braves have remained quiet through the early stages of this year's Hot Stove season.
Most of the roster-related interest involving the Braves over the past month has focused on the free-agent departures of Brian McCann, who agreed to a five-year deal with the Yankees, and Tim Hudson, who signed a two-year contract with the Giants.
McCann's exit was expected long before this past season began. As for Hudson, the earliest days of this offseason created strong reason to believe Atlanta's interest in keeping him would not be significant enough to trump the offers made by other clubs.
So with the Winter Meetings set to begin next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., general manager Frank Wren still finds himself attempting to satisfy the same roster needs he had when plans for the 2014 season began developing in October.
As the next few weeks and months elapse, Wren will gain a better sense about the likelihood of trading Dan Uggla. At the same time, he will continue his attempt to fill his young starting rotation with a proven veteran, who would be capable of providing the leadership and consistency the Braves would have expected from Hudson had he remained in Atlanta.
"You have the initial early hit list with guys that you think are the perfect fits for your puzzle," Wren said. "It doesn't always work out. But there are 29 other clubs that could see them as perfect fits as well. When you go into the marketplace, sometimes you get what you are looking for and sometimes you don't. But we continue to have a number of guys we continue to like."
Initially, there was some thought that the Braves might be among the teams that would attempt to land the Rays' David Price with a trade. But with a limited supply of quality starting pitchers available on the free-agent market, the cost of acquiring Price would likely be too high for Wren, who has said he does not plan to mortgage his club's future.
With this in mind, Atlanta will continue to monitor the possibility that Jeff Samardzija or Kyle Lohse would be available via trade. Given that he has served as a starting pitcher for just two full seasons at the Major League level, Samardzija might not fit exactly what the Braves are seeking. But if the Cubs are willing to move the 28-year-old right-hander, there will likely be a number of clubs willing to gamble on his tremendous potential.
If the Brewers are willing to trade him, Lohse seems like a much better fit for the Braves. The 35-year-old right-hander has compiled a 3.19 ERA in the 95 starts he has combined to make for Milwaukee and St. Louis over the past three years.
Sources closely associated with the Brewers have said Lohse had no problem serving as a valuable clubhouse leader after he joined their club just before the start of Spring Training this year.
Now that it appears his days with the A's are now officially complete, Bartolo Colon could draw some interest from the Braves. Colon has resurrected his career while producing a 2.99 ERA in the 54 starts he has made for Oakland over the past two seasons. But there will still be definite concerns about the cost of signing the 40-year-old right-hander.
Along with attempting to add a veteran presence to its rotation, Atlanta could also attempt to fortify its bench and bullpen depth. But Wren and his staff will place their primary focus on landing a starting pitcher who can make a short-term impact without blocking the path of talented prospects like Lucas Sims, J.R. Graham, Jason Hursh and Mauricio Cabrera.
Along with attempting to add a player or two, the Braves have also spent the past few weeks preparing to account for their heavy and talented arbitration class. Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Mike Minor are all going to receive significant raises as first-time arbitration-eligible players. Kris Medlen, Chris Johnson and Jason Heyward are also going to gain a nice salary bump as they get to benefit from this process for a second time.
As the Braves make plans for the upcoming season, they have pretty accurate estimates of what each of their arbitration-eligible players will receive next year. The only question is whether there will be an attempt to sign any of these players to a multiyear contract that would buy out some of the player's arbitration-eligible years.
Much of the interest involving these potential multiyear contracts centers around the futures of Freeman and Heyward. But there have not been any formal discussions since the Braves briefly spoke with Heyward about this possibility back in March.
Accounting for all of the projected arbitration figures, Atlanta will likely have anywhere from $10 million to $15 million to spend this offseason. This figure could increase if a team is willing to trade for Uggla and assume a portion of the $26 million he is owed over the next two seasons.
But early indications have simply given more reason to believe it will be hard to find a suitor for Uggla, who has batted .201 with 41 home runs and a .704 OPS over the past two seasons. The Braves can only hope interest could grow once the second-base market shrinks after Robinson Cano and Omar Infante find teams.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.