Posts Tagged ‘Red Sox

09
Dec
09

More Winter Meetings chatter… The Braves try to wheel and deal

Free agent OF Xavier Nady

It didn’t take long for the Braves to receive permission from Rafael Soriano’s agent that his client would approve a trade.

Shortly after accepting the club’s offer of salary arbitration, Peter Greenberg informed the Braves that Soriano preferred to remain a late-innings reliever in 2010.

When told that those roles had already been filled by Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, Greenberg gave Wren a list of teams that Soriano had discussed signing with before deciding to accept the Braves’ arbitration offer.

The Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, and Orioles were believed to have shown interest in Soriano with the Angels emerging as a new suitor for the right-hander this morning, according to FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal’s twitter.

Atlanta has received a plethora of calls regarding Soriano and were believed to have met with at least five clubs on Tuesday about him.

Wren expects the Braves to move him soon — possibly before the Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday, or within the next week to ten days.

Besides fielding calls regarding Soriano, Wren also spent a great deal of Tuesday discussing possible destinations for RHP Derek Lowe.

While the team still feels confident they can move Lowe over Javier Vazquez, as they desire, they now have reason to believe that the outfielder and/or first baseman they are seeking will not come through the trade market.

More than likely, the trades of Soriano and/or Lowe will net the Braves a group of prospects.

Atlanta has been reportedly searching for more depth at shortstop as they believe their farm system lacks insurance possibilities at that position, in the event that Yunel Escobar goes down with an injury.

The level of prospects or return the Braves receive for Lowe will depend heavily on how much of his salary the club is willing to eat.

As for Wren’s continued search for offensive help, the Braves GM feels that his outfielder/first baseman is likely to come from the current pool of free agents.

The Braves and Xavier Nady have expressed mutual interest in bringing the free agent outfielder to Atlanta.

Wren had interest in acquiring the 31-year-old Nady in 2009 before he was traded to the Yankees. Nady’s health is also an issue as he is coming off of Tommy John surgery. The club will further evaluate his offseason progress to alleviate any lingering injury concerns they may have before signing him to a contract.

During the ’07 and ’08 seasons combined, Nady hit .293 with 45 home runs and posted an .840 OPS.

The Braves also announced Tuesday their decision to designate OF Ryan Church for assignment to make room for Soriano on their 40-man roster.

The club had received minimal trade interest in Church over the past week, but if not traded, Atlanta had planned to non-tender him by Saturday’s deadline.

Soriano’s decision to accept arbitration forced the Braves to make this move sooner than anticipated.

Church, who was acquired by the Braves in a July 10 trade involving beleaguered RF Jeff Francoeur, hit .260 with two HR and 18 RBIs in 44 games during his tenure with the club in 2009.

By designating him for assignment, the team now has 10 days to trade or release the oft injured Church.

The Braves also discussed adding utility player Ross Gload to their bench yesterday before Gload and the Phillies agreed to a two-year contract.

Scouting reports on Gload praised his strong defensive skills, which propelled the Braves’ interest, but his lack of power was worrisome to a team who is looking to add more pop to its lineup.

As the Braves look towards today, the last full day of meetings, they will continue to search for potential destinations for Soriano and/or Lowe.

The club’s beat writer Mark Bowman reported on his blog that Wren mentioned at least one team had interest in dealing for both pitchers.

Bowman believes the division rival Phillies or Mets could be the mystery team, but the chances of Wren dealing his impact players to his chief competition are slim to none.

The team’s thinking on Nady, if signed, is that he will serve mainly as Atlanta’s first baseman with the versatility to spot start in the outfield, if needed.

Martin Prado, the club’s projected opening day second baseman, could see time at first base when Nady is manning the outfield.

While super utility player Omar Infante could play almost any infield position, the team may look to add another middle infielder later in the offseason to increase depth in that area.

Bowman also speculates that with the Yankees closing in on a deal for OF Curtis Granderson, that they could make Nick Swisher available.

The Braves had interest in Swisher last season and the hard nosed outfielder would surely bring a great level of intensity and much needed spark to Atlanta’s offense.

Swisher, who could also play the outfield or first base, would provide the Braves with the same level of flexibility as Nady.

Former Brave Mark DeRosa could be a potential fall back option for Atlanta, but only if his price tag drops considerably.

Wren will continue to explore these options and more as he further assesses his club’s needs going forward.

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02
Dec
09

Closing in on Billy Wagner…..

Billy Wagner pitching with Boston last season

The Atlanta Braves sure didn’t waste any time in their hot pursuit of a new closer.

Just hours after Atlanta offered arbitration to free agents Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez reports surfaced that the Braves have reached a preliminary agreement with Billy Wagner on a one-year, $7 million dollar contract with a $6.5 million vesting option for the 2011 season.

Wagner, who ranks sixth in major league history with 385 saves, missed most of the 2009 season recovering from ligament-transplant replacement surgery.

The Braves interest in the 38-year-old reliever stems from his successful comeback late last season with the Mets and Red Sox.

In his 17 appearances in the season’s final two months, Wagner posted an impressive 1.72 ERA, held opponents to a .174 batting average and notched 26 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings.

