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Atlanta Braves Offseason Tracker: Latest Trade Rumors, Free Agency News

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterNovember 1, 2012

Atlanta Braves Offseason Tracker: Latest Trade Rumors, Free Agency News

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    The Atlanta Braves tied for the third-best record in the National League at 94-68 this season. With the Washington Nationals winning the NL East, however, the Braves had to settle for a wild-card bid and lost a one-game playoff to the St. Louis Cardinals.

    General manager Frank Wren has some big holes to fill to keep the Braves competitive with the Nationals and Phillies in the division. Atlanta has to replace the retired Chipper Jones at third base and may have to find a new center fielder if Michael Bourn departs via free agency. A left fielder could be on the shopping list as well. 

    There will be plenty of news and rumors to follow through the winter, but we'll help you keep track of the latest rumblings in addition to providing reaction and analysis.

    To stay updated on the latest Braves offseason moves, keep checking back here for the newest information. Just click over to the first slide and you'll find the most recent hot stove buzz. 

MLB Teams Checking in on Chipper Jones, but He's Staying Retired

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    Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 1:00 p.m. ET

    The 2012 MLB season was the last one for Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. At the age of 40, with knees that weren't allowing him to get through a fullseason, he decided it was time to retire.

    Several MLB teams are curious if Jones intends to stick with those retirement plans, however. 

    According to Mark Hale of the New York Post, Jones' agent has heard from a number of clubs to see if his client was interested in playing this upcoming season. (Hale clarified that the New York Yankees were not one of them.) But Jones is staying retired. 

    The interest in Jones is either an indication of how many teams are still looking for help at third base or an endorsement of his success last season. Jones hit .287 with an .832 OPS, 14 home runs and 62 RBI, though he appeared in only 112 games due to knee and calf injuries. 

Could Michael Bourn Return to the Braves?

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    Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 10:00 a.m. ET

    After signing center fielder B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million contract, it appeared that the Atlanta Braves and Michael Bourn had definitely parted ways. 

    Upton was brought in to be the Braves' center fielder, taking the spot that Bourn held in the Atlanta lineup for the past two seasons. If general manager Frank Wren was going to add another outfielder, it would presumably be to fill the team's vacancy in left field.

    However, Wren told Sirius XM Radio's Jim Bowden that the Braves never closed the door on bringing Bourn back. And with Bourn still looking for a team after the free-agent market for center fielders has collapsed for him, a reunion could be possible.

    Atlanta still needs a left fielder with Martin Prado moving to third base this season. The contingency plan is to play Prado in left with Juan Francisco at third base against right-handed pitching. When the Braves face a lefty, Reed Johnson would play left while Prado goes to third. 

    Would Bourn play left field for the Braves if the two sides agreed on a contract? He's a better defensive center fielder than Upton, but Atlanta has committed to him for that position. Regardless, Atlanta's outfield defense would be outstanding with a trio of Bourn, Upton and Jason Heyward.

Braves Asking Angels About Mark Trumbo?

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    Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 10:00 a.m. ET

    The Los Angeles Angels have a surplus of outfielders after signing Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract. The Atlanta Braves would love to take one of those players off the Angels' hands.

    According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, Mark Trumbo is on the Braves' radar. Trumbo is exactly what Atlanta is looking for: a right-handed batter who can hit for power. If Braves general manager Frank Wren could get him, he might not be able to stop smiling.

    This season, Trumbo hit .268 with an .808 OPS, 332 home runs and 95 RBI. Even more important in the Braves' view is that he played 66 games in left field. 

    Trumbo made notable improvements in getting on base this year, compiling a .317 on-base percentage. But there still might be some concern about putting him in the same lineup with B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla. Atlanta would probably live with that if Trumbo cranked out another 30 home runs. 

    ESPN's Buster Olney says the Angels intend to keep Trumbo. But the Halos still need a starting pitcher (and already acquired Tommy Hanson from the Braves), so if Atlanta were to offer the right guy (Julio Teheran? Randall Delgado?), perhaps Angels GM Jerry Dipoto would listen.

