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Atlanta Braves: Who's Staying and Who's Going This Offseason

James HulkaAnalyst IOctober 15, 2010

Atlanta Braves: Who's Staying and Who's Going This Offseason

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    2010 was a moderate success for the Atlanta Braves. However, with retirement, free agency and trades, there's always the question of who will or will not be back playing for Atlanta in 2011.

    We'll take a look at free agents, potential retirees and trade bait.

    We expect that core players like Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Chipper Jones will be back because there's no logical reason why they wouldn't be.

    The bullpen was very solid, but it's not out of the question to see one or more of them packaged in a deal for an outfielder. This means that Craig Kimbrel, Mike Dunn, Jonny Venters, Peter Moylan and Eric O'Flaherty should expect to be back. 

    Backup catcher David Ross signed an extension mid-season for a reason.

    Matt Diaz kills lefties, so he'll probably continue as a platoon outfielder.

    Up-and-comers like Kris Medlen (after he returns from Tommy John surgery), Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Freddie Freeman may or may not spend the entire 2011 season in the majors with Atlanta, but if not they'll be between the big club and Gwinnett, unless packaged in a deal for another outfield bat.

    So, who does that leave. . .

Kenshin Kawakami

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Kenshin Kawakami took a step backwards in 2010.

    The Braves tried to deal him last offseason and couldn't find any takers. They'll likely try again as he doesn't seem to have the trust of the coaching staff to come through in games consistently.

    He has one year left on his original three-year deal, so the Braves might have a better chance of moving him, even if they have to pay half of the $7.6M salary he's owed in 2011.

     

    Chance of Return: 40 percent

Troy Glaus

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Troy Glaus had a monster six-weeks from early May until mid-June.

    The rest of his season was pretty lackluster.

    Frank Wren took a low-cost risk to bring Glaus in and it almost worked. The Braves didn't pay him a whole lot, but he wasn't consistently the Glaus of four years ago.

    He's a free agent, and with Chipper planning to come back and play third, and Freddie Freeman waiting in the wings at first base, his days might be done, or a team might take a flier on him.

     

    Chance of Return: Five percent

Billy Wagner

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Billy Wagner was very good for the Braves as their closer this year. He had a few hiccups, but proved to Frank Wren that he made the right choice in signing him.

    He tutored the young Braves relievers and together they formed a solid, if not dominant bullpen.

    It was tough to see what was likely his last play on the field, with him crouched over in pain after fielding a bunt in Game 2 of the NLDS.

    The Braves would like to have him back, but he's stated he's done.

    Enjoy retirement, Billy.

     

    Chance of Return: One percent

Derrek Lee

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    I liked the Lee trade when GM Frank Wren was able to pull it off.

    Lee's a free agent, and not quite the player he was just a few years ago. The Braves could bring him back because he still runs well, can hit, is a good clubhouse guy and should be healthy by the time spring training rolls around.

    However, the one thing working against him is that Freddie Freeman has as much power right now, and is 14 years younger.

    Some team will surely pick him up.

     

    Chance of Return: 15 percent

Omar Infante

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Omar Infante proved to everyone during the second half of the season that he deserved that All-Star selection.

    All he did was finish the season filling in for two injured All-Stars wherever Bobby Cox needed him, finishing third in the NL in hitting.

    The Braves have a club option on him, for about $2.5 M.

     

    Chance of Return: 99.99 percent

Brooks Conrad

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    I felt horrible for Brooks Conrad at the end of the season because his defense let him and the Braves down.

    In Game 1, he had bad luck because the second base umpire clearly missed his tag on Buster Posey, who would later go on to score the only run of the game.

    In Game 3, his meltdown was painful to watch on so many levels.

    He's not an everyday player, but he's worked so hard to try to stay. His defense needs a lot of work if the Braves are to keep him around as a bench player.

    But, during the season, he was Mr. Clutch. Two pinch-hit game winning grand slams aren't easy to get, let alone in the same season.

     

    Chance of Return: 55 percent

Takashi Saito

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Takashi Saito was a pretty reliable eighth inning guy—when he was healthy.

    He's a free agent, and at 40, near the end of his career, if it's not already there.

    The Braves could offer him a minor league deal, but at most he's got one year left in that arm.

     

    Chance of Return: 15 percent

Jair Jurrjens

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The only reason I put Jurrjens on this list was because several media outlets (Yahoo, MLB.com, AJC) have written that the 24-year-old righty might be the trade chip that nets Atlanta an outfield power bat.

