Results tagged ‘ Winter Meetings ’

Soriano accepts, Gonzalez declines arbitration

Soriano.jpgThe opening day of Winter Meetings activity is winding down, with only one tangible Braves headline.

After weighing his options on the free agent market, reliever Rafael Soriano has chosen to accept the club’s offer of salary arbitration. Meanwhile, Mike Gonzalez decided to decline the Braves offer and test the open market.

I wouldn’t categorize Soriano’s return as “shocking,” but it does set up some interesting story lines to follow. His career year in 2009 will no doubt make the righty desirable to clubs who are searching for a closer. Keep in mind that Soriano will now have to approve any trade that occurs before June 15.

It’s not to say that will keep possible suitors from pursuing Soriano, who registered a career-best 27 saves and averaged over 12 K/9 in a career-high 77 appearances. Rumors linked the Houston Astros as having interest. That would be one possible destination, based on the fact that Houston’s incumbent closer, Jose Valverde, declined their arbitration offer to become a free agent.

Mark Bowman of MLB.com spoke with Braves GM Frank Wren earlier in the day, outlining that any decision to return by either Soriano or Gonzalez would not affect the plans that are in place for Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to anchor the bullpen and serve in the late innings.

Looking at the dollars involved with Soriano, most project him to command a raise that would be somewhere in the $6.5 million to $8 million range through his arbitration hearing. Gonzalez will fetch the Braves compensatory picks when and if he signs elsewhere. Bowman also points out that Wren is committed to meeting the club’s needs regardless of either Soriano’s or Gonzalez’s decision to accept arbitration.

Wren is confident he can move Soriano. Here’s a quote from Bowman’s entry:

“We wouldn’t worry about that holding us back,” Wren said. “We’re going
to go ahead and put our club together. The one thing about good
players is that when you have good players, you can trade them.”

Those needs, as we well know, involve bringing in a first baseman and at least one outfielder, both of whom will be looked upon to provide power and stable run production. Whether it be via the trade or a free agent signing, Wren will continue to seek out the right pieces.

Rumors, rumors and still more rumors…

Most of the trade chatter has the Braves looking to deal Derek Lowe rather than Javier Vazquez. Nothing probative has surfaced on that front as of yet. Lowe provides the most payroll flexibility in a deal, assuming the Braves don’t have have to eat a large chunk of the $45 million remaining over the next three seasons.

It was not a hotbed of talks linked to the Braves and their search for bats. Passing pieces from various sources linked Atlanta’s interest in free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd and perhaps Georgia native Mike Cameron. Included in the linkage, the AJC’s Dave O’Brien took a look at the possible targets at which the Braves could be taking aim.

Good work as always from our friends over at MLBTradeRumors.com. If you want to follow the blow-by-blow of all the daily craziness of the Winter Meetings, there is no better place.

Perhaps tomorrow will offer a big bang on the Braves front. Follow me on Twitter @grantmcauley for sporadic updates on nothing in particular.

Till next time,

G-Mc

Braves stay busy, ink reliever Saito

Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren has wasted little time building a formidable bullpen for 2010. Just one day after signing closer Billy Wagner to a one-year deal, the Braves reached terms for a one-year pact with righty reliever Takashi Saito on Thursday.

The deal carries a guaranteed $3.2 million base salary, while Saito could earn and additional $2.3 million in performance based incentives. The Braves introduced Saito to the media on Thursday afternoon at a press conference at Turner Field.

Saito.jpg“I think we’re very fortunate to get two outstanding relief pitchers in two days, and we haven’t even been to the winter meetings yet,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox.

Pitching for Boston last season, Saito went 3-3 with a pair of saves in 56 outings, striking out 52 and turning in a 2.43 ERA in 55 2/3 innings of work. Opponents hit just .244 against him.

Saito, 39, enjoyed success in the National League with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the first three years of his Major League career beginning in 2006. He was named to the NL All-Star team in 2007, when he went 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 39 saves for the Dodgers.

Over his four-year career, Saito is 15-10 with 83 saves and a a 2.05 ERA in 236 career appearances. The hard-thrower has struck out 297 men over 245 1/3 innings and limited his opponents to a .196 batting average against.

A sprained elbow ligament forced Saito to spend two months on the disabled list in 2008, paving the way for Jonathan Broxton to assume closer’s duties for the Dodgers. The Braves will use Saito to spell Wagner on some nights, giving the club the kind of options that Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano offered last year.

Saito and Wagner will join holdovers Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty and Kris Medlen in the Atlanta bullpen next season. While more relievers will be in camp, it would appear that the major moves in the pen have been made.