Atlanta Signs Infielder Ramiro Pena to One-Year Deal

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    Posted: Thursday, Dec. 12 at 5:00 p.m. ET

    Despite having Paul Janish on the roster and Tyler Pastornicky training to become a utility infielder, the Atlanta Braves felt the need to add to their infield depth by signing Ramiro Pena to a one-year contract. 

    The transaction was reported by MLB.com's Mark Bowman on Twitter.

    Pena has been with the New York Yankees for all of his seven-year professional career. He's spent part of four seasons in the majors, but played most of this year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. 

    In another tweet, Bowman surmises that the Braves won't carry both Janish and Pena on their roster next season. The two will presumably compete for a utility infielder role, but Pena is out of minor league options while Janish could still be sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett, if necessary. 

    Pena had a .233 batting average and .553 OPS in 338 career plate appearances with the Yankees. The majority of his games have been played at third base and shortstop. 

Braves Still in the Hunt for an Outfielder

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    Posted: Thursday, Dec. 13 at 12:00 p.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves are still on the lookout for someone to play left field for them next season. 

    According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, the Braves are still pursuing Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler and Emilio Bonifacio of the Toronto Blue Jays to fill the opening on their roster. 

    Atlanta had been linked in trade rumors with Fowler before, but once the team signed B.J. Upton to be its center fielder, interest was believed to have died down. Apparently not. The Braves also still have some surplus pitching to make a deal with the Rockies. 

    In another tweet, O'Brien said that Atlanta was interested in acquiring Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians and made a "strong push" for the outfielder. Obviously, that's no longer an option with Choo being dealt to the Cincinnati Reds

    All of this seems to indicate that the Braves are looking for a leadoff hitter in an outfielder, rather than a middle-of-the-order run producer. 

Atlanta Checking in on Dee Gordon?

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    Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 a.m. ET

    Count the Atlanta Braves among the teams asking the Los Angeles Dodgers if they're interested in trading shortstop Dee Gordon. 

    Yet according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, most teams checking in on Gordon want to move him to the outfield, rather than play him at shortstop.

    That would certainly make sense for the Braves, who have Andrelton Simmons entrenched at shortstop. Gordon would presumably play left field in Atlanta, with B.J. Upton in center and Jason Heyward in right. 

    Gordon would bring a speed component to the Braves lineup that left with Michael Bourn. He stole 39 bases this season for the Dodgers in 87 games. But a low batting average (.228) and on-base percentage (.280) prevents him from using that speed to its full potential. 

    Would he be Upton without the power? 

    Stark said in another tweet that the Dodgers aren't currently interested in trading Gordon. But with enough teams showing interest and no spot available for him in the lineup, general manager Ned Colletti likely has to consider it.

Braves Re-Sign Reed Johnson

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    Posted: Friday, Dec. 7 at 8:00 a.m. ET

    Reed Johnson was a nice pick-up for the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline, providing a reserve outfielder and right-handed bat on the bench.

    Bringing him back was an important consideration for general manager Frank Wren, and the Braves will have Johnson on their bench again in 2013.

    As reported by MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, Johnson and the Braves agreed to a one-year contract with an option for 2014. Financial terms of the deal weren't revealed, but Johnson made $1.15 million this season.

    Johnson hit .270 with a .625 OPS for the Braves in 105 plate appearances after coming over from the Chicago Cubs with pitcher Paul Maholm. Overall for the season, he had a .290 average and .735 OPS with three home runs and 20 RBI. 

    Most importantly for the Braves, Johnson hit .311 with a .798 OPS against left-handed pitching. Atlanta needed that kind of production in a lineup that was heavy with lefty batters.

Braves' Search for Left Fielder Could Include Emilio Bonifacio

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    Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves are still on the lookout for a left fielder and leadoff hitter. 

    According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, the team is checking in on virtually every outfielder reportedly available, including the Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton, Colorado Rockies' Dexter Fowler, Cleveland Indians' Shin-Soo Choo and Kansas City Royals' Alex Gordon. 

