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Braves acquire Bonifacio and Russell

The Braves attempted to strength both their bullpen and bench by acquiring utility man Emilio Bonifacio and left-hander James Russell from the Cubs just before Thursday afternoon’s Trade Deadline.  The Cubs will receive Minor League catcher Victor Caratini, who is regarded as an intriguing prospect with  a high offensive upside.

The Braves will receive cash to account for the remaining salary owed to Bonifacio and Russell this year.

Bonifacio’s versatility should help the Braves anemic bench from both an offensive and defensive perspective.  The 29-year-old veteran can play both the infield and outfield while assuming a role similar to the one he had when playing for Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez while they were both with the Marlins in 2009-10.    He has hit .279 and stolen 14 bases in 298 plate appearances this year.

Russell gives the Braves the left-handed reliever they were seeking.  But this season’s splits indicate he will not be utilized simply as left-handed specialist. The veteran southpaw has limited right-handed hitters to a .103 (6-for-58) batting average and .243 on-base percentage this year. Left-handed hitters have batted .295 (18-for-61) with a .358 on-base percentage against him.

In 316 career appearances, Russell has allowed left-handed hitters to bat .242 with a .276 on-base percentage.

Caratini taken in the second round of the 2013 Draft has hit .279 with five home runs and a .757 OPS in 87 games with Class A Rome this year.  While there is some reason to wonder if he will remain a catcher, his offensive potential has not created much scrutiny.


Braves might remain quiet

The Braves will spend the next week searching for ways to upgrade their bullpen and bench.  But with essentially no financial flexibility and limited attractive options, there is a chance they will remain quiet through the July 31 Trade Deadline.

Like with another of other clubs, Red Sox left-hander Andrew Miller has been on the Braves’ radar.  There has even been some discussion about the Cubs’ southpaw Wesley Wright.  But some members of the Braves’ organization believe their best option to add a left-handed reliever might come in the form of a rejuvenated and improved Luis Avilan, who was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett this past weekend with the hope that he will regain the form he possessed last year.

If the Braves do land a reliever or bench player, they will likely have to strike a deal with which they do not incur any cost for this season.  They went well over their budget when they gave Ervin Santana a $14.1 million in March.

–  Mark Bowman

Peavy is not on the Braves’ radar

When the Braves signed Ervin Santana to a one-year, $14.1 million contract in March, they went over budget and essentially erased any financial flexibility that they might need leading up to this year’s Trade Deadline.  Still they will attempt to be creative in attempt to add depth to their bullpen and possibly bench by the end of this month.

While the Braves have not ruled out the possibility of adding a starting pitcher, the club certainly does not view this as a priority.  So contrary to a Boston Globe report, the Braves are not among the teams the Red Sox are actively talking to about a potential deal involving Jake Peavy.

If the Braves are going to take on money, they will need to remove some from their current payroll.  They obviously would like to move Dan Uggla and a portion of the $18-19 million he is owed through the end of 2015 season.   But as the past nine months have proven, the likelihood of this occurring is slim.

But this is not the first time general manager Frank Wren has been in this financially-restrictive position.  When he needed a leadoff hitter in 2011, he provided the Astros at least one extra prospect in order to prevent having to assume any of the remaining salary Michael Bourn was owed that year.

– Mark Bowman




Rodney drawing interest from the Mets and O’s

Just one year removed from one of the most impressive seasons ever produced by a closer, Fernando Rodney has spent the past few months finding it difficult to gain employment.  But recent reports have indicated the Mets and Orioles have at least some level of interest in signing Rodney.  

ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reported the Mets began speaking to Rodney after losing their bid to sign Grant Balfour, the veteran closer who signed a two-year deal with the Rays on Thursday. 

The interest in Balfour and Rodney creates reason to believe the Mets are concerned about their projected closer Bobby Parnell, who missed the final two months of the 2013 season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. 

After trading Jim Johnson to the A’s, the Orioles seemingly satisfied their need for a closer by agreeing to a deal with Balfour.  Medical reports voided that potential deal soon after that agreement was reported. 

While the Orioles could certainly use Rodney, who has combined for 85 saves over the past two seasons,’s Britt Ghiroli describes the club’s current interest in the closer as “lukewarm.”

— Mark Bowman








Braves in the midst of “serious discussions” with Floyd

Gavin Floyd is five years removed from his only 200-inning Major League season and seven months removed from elbow reconstruction surgery.  But the Braves are targeting him to provide starting pitching depth and possibly serve as the veteran presence they have been aiming to add to their inexperienced rotation.