Perhaps the most interesting point of Thursday’s press conference came when Cox hinted that a major move that would bolster the Braves offense could be coming sooner than later. Wren declined to comment, saying only, “You never know.”

More to come,

G-Mc

Let the Hot Stove season begin…

With the New York Yankees crowned as baseball’s champion for the 27th
time, it marks the end of the 2009 campaign. Some clubs saw their
postseason aspirations dashed long ago and their attention turned to
the building process by midsummer, but now all 30 clubs will be on the
market to add to the mix for next year and beyond.

The activity
will have its usual highs and lows, but as always there will be plenty
to talk about. Special focus here will be given to the National League
of course, where the Atlanta Braves will look to build on a solid ’09
season by finding the missing pieces to the puzzle.

There is
little doubt in my mind that this past winter and regular season will
be one that represents a turning point for the franchise. John Smoltz,Tom Glavine and Jeff Francoeur were among the departed, while Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Tommy Hanson helped bolster the club’s playoff chances in their first season in Atlanta.

General Manager Frank Wren
has a working list of Atlanta’s needs, one that he will compare when
working the phones and meeting with other team executives as well as
when scouring the free agent market.

First moves of the winter…

As
free agents officially file and the offseason begins, the Braves have
already taken a couple of steps toward the upcoming season. And it all
starts where else, but in the pitching department.

tim_hudson.jpgThe Braves are expected to announce a three-year contract extension with veteran right-hander Tim Hudson at some point in the near future.

Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported that Hudson has passed his physical in his most recent blog entry (which you can read here),
paving the way for deal to be made official. Contract terms are
expected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-years and $27
million.

Hudson, 34, bounced back from Tommy John surgery to make seven starts
for the Braves in September and October, going 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA in
42 1/3 innings of work. Following the return of Hudson, righty Kenshin Kawakami was bumped from the rotation to the bullpen.

Extending
Hudson adds to the team’s core strength, which is once again starting
pitching. It also adds the flexibility of dangling a top-end starter on
the trade market, where the Braves could find a possible match that
would bring the team a much needed corner outfield power bat.

Atlanta also signed recently released righty reliever Scott Proctor,
formerly of the Florida Marlins, to a minor league deal with an
invitation to spring training that will allow him to compete for a
bullpen job. Proctor, 32, was placed on the disabled list in spring
training and was sidelined with Tommy John surgery in May.

Originally
a 5th round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1998 amatuer
draft, Proctor was dealt to the New York Yankees along with Bubba Crosby in exchange for Robin Ventura
on July 31, 2003. He found his way back to the Dodgers exactly four
years to the day later, heading to L.A. as former Brave Wilson Betemit was shipped to the Bronx in 2007.

The
righty proved to be very durable in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, hurling
83 games in each campaign with ERA’s of 3.52 and 3.65 respectively. Arm
troubles began while with the Dodgers in 2008 and culminated with arm
surgery last season.

Hot Stove Coverage
 
Developing
stories and analysis will continue all winter, with the Braves
offseason shopping list coming soon. In the meantime, be sure to check
out MLBTradeRumors.com for all the latest news and rumors from all over baseball.

Till next time,

G-Mc
 

Yankees strike again, sign A.J. Burnett…

Well, I will say this for the free-spending kingpins of sports in the
free world: When they want somebody, they go out and get them. The New
York Yankees made another bold move to rebuild their rotation, agreeing to a 5-year $82 million contract with righty starter A.J. Burnett on Friday.

This means the Yankees have spent about a quarter of a billion dollars on starting pitching in less that 72-hours. That’s right, billion.
And you thought we were in a recession? Given, they cleared some
salaries (Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Carl Pavano, Bobby
Abreu
and Kyle Farnsworth), but that is still more spending that any
other club in baseball could possibly imagine. And it comes roughly
one-year after giving Alex Rodriguez a contract that will be worth over
another quarter of a billion (that’s $250,000,000 for those needing
another illustration of the dynamic we’re talking) by the time it’s
said and done.

Now Atlanta and general manager Frank Wren will
have to find a plan B. Whatever that may be is anyone’s guess, but I
would say it starts with the second tier free agent starters – lead by
left-hander Randy Wolf et al. Perhaps the Braves seek a shorter term
agreement for much less overall money with Ben Sheets, who is the only
real power pitcher left in the free-agent market. Let me go ahead and
say, I don’t think this is going to do anything to revive the very dead
Jake Peavy to Atlanta talks.

