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Braves reach agreement to acquire Dempster

The Braves reached an agreement to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs.  But the trade has not been officially completed.

Because he has played in the Majors for at least 10 years and been with the same team for at least five years, Dempster has the right to veto any trade.  After arriving at PNC Park on Monday afternoon, he said a trade had not been completed.

Dempster has the potential to serve as the stabilizing asset the Braves have been seeking to add to their inconsistent starting rotation.  The 35-year-old right-hander has posted a 2.15 ERA in 15 starts this year and a 3.63 ERA in the 147 starts he has made since the start of the 2008 season.

Once Jair Jurrjens struggled again during Sunday’s loss to the Nationals, it became more apparent the Braves would aggressively pursue the acquisition of a starting pitcher.  Their rotation has posted the third-worst ERA (4.34) in the National League this year.  <p>

Dempster will be a free agent at the conclusion of this season and he is owed approximately $5 million for the remainder of this season.  It is not known whether the Braves will be responsible for the entire portion of this figure.

When the Braves began evaluating ways to improve their starting rotation, Dempster and Zack Greinke sat at the top of their wish list. But as the past few days passed with the Brewers have providing clear indication that they are willing to move Greinke, the focus fell on Dempster.

To get Greinke, the Braves would have had to likely part with top pitching prospect Julio Teheran and at least one other Top 15 prospect.  Now they will likely simply pursue him on the free agent market this winter.

Braves continue their search for a starting pitcher

While Zack Greinke remains on the radar, the Braves have certainly not limited their search for a starting pitcher.  They recently asked the Red Sox about Jon Lester, who does not appear to be available at this time.  In addition, they have closely monitored Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, who remains scheduled to start tonight’s game against the Cardinals.

With the Dodgers and Cubs struggling to complete a deal, the Braves are among the teams who could end up landing Dempster.  Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez have known Dempster for approximately 15 years, dating back to the days when they were with the Marlins together.

Because there is some demand for him right now, the Braves might have to put together a decent package to land Dempster, who will be a free agent at the end of this season.  But the cost would likely not be as significant as the one needed to lure Greinke out of Milwaukee.

The Braves are not interested in mortgaging their future for a two-month rental.  So their interest in Greinke continues to hinge on the confidence they have in being able to sign him beyond this year.

It appears they are willing to provide the former Cy Young Award winner approximately $20 million a year.  Greinke has made it known that he would like to play for the Braves, who annually hold Spring Training within 20 minutes of the neighborhood he was raised in Orlando.

But instead of giving up prospects to get Greinke for the final months of this season, the Braves might choose to make a run at him on the free agent market this winter.

Speaking of the Marlins, they could become significant players on this year’s trade market if they decide they need to cut some payroll.  Josh Johnson could be among those players shopped and if he was the Johnson of old, the Braves might be more interested.  But for now, it does not appear the Braves will be aggressively pursuing any of Miami’s starting pitchers.

The Braves showed interest in Omar Infante before last year’s Trade Deadline. Given they once again have a need to improve their bench and possibly find a solution if Dan Uggla’s struggles continue, there is a chance they could once again discuss the possibility of Infante returning.

– Mark Bowman

Braves’ Wish List Starts with Greinke

The Braves will keep their starting rotation in place with the intention of spending the next two weeks determining how aggressive they should be leading up to the Trade Deadline.   Barring a drastic change during this period, they will enter the All-Star break interested in the potential to land Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke via a trade and then sign him before he would be eligible to hit the free agent market at the end of this season.

With Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson currently standing as the only reliable assets in their starting rotation, the Braves will likely make landing a starting pitcher a priority before the Trade Deadline.  Greinke, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Edinson Volquez would be among their potential targets.

But if the Braves reach a point where they are committed to land a starting pitcher they will target Greinke, who would be the top-of-the-rotation asset that could capably replace the injured Brandon Beachy and have the ability to compete in a postseason setting.

The Braves would like to avoid giving up the prospects that would be required to land Greinke.  But they will likely be tempted to do so unless Jair Jurrjens spends the next couple of weeks proving last Friday’s  start against the Red Sox was not a fluke.

But even if the Braves enter the break confident that Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens will solidify the front end of their rotation for the remainder of the year, they still might be tempted to add another veteran presence to their rotation.

If the Brewers opt to trade Greinke, the Braves’ interest would hinge on being able to lock the former Cy Young Award winner up with a long-term contract.  They are not interested in landing the right-hander to be a two-month rental.  Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, they would no longer be eligible to receive draft pick compensation if he exited as a free agent after this season.