A source familiar with the situation said the Braves have had “serious discussions” with Floyd and that the two parties appear close to an agreement.  It is not known whether it would be a Major League or Minor League deal.

Floyd made just five starts for the White Sox this past season before having to undergo Tommy John surgery on May 6. During the procedure, Dr. David Altchek reconstructed the 30-year-old hurler’s right elbow by repairing a torn ulnar collateral ligament and torn flexor tendon.

Because both the tendon and ligament were repaired, Floyd could need more than the 12-month rehab schedule starting pitchers often experience after undergoing Tommy John surgery.   Multiple post-surgery reports indicated he could be sidelined 14-19 months.  If this proves to be true, he could be sidelined until early July.

Floyd has gone 69-69 with a 4.38 ERA in the 186 Major League starts he has made since the Phillies selected him with the fourth overall selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.   The White Sox acquired Floyd and Gio Gonzalez in exchange for Freddy Garcia on Dec. 6, 2006.

After producing a 5.89 ERA in the 29 starts he made from 2004-07, Floyd produced some encouragement, going 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA in the 33 starts he made during the 2008 season.  But he has compiled a 4.22 ERA in the 125 starts he has made over the five seasons that have followed.

— Mark Bowman

McCann and Hudson drawing interest from a number of clubs

There will no surprises for Brian McCann or Tim Hudson once every Major League Baseball club makes its qualifying offers to their respective qualified free agents by 5 p.m. ET today.  McCann will receive one and Hudson will not.

In order to receive draft-pick compensation for potential free-agent departures, clubs must make a qualifying offer to any of its qualifying free agents.   The player has until 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday to accept the offer, which this year is a one-year contract valued at $14.1 million.

Hudson and McCann are Atlanta’s only free agents who qualified for this potential offer.

McCann will decline this offer, which is obviously less significant than the generous offers he is expected to receive as he stands as one of the most attractive free agents on this year’s market.  The Rangers are the early favorites to sign the seven-time All-Star catcher, who will turn 30 in February.  But  McCann is also expected to receive attention from a handful of other clubs, most notably the Yankees and Red Sox.

Hudson will not receive a qualifying offer because his salary for the 2014 season will likely not be in the vicinity of the $14.1 million figure.  But the 38-year-old veteran pitcher has been encouraged by the fact that approximately 10 teams have already contacted him.   The Royals and Indians are the clubs that have shown the most interest so far.

Indians manager Terry Francona had a lengthy telephone discussion with Hudson a few days ago.  Royals manager Ned Yost is expected to meet with Hudson later this week.

The Braves have already made a one-year offer to Hudson.  But Hudson and his agent have not yet chosen to make a counter offer.

Hudson is nearing the end of his recovery from the fractured right ankle that sidelined him for the final two months of this season.   A screw will be removed from his ankle within the next week.  If everything appears to be structurally sound at that point, Hudson could be cleared to begin throwing two weeks later.

– Mark Bowman


Braves acquire Downs from the Angels

The Braves got the left-handed reliever they have been seeking when they acquired Scott Downs from the Angels in exchange for right-handed Minor League pitcher Cory Rasmus early Monday afternoon.

Downs has compiled a 1.84 ERA in 43 appearances for the Angels this season.  The 37-year-old southpaw has limited left-handed hitters to a .196 batting average and .255 on-base percentage.  Right-handed hitters have batted .286 with a .385 on-base percentage against him.

Braves general manager Frank Wren’s focus over the past few weeks has been to improve the depth of his bullpen.  With the acquisition of Downs, he has gained a veteran reliever who is capable of reducing the workload top setup men Luis Avilan and Jordan Walden incur during the regular season’s final two months.

Downs is owed approximately $1.6 million over the remainder of this season. He is in the final year of a three-year contract.

Rasmus has compiled a  1.37 ERA in 37 relief appearances with Triple-A Gwinnett this season.  The 25-year-old right-hander made his only three Major League appearances with the Braves earlier this year.  He allowed six earned runs and eight hits, including four homers, in the 6 2/3 innings that encompassed those three appearances.

–  Mark Bowman

Braves remain focused on adding a reliever

While the Braves have spent the past few days at least evaluating the possibility of acquiring a starting pitcher, it appears their focus remains on upgrading the bullpen before Wednesday’s Trade Deadline.