The deal is expected to be finalized and announced after the flame throwing lefty passes a physical that is scheduled for today in Atlanta.

Sources believe that Wagner, a Virginia native, could have commanded more money on the free agent market but chose to take less to come to Atlanta for its close location to his home, its position to compete for a playoff spot next season, and for the opportunity to play for a manager he’s always admired in Bobby Cox.

The two sides were believed to have ironed out most of the details on the contract this weekend and were just waiting for confirmation of Boston’s offer of arbitration before moving forward in the process.

Wagner, along with the Braves’ Soriano and Gonzalez, were considered to be the elite relievers on the free agent market.

The duo of Soriano and Gonzalez split closing duties for Atlanta last season and combined for 37 saves and 192 strikeouts in 150 innings.

The Braves’ decision to offer arbitration was a precautionary measure as both Soriano and Gonzalez, who are classified as Type A free agents, had seemingly priced themselves out of Atlanta.

They are expected to command multi-year, high priced contracts from others teams with all indications pointing to both hurlers declining arbitration with the Braves receiving first-round draft picks as compensation.

With the signing of Wagner, another Type A free agent, Atlanta will have to give up a first-round pick to the Red Sox but should get that pick back and some after Soriano and Gonzalez exit as expected.

If Soriano and/or Gonzalez surprise and accept arbitration from the club, the team’s relief corps would stand to be one of baseball’s best, albeit most expensive bullpens.

Soriano could net up to $8 million if he returns on a one-year contract with Gonzo expected to make at least $5 million next season under arbitration.

A more likely scenario has Atlanta searching for a replacement setup man on the free agent market.

Former Brave and another Type A free agent Octavio Dotel along with Type B free agent Fernando Rodney are potential candidates for the club to pursue after finalizing the deal with their new closer.

Billy Wagner comes to Atlanta with an impressive resume.

He has a career 2.39 ERA, 1,092 strikeouts in 833 2/3 innings, and more saves than any other active closer except for Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.

The veteran hurler who is just 39 saves shy of tying John Franco for the record of most saves by a left-handed closer now has the chance to accomplish that feat while also aiding in the Braves’ effort to return to the postseason in 2010.

05
Feb
09

Looking back at a Brave legend…

Smoltzie celebrating

Smoltzie celebrating

Long-time Braves fans will never forget the day that John Smoltz was acquired. August 12, 1987 still resonates in the hearts and minds of the Atlanta faithful.

John Smoltz, a Michigan native, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 1985 draft. But, when the Tigers were in the midst of a three-team pennant race and chasing the first place Toronto Blue Jays, they decided to trade their 20-year old prospect Smoltz to Atlanta for 36-year old veteran starter Doyle Alexander. And, while Alexander helped lead the Tigers to a division championship, the cost of giving up Smoltz hurt the franchise for years.

What was Detroit’s loss was Atlanta’s gain. John Smoltz helped lead a fumbling franchise to lengendary stardom. Smoltz, joined by Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, formed the “Big Three,” that anchored Atlanta’s rotation for years during their run of divisional dominance in the 1990’s. John Smoltz won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award and was selected to eight All-Star games during his more than two decade career with the Braves. Smoltz was also a part of all of the 14 consecutive division championships the Braves won, making them the winningest team in any of the four major professional sports over the regular season stretch.

John Smoltz’s years with the Braves weren’t without a few bumps along the way. Smoltz underwent Tommy John surgery on his arm prior to the 2000 season, forcing him to miss the whole year. When Smoltz returned in 2001, he ultimately found himself in a new role… the Atlanta Braves closer. The Braves moved Smoltz to the bullpen down the stretch, where he proved effective. The team felt Smoltz’s new role would be less taxing on his arm and would also provide the team with the dominant, power closer they had been lacking in years past. In his first full season as a closer in 2002, Smoltz broke the National League save record with 55 saves. Smoltz went on to have three successful seasons as the team’s closer, proving his versatility and his willingness to put the team first.

Before the 2005 season, Smoltz’s desire to return to a starting pitcher was too strong to deny. The team finally granted his wish and moved Smoltz back to the rotation, where many critics doubted Smoltz’s ability to stay healthly and return to the effective starter he once was. But like always, Smoltz proved all the naysayers wrong finishing the ’05 season with a record of 14-7 and an ERA of 3.06. More importantly, he reached the 200 inning mark despite the odds stacked against him. Smoltz’s move from starter to closer to back to starter has garnered him Hall of Fame buzz.

Arm injuries continued to dog Smoltz and in June of 2008, he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. His contract with the Braves expired at season’s end and while Smoltz had hoped to re-sign and ultimately retire for the only professional team he’s ever played for, the two sides could not come to an agreement and Smoltz went elsewhere.

It is now with a heavy heart that Braves fans must now watch John Smoltz try to defy the odds yet again and make another successful return from arm surgery with the Boston Red Sox.

But for a man who has given so much of himself, his heart and his soul to the city of Atlanta, the fans, his teammates and ultimately the Atlanta Braves organization, no Braves fan can say they won’t be rooting for Smoltz.

John Smoltz turned the Atlanta Braves into winners. John Smoltz was the face of this franchise. John Smoltz was and still is a Brave legend.




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