    But Emilio Bonifacio might be the best fit for what the Braves need.

    O'Brien reports that Atlanta had interest in Bonifacio before the Miami Marlins traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. Until this week's winter meetings, general manager Frank Wren wasn't sure if Bonifacio was available. The Blue Jays have apparently indicated that he is. 

    Bonifacio would provide the Braves with another right-handed bat. But more importantly, he is a speed and on-base threat at the top of a batting order. This year, Bonifacio hit .258 with a .330 on-base percentage. He stole 30 bases in 33 attempts. 

    Additionally, Bonifacio is capable of playing almost every position on the field, which would give the Braves lineup some impressive versatility. Not only could he fill in at every outfield position, but could help out at third base, shortstop and second base if needed.

    O'Brien also reports that the Braves would like to bring back Reed Johnson as a right-handed reserve outfielder next season. 

Will Braves Trade Pitching for an Outfielder?

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    Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 9:00 a.m. ET

    Are the Atlanta Braves willing to trade pitching prospects Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado to get the left fielder general manager Frank Wren is seeking? 

    To give you an idea of what other teams are asking for, the Colorado Rockies asked for pitcher Mike Minor in exchange for outfielder Dexter Fowler, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien.

    In a blog post, O'Brien reported that the Braves have made calls about several outfielders throughout MLB, including Fowler, the Cleveland Indians' Shin-Soo Choo, Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton. 

    One player that other clubs want is shortstop Andrelton Simmons, but the Braves aren't going to trade him. Wren called him "unreachable," rather than untouchable. 

    But what about Teheran or Delgado? With Tommy Hanson traded to the Los Angeles Angels last week, Atlanta might want to hold on to their young prospects, letting them compete for a spot in the Braves rotation during spring training. 

    Wren told O'Brien he's still willing to trade Teheran or Delgado, but it would have to be "a significant deal."

    In the meantime, Atlanta is apparently looking at its in-house candidates for left field, including converted Double-A catcher Evan Gattis, Double-A outfielder Todd Cunningham and Jose Constanza. 

    Juan Francisco could also split time with Martin Prado at third base, allowing Prado to play left field when Francisco is in the lineup. 

Braves Looking to Trade for Left Fielder, Instead of Free Agent

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    Posted: Monday, Dec. 3 at 1:00 p.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves are still on the prowl for a left fielder. But according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, the team is more likely to get the outfielder they need through trade, rather than free agency. 

    That's a curious stance, since so many players are still available on the open market.

    But Bowman says the Braves have "minimal interest" in any of the current free-agent outfielders. Perhaps general manager Frank Wren is waiting for the price to come down on some players and wants to explore the trade market in the meantime. 

    Free agents Atlanta could still be interested in include Cody Ross, Ryan Ludwick and Shane Victorino, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien. Ross, especially, would give the lineup another right-handed bat. But with the signing of B.J. Upton, that's probably not the priority it once was.

    Trade targets could include the Minnesota Twins' Josh Willingham or Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton. The Braves have the pitching that could interest the Twins in making a deal. But the D-Backs reportedly want shortstop Andrelton Simmons for Upton and Atlanta doesn't want to trade him. 

    Finding someone who could replace Michael Bourn as the leadoff hitter would be preferable. But after losing out on Denard Span, whom the Twins traded to the Washington Nationals, the Braves aren't necessarily looking for another player to fill that role now.

Braves Trade Tommy Hanson to Angels for Jordan Walden

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    Posted: Friday, Nov. 30 at 3:00 p.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves have been the busiest MLB team so far this offseason. Did you expect to see that?

    Days after signing center fielder B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million contract, general manager Frank Wren traded pitcher Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for reliever Jordan Walden. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman was the first to report the deal. 

    The 2012 season was a rough one for Hanson. He began the year by recovering from a shoulder injury, then suffered a concussion from an auto accident during spring training. Hanson also went on the DL with a back injury this year. 

    In 31 starts for the Braves, Hanson went 13-10 with a 4.48 ERA.