This means the Braves would likely have to be willing to offer something similar to the contract recently signed by Matt Cain, who will be guaranteed $112.5 million over the course of the next five seasons (2013-17).

Though the Braves do not have much payroll flexibility this year, they have already discussed the potential of using the money budgeted for 2013 to address their needs via the trade market this year.

With Chipper Jones ($14 million), Derek Lowe ($15 million), Michael Bourn ($6.84 million) among those coming off of the payroll at the end of this year, the Braves will have some money to play with this winter.  But some of these funds will be needed to either re-sign Bourn or acquire at least one more outfielder.    —  Mark Bowman

Pastornicky impresses during memorable Opening Day debut

NEW YORK  —  Tyler Pastornicky struggled to deal with the pressure he felt during the early weeks of Spring Training.  But the night before making his Major League debut as the Braves’ starting shortstop in front of a raucous Opening Day crowd, Pastornicky soundly slept in his Manhattan hotel room.

“I was just overly tired,” Pastornicky said. “It’s been kind of a long couple of days.”

This has been quite a week for Pastornicky, who learned on Monday that he had won his battle against Andrelton Simmons to begin the year as Atlanta’s starting shortstop.  The 22-year-old infielder enjoyed seeing New York City for the first time on Wednesday.

But this week’s greatest thrill occurred at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon  as he experienced the thrill of playing in his first big league game.  The debut proved memorable even though his contributions did not prevent the Braves from suffering a 1-0 Opening Day loss to the Mets.

“I felt great,” Pastornicky said. “I think I got all of my nerves out in Spring Training with that terrible start.  I felt great. It was a tough game.  But, it was good to get the first one out of the way.”

Pastornicky notched his first Major League hit with a seventh-inning triple off Ramon Ramirez.  But his most encouraging plate appearance might have transpired in the fifth inning, when he fell behind with an 0-2 count and then drew a walk off Johan Santana.   This led Santana to throw an additional 16 pitches and end his outing after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.

“That’s one thing I had to learn in Spring Training, hitting eighth with the pitcher behind you in  a spot like that, you’re probably not going to get many good pitches to hit,” Pastornicky said. “So I had to definitely use patience there.”

As Pastornicky ranged to his left to grab a second inning grounder and helped turn a fourth-inning double play, his parents were watching from their stadium seats.  The Blue Jays paid for Cliff Pastornicky and his wife, Jane, to travel to New York to see their son’s debut. The elder Pastornicky is a professional scout for the Blue Jays.

“I can’t believe they would do something like that,” Pastornicky said. “It’s awesome. That’s classy.”


Braves did not offer Jurrjens and Prado to the Orioles

The Braves did express interest in Adam Jones.  But they did not offer Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens to the Orioles in exchange for the outfielder.

A source with knowledge of the Orioles negotiations disputed a Baltimore Sun report that indicated the Braves were rejected when they offered Prado, Jurrjens and a pitching prospect for Jones.

The source said the Braves were told Jones was unavailable when they asked about him a couple weeks ago.  The Orioles later called the Braves to see if they would trade Prado, Jurrjens and two other “premium guys” in exchange for Jones.

The Braves said they were not interested and the two clubs have not had any recent discussions about these players. —  Mark Bowman

Interest in Jurrjens could still grow

With Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson no longer on the free agent market, some have argued Jair Jurrjens is the best available starting pitcher for pitching-hungry teams. But the Braves still have not received a trade proposal attractive enough to trade Jurrjens.

The Yankees, Rangers, Rockies, Reds, Cubs and Red Sox are among the clubs that have been identified as potential suitors for Jurrjens.   The D-backs (trade with the A’s) and Marlins (signing of Buehrle) were more prominent members of this group most of last week. 

With a number of teams still looking for starting pitching, interest in Jurrjens could increase over the next few weeks.  One definite influence is the market for Yu Darvish. Once clubs better understand what they will have to pay the Japanese hurler, they might show greater interest in Jurrjens. 

There are some concerns about Jurrjens’ right knee, which has sidelined him during the latter stages of the past two seasons. But there might still be some teams willing to take a chance on him as he comes off an All-Star season with salary projected to be just north of $5 million.  The 25-year-old pitcher has one more year of eligibility beyond this year.

The Braves also have not yet heard an attractive trade offer for Martin Prado, who is also drawing attention from the Rockies.  The Tigers were quickly rejected last month when they offered outfielder Delmon Young for Prado.   –  Mark Bowman

Teams sensing Braves will trade Prado or Jurrjens

Braves general manager Frank Wren has said he does not need to make a significant trade this winter.   But scouts and executives from other Major League clubs are still getting a sense either Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado will be moved.