After losing Tim Hudson for the remainder of the season on Wednesday, the Braves began at least exploring the cost of landing a starting pitcher who would legitimately improve their starting rotation.  The three pitchers that fit this category appeared to be Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana and Kyle Lohse.

There might be some lingering interest in Peavy.  But the Braves have not had any conversations with the Royals about Santana, who will likely remain in Kansas City beyond this week.  As for Lohse, it does not appear the Brewers would be willing to move him for a cost that that the Braves would be willing to pay.

Braves general manager Frank Wren has said he is comfortable with his starting pitching depth and would only be in the market to land a potential frontline starter.  This is why the Braves have not explored the possibility of landing Houston’s Bud Norris, who is not viewed as a potential upgrade to what the club already possesses.

So with the deadline now three days away, the left-handed relievers who continue to draw interest from the Braves are the Angels’ Scott Downs and the Cubs’ James Russell. The club’s interest in Milwaukee’s Mike Gonzalez has seemingly been lukewarm at best.

There has been some recent speculation among scouts that the Braves might be among the clubs interested in acquiring Toronto’s Darren Oliver.  But there are definite concerns about the 42-year-old Oliver, who has limited right-handed hitters to a .244 on-base percentage and allowed left-handed hitters to reach base at a .407 clip.

– Mark Bowman

Braves now in pursuit of a front-line starting pitcher

Since losing Tim Hudson to a season-ending ankle injury on Wednesday night, the Braves have widened their focus on the trade market.  While enhancing the bullpen’s depth, preferably with a left-handed reliever, still appears to be the priority, the club is now looking at the possibility of acquiring a front-line starting pitcher to fill Hudson’s void.

Braves general manager Frank Wren and his scouts will spend the next few days evaluating the small group of available starting pitchers who could legitimately upgrade the rotation.  Instead of pursuing a middle-of the-rotation piece like Bud Norris, the club’s interest in this department is focused on the likes of Jake Peavy and Ervin Santana.

The Braves had a scout present to watch Peavy throw 118 pitches and complete seven innings against the Tigers on Thursday.  This outing seemed to diminish any fears about the lingering effects of the fractured right rib that sidelined the White Sox right-hander from June 5-July 20.

Peavy is owed $4.8 million for the remainder of this year.  The 32-year-old Alabama native’s contract also includes a $14.5 million salary for 2014 and a $15 million vesting player option for 2015.  All indications are that the Braves are financially in position to make this deal.

While trading Santana would diminish the odds of the Royals achieving their goal of recording a winning season, the club understands the future benefits that could be realized by trading the 30-year-old right-hander, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

While the Braves do not seem to have any interest in Yovani Gallardo, they might ask the Brewers about Kyle Lohse, who has compiled a 2.49 ERA in the 11 starts he has made since the end of May.

–  Mark Bowman

Braves continue their search for relievers

Like many clubs, the Braves are still hoping to strengthen their bullpen before next week’s Trade Deadline.  But while they are evaluating a number of relievers, it does not appear they currently have a specific target.

The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers seems to believe the Braves are the favorites to land Jesse Crain from the White Sox if the All-Star reliever comes off the disabled list within the next week and provides indication that his right shoulder is healthy.  Rogers expressed this sentiment early Tuesday morning while on The Mully And Hanley Show on Chicago’s 670 The Score.

If he is healthy, Crain would arguably be the best reliever available and there is no doubt the Braves have definite interest in the 32-year-old reliever, who is in the final year of a three-year contract.  He has posted a 0.74 ERA and limited opponents to a .287 on-base percentage in 38 appearances.  But there is certainly reason to be cautious with any pitcher dealing with a shoulder ailment.

The Braves are still hoping left-hander Alex Wood proves effective enough to remain in the starting rotation throughout the remainder of this season.  Brandon Beachy is also expected to rejoin Atlanta’s rotation next week.  The expected additions of Wood and Beachy continue to fuel the belief that Kris Medlen could be moved to the bullpen within the next week.

With Medlen and Jordan Walden, the Braves would have two right-handed relievers who can neutralize left-handed hitters with their changeup.  But there still seems to be a desire to add a left-handed reliever.

The Angels’ Scott Downs, the Cubs’ James Russell and the Brewers’ Mike Gonzalez are among the left-handed relievers who have all drawn some form of interest from Atlanta’s brass.

But it appears Downs, who is in the final year of his three-year contract, and Russell, who is in the midst of his first arbitration-eligible season, rank above Gonzalez on the Braves’ wish list.

– Mark Bowman