    The 26-year-old right-handers was presumably a trade chip Atlanta could have used in a deal for an outfielder. But exchanging him straight up for a reliever is likely an indication of how far Hanson's stock had fallen. 

    Trading Hanson does free up money to pursue the left fielder that the Braves need, however. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien points out that the $4 million to $5 million salary Hanson likely would have earned next year through arbitration can now be used toward an outfielder.

    With Denard Span being dealt to the Washington Nationals and Hanson now thinning out the Braves' starting pitching surplus a bit, Wren may have to find his left fielder through free agency rather than trade. 

    In Walden, the Braves' relief corps gets another strikeout pitcher to go with Craig Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters. He posted a 3.46 ERA in 45 appearances for the Angels this year. Walden struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings, which would have ranked second to Kimbrel among Atlanta relievers this year.

Report: Braves Agree to Contract with B.J. Upton

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    Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 5:00 p.m. ET

    Following days of speculation that the Atlanta Braves were the favorite to sign free-agent center fielder B.J. Upton, it appears that the two sides are ready to make their new business relationship official.

    Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Upton and the Braves have agreed on a multi-year contract, pending a physical. Terms of the deal have not yet been announced, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien says a sixth year on the contract was the last hold-up in negotiations. 

    USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that Upton is getting a five-year worth $70 million to $75 million. That would make him the highest-paid player on the Braves' roster. But we might not get the final details until the contract is officially announced on Thursday (Nov. 29). 

    ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick first reported that Upton and the Braves were in "serious talks" on a long-term contract. Other outlets followed up with reports that an agreement was all but done. 

    Upton himself seems to have made an official announcement by changing his Twitter avatar to the Braves logo. (Hat tip to Brent Gambill, formerly of MLB Network Radio, for that.) That's probably a pretty reliable source. 

    This season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Upton hit .246 with a .752 OPS, 28 home runs, 78 RBI and 31stolen bases in 146 games. 

Report: Braves Likely to Non-Tender Jair Jurrjens

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    Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 9:00 a.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves are one of the few MLB teams who enjoy a surplus of starting pitching.

    So while other clubs would hold on to a pitcher like Jair Jurrjens, hoping he can rediscover the form that resulted in a 13-6 record and 2.96 ERA in 2011, Atlanta can afford to let him go after a terrible 2012 season.

    According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, the Braves are not expected to offer Jurrjens a contract before Friday's deadline. That will make him a free agent. 

    This year, Jurrjens posted a bloated 6.89 ERA in 10 starts with Atlanta. After his first four starts, during which he allowed 17 runs and 30 hits in 16.1 innings, Jurrjens was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett.

    Things didn't get much better for him in the minors, where he compiled a 4-6 record and 4.98 ERA in 14 starts.

    O'Brien added that reliever Peter Moylan is also likely to be non-tendered by the Braves. He appeared in only eight games for Atlanta this season while trying to come back from a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff. 

Chad Durbin to Return to Braves Bullpen?

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    Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 8:00 a.m. ET

    Every team in MLB needs a long reliever for its bullpen, someone who can pitch multiple innings when a starter gets chased from a game early or fill in when another reliever needs a break. 

    Apparently, the Atlanta Braves were happy with the work Chad Durbin provided for them in long relief this season and want to bring him back for next year.

    According to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves are among the teams checking in on Durbin. He didn't say how many clubs are in the mix, however. 

    This season, Durbin appeared in 76 games for Atlanta, compiling a 3.10 ERA in 61 innings. He was especially effective after the All-Star break, posting a 2.28 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 27.2 innings.

Braves in Bidding War with Phillies and 'Mystery Team' for B.J. Upton?

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    Posted: Monday, Nov. 26 at 9:00 a.m. ET

    According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, free-agent outfielder B.J. Upton is expected to choose a team to sign with this week.

    Both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are believed to be the top pursuers of the 26-year-old center fielder. ESPN's Jim Bowden reports that the two clubs are in a bidding war, with a third "mystery team" also involved.

    Bowden says that the Braves are considered to have a "slight lead" as teams make their final offers to Upton this week. 

