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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 Sports.com’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

Braves still willing to listen to offers for Prado and Jurrjens

With it known that Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado could be had with the right offer,  the Braves have understandably received some attention during this week’s General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee.  But as this month has past it has become even more apparent that Atlanta GM Frank Wren will need to receive a rather attractive offer before seriously thinking about trading either of these two players.

Because this year’s free agent market is weak in the starting pitching department, it makes sense for the Braves to at least listen to offers for Jurrjens.  But it will take a substantial offer to land the 25-year-old right-handed pitcher.

There’s no doubt the Braves have an abundance of impressive young pitching prospects who are ready to join a rotation that is already projected to include both Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy.  But questions still surrounding Tommy Hanson’s shoulder, it might be in the Braves’ best interest to keep Jurrjens.

Prado has also drawn attention from the Rockies, Royals and a number of other clubs who like the versatility he could provide.  But with Chipper Jones approaching his 40th birthday and needing regular rest during the season, it might also be in the Braves’ best interest to keep Prado, who is very capable of handling third base whenever necessary.

Because Jurrjens and Prado are set to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million via arbitration this year, the Braves could certainly gain some financial flexibility by moving either of these players.  But Wren has said he has the financial resources available to satisfy all of his offseason needs without having to make a trade.

As the GM meetings opened this week, there was a rumor that the Braves might be willing to trade Prado to the Tigers for Delmon Young and possibly another prospect.   This was quickly debunked.   The Braves have shown little interest in Young in the past and they are seemingly looking for much more in return for Prado.

- Mark Bowman

Braves acquire Bourn

The Braves have acquired center fielder Michael Bourn from the Astros in exchange for Jordan Schafer and three Minor League pitchers –  left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and right-handersPaul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

Bourn will play center field and bat leadoff for the Braves for the remainder of the season.  He has hit .303 with a .363 on-base percentage and 39 stolen base attempts in 105 games for the Astros this year.

“Michael Bourn is a perfect fit for our club, which focuses on speed and defense to match up with our strong pitching,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “This trade gives us the first true leadoff hitter we’ve had in a number of years.”

Once Schafer and Nate McLouth went on the disabled list this past week, the Braves’ began searching for a center fielder.  The 28-year-old Bourn has one more arbitration-eligible season remaining and could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million next year.

Schafer spent most of the past two months as Atlanta’s starting center fielder.  Once considered the organization’s top prospect, he has missed time the past three years due to suspension and a left wrist injury.

Clemens has established himself as a strong prospect while going 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Mississippi this year.  Oberholtzer gained attention during Spring Training and has posted  a 3.74 ERA in 21 starts for Mississippi.

Abreu is a strong-armed right-handed reliever who recorded 68 strikeouts in 48 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this year.  – Mark Bowman

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