    He was injured for a lot of the season and will have knee surgery to fix a meniscus problem.

    I, however, have a tough time seeing the Braves parting with a pitcher of his age, ability and who they control for three more years.

    A healthy Jurrjens is a guy who can win 15-17 games with an ERA around 3.00 or better.

    As part of a package, the right team could take him and in turn give the Braves a true clean-up hitter.

    We'll see.

     

    Chance of Return: 80 percent

Derek Lowe

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Derek Lowe's chances of returning to the Braves are a lot better now than they were six weeks ago.

    When he was sitting with an 11-12 record and an ERA approaching 5.00, most thought it would only be a matter of time before Lowe was traded this offseason.

    After going 5-0 in September with an ERA of about 1.30, and pitching phenomenally in the playoffs, I think the Braves are going to hold on to him. He pitched like the man they paid $60M over four years to get.

    He has won 31 games over the past two seasons.

    But, then again, if he nets a big bat, the Braves could move his salary.

     

    Chance of Return: 90 percent

Eric Hinske

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Forgotten among the mess that was the top of the ninth inning in Game 3 of the NLDS, was that Eric Hinske 10 minutes earlier put the Braves in prime position to win Game 3 with a huge, two-run, pinch-hit homer, and allow Atlanta to win the series at home in Game 4.

    Brooks Conrad and the bullpen couldn't finish the job.

    He's not an everyday player. But, he had some clutch moments this year.

    He started off hot, but cooled off as the season progressed

    There's something to be said about a guy who goes to the playoffs four years in a row, all with different teams, and has two World Series rings to show for it.

    I think he'll be back as a bench player, but he is a free agent.

     

    Chance of Return: 65 percent

Kyle Farnsworth

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Acquired at the deadline, Farnsworth has an option for 2011, with a buyout.

    He was just OK after being re-acquired from Kansas City.

    With a solid core of young relievers, I don't expect Frank Wren to pick up the option.

     

    Chance of Return: 20 percent

Rick Ankiel

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    His home run in Game 2 aside, Rick Ankiel did not perform up to the expectations the Braves had hoped for after they traded for him at the deadline.

    He, like his formal Royals teammate Kyle Farnsworth, has an option or a buyout for 2011.

    With a glut of so-so outfielders, the Braves will likely wish him well.

     

    Chance of Return: 25 percent

Melky Cabrera

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Melky Cabrera wasn't a failure, but he wasn't a success. Surely the Yankees expected more from Javier Vasquez just like the Braves wanted a better performance out of Cabrera.

    Let's just say Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino need to make this trade worth it.

    Melky is arbitration eligible, and I'm not sure the Braves want to go to arbitration with him. He looked slow defensively, did not hit for any power and was at best a mediocre player.

    I'd expect to see him traded, or non-tendered.

     

    Chance of Return: 25 percent

Alex Gonzalez

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Gonzalez didn't show the power he had while with Toronto, but he was better offensively and in the clubhouse than Yunel Escobar was earlier this year.

    He's got an affordable option for 2011. The Braves really don't have any long-term, major league ready options at shortstop right now, so I think he'll be hitting sixth in Fredi Gonzalez's lineup next year.

     

    Chance of Return: 95 percent

Nate McLouth

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Now I'm not sure what happened to Nate McLouth this year. I really don't know. Maybe it was just Terry Pendleton, who's now no longer the Braves hitting coach.

    Perhaps a different voice will help straighten him out.

    If he's the 25 HR, 80 RBI, 20-plus steal guy who can hit .275, the Braves will keep him.

    But, that's the big question. He showed a few flashes in September. And, another team might not want to trade for him.

    I really don't know what will happen with Nate.

     

    Chance of Return: 50 percent

Bobby Cox

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Bobby's managerial replacement has already been hired, with his endorsement. What were Bobby Cox's greatest traits as a manager also contributed to his postseason failures. He let the players play, and trusted them to do their jobs, and believed in them.

    Sometimes too long as was the case with Brooks Conrad this year. Or he depended on his relievers too much as has happened a few times in the past.

    He deserves our respect, and I'm glad the team got him to the playoffs one more time. But he's worn his uniform as the Braves manager for the last time.

    He's off to a couple of cruises in April, and will still be a voice in the front office for the next several years.

     

    Chance of Return (to manager): Zero percent

    Chance of Return (to Braves in 2011 as an employee): 100 percent

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