    Based on this tweet from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, the third suitor could be the Cincinnati Reds or the Washington Nationals. O'Brien said in another tweet that he thinks the Braves might have to pay more than they wanted to for Upton as a result of this bidding war. 

    Cincinnati would be a curious choice for Upton. The Reds need a center fielder and right-handed bat, just like the Braves and Phillies, but could use a leadoff hitter in their lineup more than a middle-of-the-order run producer. How does the team view Upton? 

Report: Braves Interested in Rockies' Dexter Fowler

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    Posted: Monday, Nov. 19 at 9:00 a.m. ET

    Since the offseason began, the Atlanta Braves' priority has been finding a center fielder to replace Michael Bourn. Bourn is believed to be seeking a free-agent contract beyond what the Braves are willing to pay.

    While B.J. Upton now appears to be the team's preferred target, Atlanta general manager Frank Wren is looking at other options. 

    On Friday (Nov. 16), MLB Network's Peter Gammons reported (confirmed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien) that the Braves are also looking at Colorado Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler to fill their opening at the position. Trading for Fowler would also leave money available to sign a left fielder. 

    The Rockies are looking for pitching and Atlanta has plenty to spare with their surplus of starters. 

    Fowler had his best season this year for Colorado, hitting .300 with an .863 OPS, 11 triples, 13 home runs and 53 RBI. He also stole 12 bases. 

    However, he had a rough year defensively in center field, according to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating. Fowler gave up nearly 14 more runs than the average player at his position this year. He also cost his team 10 defensive runs saved.

    That's a far worse performance than Atlanta got from Bourn and would receive from Upton. 

Report: Braves to Sign Catcher Gerald Laird

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    Posted: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 10:30 a.m. ET

    Finding a backup catcher became a priority for the Atlanta Braves after losing David Ross to the Boston Red Sox

    The Braves didn't want to give Ross a two-year deal nor double his salary, as the Red Sox did. But Ross was arguably the best backup catcher in MLB and Atlanta needed a strong fill-in as starter Brian McCann recovers from shoulder surgery.

    However, general manager Frank Wren has reportedly nabbed another solid reserve catcher. MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are close to a contract agreement with Gerald Laird. No word yet on the contract terms, but Atlanta's preference seems to be for a one-year deal. 

    Laird was Alex Avila's backup this season with the Detroit Tigers, appearing in 63 games. He hit .280 with a .710 OPS in 191 plate appearances, which was his best offensive performance in four seasons. 

    Interestingly, Laird hit right-handed pitching extremely well this year, posting a slash average of .382/.420/.408 in 82 PA's. But the left-handed Avila got the majority of playing time, and the same obviously applies in Atlanta once McCann returns to full health.

    UPDATE: Laird's contract is reportedly a two-year deal, believed to be worth $3.3 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien

Rangers Reportedly Offered Mike Olt for Andrelton Simmons

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    Posted: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 9:30 a.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves weren't likely to part with shortstop Andrelton Simmons during the offseason. 

    For one thing, they need him. Tyler Pastornicky showed this year that he's not capable of being the Braves' full-time shortstop. Atlanta sent him down to Triple-A Gwinnett with the intention of turning him into a utility infielder. 

    But the Texas Rangers tried to get Simmons in hopes of flipping him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a deal for outfielder Justin Upton, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale

    CBS Sports' Danny Knobler took that a step further, reporting that Texas was willing to give up prized third base prospect Mike Olt in a deal. He would be an ideal replacement for the retired Chipper Jones and provide a right-handed power bat that the Braves need.

    Not at the cost of Simmons, however. The rookie hit .289 with a .751 OPS. More importantly for Atlanta, he was outstanding defensively. According to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, Simmons saved 10 runs more than the average shortstop this season. He was also credited with 19 defensive runs saved. 

    As Knobler said in a separate tweet, the D-Backs actually prefer Simmons to Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. But if the Braves wanted to trade Simmons, they'd cut out the Rangers as a middleman and just trade him to Arizona for Upton. 

