Winter Meetings Shopping list…

Starting pitching, plain and simple

ajburnett.jpgThe ideal trade for Jake Peavy has become a harder than originally expected task. Padres GM Kevin Towers practically wrote the book on how not to trade what should be one of the most valuable commodities by keeping virtually every step of these negotiations front and center in the press. The talks may rekindle, but the Braves and GM Frank Wren will have the option of pursuing A.J. Burnett and other free agent hurlers. Wren will certainly look to provide at least two hurlers who can provide some innings, perhaps the White Sox Javier Vasquez could fit that bill.

Burnett, who turns 32 before the season, is clearly the Braves first choice as an ace. As Braves.com’s Mark Bowman pointed out last week, Burnett’s agent said a fifth year was not necessarily the make or break point. An 18-game winner a year ago, he also fills the role of ace starter which Atlanta is seeking this winter. Expect the Braves to make a big offer to acquire his services.

Atlanta is also faced with decisions on a trio of starters from last season. Tom Glavine and John Smoltz each have to determine their plans on pitching after testing their surgically repaired arms. I have my doubts that Glavine will decide to play on, while Smoltz has proven that you just can’t count him out. If it comes down to being a starter or reliever though, I don’t expect to see Smoltz putting on the uniform to serve as a set-up man next season. Then there is Mike Hampton, who showed he something left to offer after two and a half seasons of injuries. Jerry Crasnick over at ESPN noted that Hampton and his agent are seeking a one-year deal to re-establish his value in the market moving forward. Would the years spent on the sidelines lead him back to Atlanta to do so?

Power hitting left fielder

Griffey_blog.jpgDepending on how everything shakes out with some of the other pursuits this winter, the Braves seem to be looking for a righty hitting middle of the line-up bat to stick in left this season. There are a range of options that starts with free agent Pat Burrell (whom the Braves will almost certainly pass on for his defensive liability and history of foot problems) and including the rumored to be available Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

If you open the running to include left-handed hitters then you start to get some interesting names. Raul Ibanez, who is not interested in becoming the full-time DH for Seattle, and Ken Griffey Jr. top my list of candidates. Ibanez is a consistent performer (averaging 113 RBI over the past three seasons) who hasn’t exactly been in a hitter’s paradise in Safeco Field.

Age and injury combine to temper the expectations from Griffey, who combined to hit .249 with 18 homers and 73 RBI in 143 games with the Reds and White Sox last season. Still, a short term pact with incentives could be a strong option if other free agent options or trade alternatives become too costly in one form or another.

Bullpen reinforcements

The pen was a sore spot yet again for Atlanta last year. It seems like that theme has run through each of the last three seasons. The Braves do have a set closer at least, with Mike Gonzalez anchoring the ninth innings. Things are somewhat dicey after that though. Rafael Soriano is due a huge pay raise ($6.1 million) as part of the two-year deal he signed before last season and will have to prove he can stay healthy coming off just 14 appearances in 2008. Peter Moylan will be coming back from Tommy John surgery, and much is expected of that duo to solidify the late innings in front of Gonzalez.

Atlanta is interested in bringing back lefty Will Ohman, who struggled late but was one of the most important arms last season. Another lefty will be important, as I’m not sure how waiver claim Eric O’Flaherty fits into those plans, but I’m sure that Wren will seek as many options as possible. Ohman and Blaine Boyer finished near the top of the pack in overall appearances, so the Braves will look to add some reliable depth where possible. If there’s ever a place where some trades will happen, I expect it to be in the relief department. 

Kick the tires on some available shortstops

p1_furcal_ap.jpgFor a team that has a young and multi-talented shortstop already, there have been more than a few rumors out there that the Braves will go back to one of their former shortstops this winter. What started with the potential trade of Yunel Escobar (and several others) for Jake Peavy has turned into the potential homecoming of Rafael Furcal, or perhaps Edgar Renteria. Of course, the Braves may not make it to the table for either one – so consider this simply a cursory examination of the available.

A healthy Furcal would be a boost to the top of the line-up, providing a lead-off hitter that has not been present since his departure three seasons ago. The money and years would have to be right, and with the bad back that cost Furcal much of last season, it is hard to say the Braves will be a major player in this sweepstakes. The American League hasn’t seemed to be the place for Renteria on two occasions now. It was just 2007 when he hit .332 for the Braves, so who’s to say the down season with Detroit spelled the beginning of the end?

With a week’s worth of prep time between now and the Winter Meetings in Vegas, many things could change. Wren could wrap up some of his shopping before he heads to Nevada. The Braves figure to have an interesting off-season either way.