Jurrjens would provide the more significant return, especially after C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle are no longer free-agent options for pitching-hungry teams.    Right now, some potential suitors believe the Braves are asking for too much in return for the right-handed pitcher.

With fewer options available for these clubs to fill their respective starting rotations, teams might be willing to provide more for Jurrjens.

There are a number of clubs concerned about Jurrjens’ durability.  His right knee has prevented him from pitching down the stretch during both of the past two seasons.   But he did provide himself and the Braves some confidence when he threw five strong innings while wearing a knee brace during an Instructional League game one day after this year’s regular season concluded.

By moving Jurrjens or Prado, the Braves would gain approximately $5 million worth of payroll flexibility.  But Wren has continued to stress that he does not have to make a trade for payroll purposes.  – Mark Bowman

Braves evaluate trade and free agent options

Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed adding  a power-hitting outfielder remains on his wish list. But while meeting with a small group of reporters Monday afternoon, he said his only true roster need is to find a backup shortstop.

The Braves would like to add a veteran to serve as a backup infielder and provide insurance in the event that Tyler Pastornicky proves he is not ready to serve as Atlanta’s starting shortstop.   Their free agent targets include Nick Punto and Ronny Cedeno.

Jack Wilson’s offensive woes hurt his candidacy and Edgar Renteria is no longer deemed durable enough to serve as an insurance option who might have to play on regular basis.

If the Braves make a significant acquisition, they will likely do so via a trade involving either Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado.  But as the first day of this year’s Winter Meetings neared its end Monday, it remained unclear whether the Braves will move either of these players.

CBS’s Jon Heyman tweeted that Reds were showing interest in Jurrjens.  But it does not appear the Reds have shown any interest in the right-handed pitcher.

Nothing has really changed in relation to Prado and Jurrjens.  The Braves are only going to move them if they are gaining a significant return.  — Mark Bowman

Braves have more reason to be hesitant to trade starting pitchers

The Braves have made it known they will not trade Jair Jurrjens unless they receive a significant return. But even if they receive a significant offer, they may be reluctant to remove Jurrjens from a rotation that has some health concerns.

There is some uncertainty surrounding Tommy Hanson’s shoulder and now reason to wonder when Tim Hudson might be ready to pitch. When Hudson underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back last week, the Braves said he would be ready for the start of Spring Training.

But a Major League source said Monday morning that Hudson has told some close friends that he is not confident he’ll be ready to be in the starting rotation at the beginning of the regular season.

Because they have impressive starting-pitching depth with the likes of Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Kris Medlen, the Braves could certainly get by with Hudson missing a few weeks or the first month, but Hudson’s situation seemingly provides even more reason for the Braves to be hesitant about dealing Jurrjens, even if the return is significant.

— Mark Bowman

Braves expect to be busy talking trades in Dallas

Things have been rather quiet for Braves general manager Frank Wren and his staff over the past couple weeks. But they are expecting to be busy during next week’s Winter Meetings in Dallas.

The Braves are still willing to listen to offers for Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens and there are teams still showing definite interest in both players.  But interested clubs have come to realize Wren is only interested in trading Prado or Jurrjens if he gains a significant return.

Wren has said he is not looking to move a particular player or reduce his payroll.  But if he sees an opportunity to significantly improve his club with a trade, he will make a deal.  Most likely, that deal would involve either Jurrjens or Prado.

The demand for Jurrjens will likely increase once C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle, this year’s top free-agent starting pitchers, decide where they will be pitching next year.

The Rangers, Yankees, Marlins are among the teams that are expected to talk to the Braves about Jurrjens.

The Braves are evaluating options to acquire an outfielder with power potential and also still discussing potential replacements for free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who is expected to sign a multi-year deal elsewhere.

It seems like the Braves will be content to go to Spring Training with Tyler Pastornicky as their projected starting shortstop.  They are currently looking to sign a free agent like Jack Wilson or possibly Edgar Renteria to serve as a backup and insurance in the event that Pastornicky is not ready.

With Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons in their system, the Braves are not looking to make a long-term commitment to a veteran shortstop.  Simmons, who is considered one of the game’s top defensive shortstop prospects, might be ready to make the jump to the Majors after the All-Star break.

The Braves are not currently showing much interest to outfielders on the free agent market. If they end up acquiring an impact bat in the form of outfielder this winter, they believe they could do so via a trade involving either Jurrjens or Prado.  –  Mark Bowman