Braves in Pursuit of B.J. Upton

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    Posted: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 9:00 a.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves' two biggest offseason needs are an outfielder—preferably one who plays center field—and a right-handed hitter. One free agent can fill both needs for them.

    According to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, outfielder B.J. Upton is the Braves' top target this offseason. The team actually envisioned signing both Upton and Torii Hunter for their outfield. But Hunter signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, leaving Atlanta to focus on Upton.

    While Upton wouldn't replace Michael Bourn as a leadoff hitter and defensive center fielder, he supplies more power, having hit 28 home runs with 78 RBI this season. The 28-year-old also notched 31 stolen bases, so he's capable of providing the speed that Bourn did. 

    Defensively, Upton is typically an above-average center fielder, though FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating said he allowed two runs more than a replacement-level player at his position. He also cost the Tampa Bay Rays four defensive runs saved this year. 

    Upton benefited from having Desmond Jennings alongside him in left field and Ben Zobrist in right. But in Atlanta, he would have Jason Heyward as the right fielder with either Martin Prado or presumably a suitable replacement in left. More could be asked of him defensively. 

    Most importantly, he bats right-handed and could provide power and speed near the top of the order. Or manager Fredi Gonzalez could use him in the middle of the lineup, between lefties Heyward and Freddie Freeman. 

Braves Looking at Outfielder Cody Ross

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    Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 9:00 a.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves need a right-handed bat for their outfield and Torii Hunter is apparently leaning toward the Detroit Tigers or Texas Rangers.

    One great fit would be free agent Cody Ross, and according to reports, Atlanta is interested in signing him. 

    Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi says the Braves are looking at Ross to play left field for them. He previously played for manager Fredi Gonzalez with the Florida Marlins and apparently has a good working relationship with him. 

    Ross would certainly make Atlanta's lineup stronger versus left-handed pitching. This season, he had a 1.010 OPS against lefties with 12 home runs and 35 RBI. Ross' numbers against right-handers aren't nearly as good (.256 average, .729 OPS), but the Braves are presumably less worried about that with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman in their lineup. 

    No word on how the Braves feel about the three-year, $25 million contract Ross is reportedly seeking. An annual salary exceeding $8 million is more than the Boston Red Sox are apparently willing to pay to re-sign him. Will Atlanta feel differently or possibly make a lower offer to Ross?

    However, the Braves would still need a center fielder if they sign Ross and lose Michael Bourn to free agency. 

Rangers Tried to Get Andrelton Simmons from Braves

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    Posted: Monday, Nov. 12 at 9:00 a.m. ET

    If there was any doubt that the Atlanta Braves view Andrelton Simmons as their starting shortstop next season, shooting down a trade proposal with the Texas Rangers should address those questions.

    According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Rangers tried to acquire Simmons from the Braves in hopes of then flipping him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Justin Upton.

    Texas already has impressive shortstop depth with Elvis Andrus and top prospect Jurickson Profar, but apparently doesn't want to trade either player—at least not for Upton. 

    But the Braves aren't interested in trading Simmons, which isn't a surprise. The 23-year-old had an impressive rookie season, hitting .289 with a .751 OPS.

    More importantly for Atlanta, he was excellent defensively. According to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, Simmons saved 10 runs more than the average player at his position. He was also credited with 19 defensive runs saved. 

    The Braves also have Tyler Pastornicky as a shortstop option, but he didn't hit or field particularly well in the first two months of the season. That compelled Atlanta to call Simmons up from Double-A Mississippi. 

Braves Lose David Ross to Red Sox

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    Posted: Monday, Nov. 12 at 8:00 a.m. ET

    With catcher Brian McCann likely to still be recovering from shoulder surgery at the beginning of next season, re-signing backup catcher David Ross was an important item on the Atlanta Braves' offseason to-do list. 

    Scratch Ross off the list. 

    The catcher signed a two-year, $6.2 million contract with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday (Nov. 10). According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, the Braves didn't want to give Ross more than a one-year contract or double his $1.625 million salary from this year. 