Till next time,

G-Mc

9 Comments

I agree, the first priority should be starting pitching. I don’t know why people are so upset about trading so much for Peavy because the Braves have such a deep system. They would be fine. A.J. Burnett would be the next best option but trading for Peavy would give him added incentive for sign with the Braves. The next move would have to be for Furcal because the outfield bat I don’t think is very important. I say Furcal because Edger Renteria is not going to get it done. He is a great guy but he is over the hill and will not be the same Renteria the Braves had a few years ago. I don’t think an outfield bat is very important because I think Francoeur will bounce back. If he can produce the Braves will have an excellent offense and the outfield won’t be lacking power. If they can get a bat then that is great but it isn’t absolutely needed.
http://hardballblog.mlblogs.com/

We should be going all in for Peavy. That’s the main priority. Then, I would focus on getting Furcal or Renteria if they are still available. I would prefer Furcal, but I’m not going to cry if we don’t get him. Then, We fill 2 holes in one trade with the White Sox by trading some more prospects and a couple of ML Ready players for Vazquez and Dye. They are EXACTLY what we need. Burnett would be a great addition, but I’m not sure how much money we would have left. We can definitely reduce some with all the players leaving, but all the players we would be getting, if all that happen , would make the payroll really high. Don’t resign Glavine. I’m thinking we shouldn’t resign Ohman or Norton ether. The payroll would probably reduce the following year because Chipper won’t have a high salary like he does, but it all depends. We also should try to extend Hudson contract, and maybe even Jurrjens since he is a Boras client.
I think our bullpen is fine. It was just bad last year since Soriano, Moylan, and Gonzalez were injured for most of the season. Smoltz I HOPE will join the ‘Pen. It will be more beneficial for his health, and probably for the team.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Grant, dude, I enjoy your writing. As an individual with a B.A. in English, I tend to appreciate that kind of thing.

To your observations…

Personally, I freakin’ love the idea of bring Griffey to Atlanta. While I don’t necessarily see it happening, I think there is a small possibility. And with the Winter meetings being as unpredictable as they are, that “small possibility” could easily become a big reality, really soon. As for his numbers last year, I’m not sure that really makes a difference. Pitchers still fear Griffey. His presence in the batter’s box will make any pitcher tremble. Left-handed or right-handed, him in the 4th spot right after Chipper and before McCann makes me nervous, and I’m hardly a MLB pitcher. Griffey is still a stud in my book.

Man, I am so sorry for posting that 8 times. It wasn’t showing up, so I just hit the button more than a few times. Just delete em’!

No worries, I always have to refresh the pages after I’m done commenting to make sure it’s posted. Worse things have happened though, ha. I’m in favor of the Griffey to Atlanta possibility, but I’m not sure how much of an option it is internally with the club. This year’s FA class doesn’t exactly thrill me, so I started thinking that a few short term fixes might set the Braves up to spend some money down the road over the next two winters.

Mike Hampton is no longer available. That decreases our options now.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

You’re exactly right, Grant. You make more sense than any other blogger around. Here’s why I read you: you’re reasonable! You’re not a dreamer, although every once in a while, it’s fun. You’re a realist. Braves fans need reality. And reality is telling me that we will get either Peavy or Burnett, not both. Vazquez (sp?) would be a reasonable addition to either Peavy or Burnett. That’s solid. Hardball makes an interesting assertion regarding the notion that we don’t necessarily need to spend too much on an outfield bat with the hopes of Frenchy returning to form. However, we can’t bank on that. So, I love your idea about a short-term fix in either Dye or Griffey. The long term deals can be done later (next few Winters).

I should have a new blog up soon. I’m finishing up research for a dissertation that is due December 12.

Peace, man.

Grant,
Thanks for the visit to my blog, I really appreciate it. In response to your comment (regarding Jason Varitek), I agree… I cannot even imagine him in another uniform, I recently wrote an entry comparing him to Carlton Fisk, and explained why he should still stay. The whole Peavy thing is getting crazy, at this rate, he could end up staying the San Diego, but now the Cubs are in on him?? Even though Pinella said he didn’t really want him… they’re looking for a third team… it’s all very confusing.
Burnett would be great for you guys, I can see him excelling in Atlanta, and bringing you guys success. Maybe a four year contract with a fifth buyout option would be better?
As for power hitting left fielders, there’s always Manny Ramirez, but I wouldn’t offer him a long contract, if he stops enjoying where he’s at, he’ll stop trying :(.
I enjoyed reading your blog a lot! I hope to stop by the Braves Spring Training Facility sometime next spring.
-Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

Hey Grant,
I really like the idea of bringing Burnett to Atlanta, I just hope Burnett likes the idea as much as I do. He would cost us a draft pick, but that’s hardly a cost compared to what Peavy would cost. Our first round pick is protected so the Blue Jays would only get a 2nd round pick. Bummer about Hampton going to the Astros, but I think some good could come from it in the form if Randy Wolf and/or Ty Wigginton. I wrote a bit about it earlier today.
http://www.braveslaunchpad.com/

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