But now soon-to-be 32-year old A.J.
Burnett
,
the same pitcher who has won more than 12 games only once
(last season) and the same pitcher who has pitched 200+ innings on just
three occassions, is going to be raking an average yearly salary of
$16.5
million for the next five seasons in the Bronx. His history of injury
doesn’t swallow like a bitter pill in New York, since they are the only
team in baseball that could afford to
lose him for a significant amount of time and feel little-to-no effects
on their October aspirations. They can simply buy a new one if he
breaks down, again.

This signing allows the Braves to save what
I believe will be a tremendous amount of money on an arm that already
comes with more than a few red flags attached. The trade market is
still an option, even if Peavy is not the answer. Atlanta lost the
ability to deal Yunel Escobar when Brent Lillibridge was dealt to the
White Sox in the Javier Vazquez deal. There are still other possibilities though, many of which have proven to be off the radar when it comes to the Braves.

So
the Braves went to
Las Vegas and essentially left the table with nothing to show for it,
having been unable to get their ace in Burnett and the power hitting
outfielder they were seeking. But there could be some bargains out
there if the markets
don’t develope for some of the free agents still lurking. The Braves
came into the off-season with more
money to spend than perhaps any other time in the club’s history and
they may be running out of priority players to spend it on.

In other news:

Atlanta non-tendered left-hander Chuck James
on Friday, making him a free-agent. James, 27, went 11-4 as a rookie in
2006 and 11-10 in 2007 before injuries and ineffectiveness put his
career with the Braves in question. Shoulder surgery performed in
September is expected keep James out for most of 2009. Last season,
James went just 2-5 with a 9.10 ERA in seven starts and allowed 10
homers in just 29.2 innings of work. James was sidelined for much of
spring training and spent the majority of last season in Triple-A
Richmond, where he went 5-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 15 starts.

Till next time

G-Mc

Winter Meetings: Day 1

The Winter Meetings are usually the time where there is much to report,
but Day 1 has not seen anything major. You know it’s a slow news day
when the biggest signing of the day may be Mark Loretta inking a $1.4 million deal with the Dodgers, or Adam Everett heading to Detroit for $1 million. The most substantial trade? Well, that involved Gerald Laird
heading to Detroit. There was more news talking about where people were
not going, than deals getting done. Then again, it’s only Day 1.

Frank Wren headed to Las Vegas with one piece of the puzzle already having been acquired, with the Javier Vazquez
last week. While that does leave quite a few other things on the list,
it allows the Braves to turn their focus to acquiring the ace starter
they’ve been searching for in A.J. Burnett. Should the Braves be able to broker that deal in Vegas, then it would mark a new chapter for the team.

And
as we all know, when one door closes, another door opens. With that
said, Monday marked the official retirement of four-time Cy Young
winner Greg Maddux. We may never see another pitcher who racks
up the number of wins (355) as Maddux finishes with. And while his
style was not one of sheer power pitching dominance, his control was
unbelievable and his ability to carve up a line-up was always a
pleasure to watch. If you needed nine innings, Maddux could get you
there in two hours and less than a hundred pitches. He was that good,
and then some.

Speaking of Hall of Fame bound right-handers, the Braves were encouraged by what they saw in a recent throwing session from John Smoltz. In fact, it was so good that Braves manager Bobby Cox could hardly contain his excitement when talking to the the AJC’s David O’Brien:

“Oh, he’ll be back — no doubt in mind,” Cox said after he and pitching
coach Roger McDowell watched the 41-year-old pitcher throw off a mound
for the first time since career-threatening shoulder surgery in June.
“Roger was impressed, and John’s on cloud nine. No pain at all. None.
Zero pain. Man, he’s way ahead of schedule.”

The
fact that Smoltz is on the mend and throwing without pain fits in
nicely with a time table that should have him ready to go this spring.
An offer certainly seems forthcoming if Smoltz has sold everyone that
his comeback is actually not a comeback at all, but just another
chapter in a storied career. A healthy Smoltz would be another piece of
the rotation solved.

While 300-game winner Tom Glavine is
taking slower steps, having just undergone his surgery in mid-August
(as compared to Smoltz’ June procedures), and is now throwing from flat
ground to begin his road back. Glavine’s season was a disappointment
for both the lefty and the Braves, with just two wins in 13 starts. A
decision for Glavine will likely come after the new year, but the
Braves certainly won’t be extending the $8 million offer they handed
him last season.

Stay tuned, Day 2 of the Winter Meetings is just a few hours away…

Till next time,

G-Mc