    Ross hit .256 with a .770 OPS, nine home runs and 23 RBI in 62 games this season. Defensively, he threw out 15-of-34 basestealers while allowing 20 wild pitches and four passed balls. 

    Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe speculates that Ross could platoon with Jarrod Saltalamacchia in Boston. He could also back up Ryan Lavarnway at catcher while Saltamacchia moves over to first base. 

    But where do the Braves go from here?

    O'Brien says Double-A catcher Christian Bethancourt is a possibility. This season, he hit .243 with a .566 OPS in 288 plate appearances. That seems to indicate he could use at least another full year of playing time in the minors, rather than get limited time as a backup in the major leagues. 

    Evan Gattis, who rose from rookie league to Double-A Mississippi this year, is another option for Atlanta. Overall, he hit .305 with a .995, 18 home runs with 67 RBI. According to O'Brien. the Braves love his power and were working him in left field, hoping that would accelerate his path to the majors. 

    Looking at the list of free-agent catchers, Braves general manager Frank Wren shouldn't have any trouble finding a new backup. Gerald Laird, Kelly Shoppach and Matt Treanor are among the available names. 

    But Atlanta knew what it had with Ross. Losing him is a pretty big blow for the Braves early in the offseason. 

Denard Span on Braves' Trade Radar

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    Posted: Friday, Nov. 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves hope to re-sign center fielder Michael Bourn but acknowledge that they probably won't meet agent Scott Boras' contract demands, which could begin at five years and $75 million.

    Several replacements are available in free agency. Josh Hamilton will probably be priced out of Atlanta's range. But B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino could fit what the Braves are looking for.

    Yet a center fielder could also be acquired through trade. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien reports that Denard Span of the Minnesota Twins is a player the Braves are likely interested in pursuing. 

    This season, Span, 28, hit .283 with a .738 OPS and 17 stolen bases. A strained shoulder limited him to 128 games. 

    In addition to replacing Bourn as the team's leadoff hitter, Span would also provide excellent defense in center field. According to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, he saved 8.5 more runs than the average player at his position. Span was also credited with 20 defensive runs saved. 

    The only center fielder who was better with at least 900 innings played at the position was Bourn. 

    O'Brien also reported that the Braves are looking to possibly trade some of their starting pitching to fill other holes on the roster.

    Atlanta has more pitchers than available spots in the rotation and that surplus could be used in a trade for a player like Span. Tommy Hanson could be among the pitchers considered expendable, along with Jair Jurrjens and prospects Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran.

    Span is due to be paid $11.25 million over the next two seasons with a $9 million option for 2015, according to Cot's Contracts

Jair Jurrjens Drawing Trade Interest Around MLB?

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    Posted: Thursday, Nov. 8 at 10:30 p.m. ET

    MLB teams are always on the lookout for starting pitching. Even a guy who struggled with one team will probably get a chance with another club hoping that a change of scenery will result in a turnaround.

    Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens fits that profile. The 26-year-old right-hander had a terrible 2012 season, finishing with a 3-4 record and 6.89 ERA in 10 starts. He also struck out only 19 batters in 48.1 innings. 

    Jurrjens spent a good chunk of the season with Triple-A Gwinnett because of his struggles. In 14 starts, he compiled a 4-6 record and 4.98 ERA, averaging 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

    But according to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, Jurrjens is drawing trade interest around MLB. He seems very expendable anyway, as the five spots in the Braves rotation appear to be filled by Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor and Tommy Hanson.

    Additionally, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran will likely compete for a spot next season. And depending on how Brandon Beachy recovers from elbow surgery, he could get an opportunity as well. 

    David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves' starting pitching depth will likely result in the team making a deal to try and fill other holes on the roster, particularly in the outfield. 

Will Josh Hamilton's Contract Demands Scare Braves Off?

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    Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 10:30 a.m. ET

    According to CBS Sports' Danny Knobler, the Atlanta Braves have been having internal discussions regarding free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. 

    Some in the organization are intrigued by adding the best power-hitting bat on the market to replace the retiring Chipper Jones and the likely-to-depart Michael Bourn. 

