(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Unless you're a rebuilding team—which the Braves aren't—you never trade away your ace.
Tim Hudson's on his way back, and for the season-and-a-half leading up to his Tommy John surgery in August 2008, he was about as good as any pitcher in baseball.
He's the real staff ace, well-liked, and wanted to come to Atlanta enough that he signed a five-year deal when the Braves brought him over from Oakland.
He's the closest to free agency of anyone on this list, so the Braves could conceivably let him walk.
However, there'd be no logic in that. He's otherwise healthy, very athletic, and has a career 3.48 ERA to go with a 146-77 career record.
A pitcher who's got a winning percentage of about .650 is not one you let go, or trade away while he's still good.
He's scheduled to return in August, and has volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen if there's no slot for him in the rotation at the time. Whether he returns to the rotation late this year or early in 2010, he'll be fronting the best starting staff top to bottom in the majors.
You care to find me a better starting five from the bunch of Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, Vazquez, Kawakami, and Hanson? Good luck trying.
Age: 33 (34 in July)
2008 Stats: 11-7, 3.17 ERA
2009 Salary: $15.5 million
Contract Status: $12 million Team Option for 2010.