Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the Atlanta Braves.
2007 record: 84-78
Finish: Third place in National League East.
2007 Opening-day payroll: $87 million
The Braves want to sign veteran left-handed starter Tom Glavine and it might be the easiest free-agent acquisition of the winter. Glavine lives in Atlanta, happily pitched there from 1987-2002 and – unlike a year ago – the interest is mutual. Money isn't an issue because the Braves dumped $9 million by trading shortstop Edgar Renteria to the Detroit Tigers for two prospects and can subtract the $13.5 million free agent center fielder Andruw Jones made last season. Glavine would join a rotation headed by John Smoltz and Tim Hudson. The Braves expect left-hander Mike Hampton – whom they are paying $15 million – to pitch for the first time since 2005, and one of the players they acquired from the Tigers, right-hander Jair Jurrjens, will get a long look.
The most glaring need is in the outfield, but the Braves told Jones months ago they would not pursue him. They don't seem excited about spending a lot for a veteran to replace him, especially one demanding a long-term deal. So don't expect Mike Cameron, Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand in Atlanta. Jeff Francoeur just won a Gold Glove as a right fielder and could move to center. But that leaves a hole in right. Among prospects, Brent Lillibridge might be converted from shortstop, where Cuban import Yunel Escobar is blocking his path, and Jordan Schafer needs more seasoning.
The Braves were active in the trade market under general manager John Schuerholz, and that shouldn't change under his carefully groomed successor, Frank Wren, who consummated the first big deal of the offseason by peddling Renteria. Ken Griffey Jr. and, more sensibly, Kansas City's David DeJesus, have been mentioned as outfielders Wren might chase.
It's two years and counting since the Braves' record 14-year postseason run. In all likelihood, Manager Bobby Cox is in his last season. This is a team that sorely wants to make one last push with Smoltz, Chipper Jones, and, presumably, Glavine. Yet they don't seem to have the stomach for signing the big free agent who could get them past the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.
A blockbuster trade isn't out of the question. That's how they landed first baseman Mark Teixeira, who produced well in half a season and will be back as an arbitration-eligible player in line for $12 million or more. The Braves' farm system is always stocked with tradeable nuggets, and Wren could get creative in a deal for an outfielder.
Besides having an outfield position to fill, the Braves are counting heavily on young players at two key positions: Escobar at shortstop and Rafael Soriano as closer. They also have holes in the bullpen that could be filled via free agency within Wren's Schuerholz-approved blueprint of short-term free-agent contracts, developing prospects and seizing trade opportunities.
Not with Chipper Jones at third base and Wren preaching the Gospel according to Schuerholz, which begins with avoiding long-term deals.
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