    But Hamilton's left-handed bat isn't an ideal fit for the Braves lineup. Atlanta already has southpaw power with Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and the switch-hitting Brian McCann. B.J. Upton would probably be a better signing for that reason.

    The other concern, of course, is the kind of contract Hamilton is looking for on the open market. A source told Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto that the outfielder is seeking a seven-year, $175 million contract. 

    A $25 million per year player probably isn't what Atlanta had in mind. Paying top dollar to free agents hasn't been the Braves' way of doing business since Liberty Media took over ownership of the team. 

    Between the likely cost and his left-handed bat, Hamilton doesn't seem like a good match for the Braves. But it could be an encouraging sign for Atlanta fans that they might show interest in such a player. If the price comes down a bit, could the Braves make a play here?

Braves Re-Acquire Center Fielder Jordan Schafer from Astros

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    Posted: Thursday, Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. ET

    Have the Atlanta Braves taken the first step in replacing center fielder Michael Bourn?

    As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, the Braves picked up outfielder Jordan Schafer from waivers on Thursday. Schafer returns to Atlanta nearly two years after the team included him in a trade to the Houston Astros for Bourn.

    Braves general manager Frank Wren insists that Schafer isn't a replacement for Bourn, however. He was picked up for depth, along with the speed and defense that he can bring to a team. 

    This past season, Schafer hit .211 with a .591 OPS, four home runs, 23 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He struck out 106 times in 360 plate appearances for the last-place Astros. A shoulder injury kept him out of the lineup for most of the last two months of the season.

    However, as MLB.com's Brian McTaggart points out, Schafer clashed with former manager Brad Mills in July over "behavioral reasons" and also had off-the-field drug issues.

    Between that and Schafer's lack of production, other options—such as Justin Maxwell, who hit 18 home runs—looked much more appealing to general manager Jeff Luhnow. 

    At the very least, the Braves get a player who can be a late-inning defensive replacement or valuable pinch-runner. 

Will David Ross Be Back with the Braves Next Season?

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    With Brian McCann undergoing shoulder surgery that is expected to keep him out for up to six months, re-signing backup catcher David Ross would appear to be a top priority for the Atlanta Braves.

    Ross and his agent have let the Braves know that they would like to return to the team as well, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien.

    But bringing back the 35-year-old catcher might not be that easy. As Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted, Ross figures to be in demand on the free-agent market and might get a better offer—in addition to more playing time—from another team.

    Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors mentions the Detroit Tigers as a possibility for Ross. I would throw the Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees as other teams that might show interest. 

    However, Ross figures to get plenty of playing time in Atlanta, especially early in the season as McCann works his way back to full strength. And if he wants to return to the Braves, he will probably do so unless he gets an offer that blows him away.

    Last season, Ross made $1.63 million in the final year of a two-year, $3.25 million contract. With the demand for catchers around MLB, he figures to get a significant raise.

Braves Pick Up Options for Brian McCann, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm

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    Posted: Thursday, Nov. 1 at 11:00 a.m. ET

    The Atlanta Braves picked up the 2013 contract options for three of their most important players on Tuesday (Oct. 30). 

    As reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, catcher Brian McCann, along with starting pitchers Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, will each be back next season. 

    McCann's option is for $12 million. There was some question as to whether or not the Braves would buy out McCann for $500,000 after he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

    The damage was worse than originally feared, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien, and McCann faces a six-month recovery process that will sideline him through the beginning of next season. 

    With the injury, McCann posted the worst offensive numbers of his career. He batted .230 with a .698 OPS, though he still slugged 20 home runs with 67 RBI.

    Hudson's option is for $9 million. He missed the beginning of this season while recovering from back surgery, but still made 28 starts for the Braves. Hudson finished with a 16-7 record and 3.62 ERA, throwing 179.1 innings. 

    Maholm will get $6.5 million with his 2013 option. The left-hander was acquired before the July 31 trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs. In 11 starts for Atlanta, he compiled a 4-5 record 3.54 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. 

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