Offseason Outlook: Atlanta Braves

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Braves.  Here’s how they set up for ’09 using internal options only:

C – Brian McCann – $3.5MM
C – Clint Sammons – $400K
1B – Casey Kotchman – $1.45MM+
2B – Kelly Johnson – $430K+
SS – Yunel Escobar – $403K
3B – Chipper Jones – $11MM
IF – Martin Prado -$400K
IF/OF – Omar Infante – $1.4MM+
LF – Matt Diaz – $1.225MM+
CF – Josh Anderson – $400K
RF – Jeff Francoeur – $460K+
OF – Gregor Blanco – $400K
OF – Brandon Jones – $400K

SP – Jair Jurrjens – $400K
SP – Jorge Campillo – $400K
SP – Jo-Jo Reyes – $400K
SP – Charlie Morton – $400K
SP – James Parr – $400K

RP – Rafael Soriano – $6.1MM
RP – Mike Gonzalez – $2.3625MM+
RP – Blaine Boyer – $400K
RP – Jeff Bennett – $400K
RP – Manny Acosta – $400K
RP – Buddy Carlyle – $400K
RP – Jeff Ridgway – $400K

Injured players: Tim Hudson – $13MM, Peter Moylan – $410K, Chuck James – $428K+

Non-tender candidates: Vladimir Nunez, Ruben Gotay

The result: about $48MM committed, plus arbitration raises to Kotchman, Johnson, Infante, Diaz, Francoeur, and Gonzalez.  Those will add up, but the Braves should still come in under $60MM for the current players.  The team had an opening day payroll of $102.4MM.  The Braves are primed to do some serious spending.

The Braves are taking the right approach toward free agents/legends Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.  They could help, but the team won’t count on them.  I can see incentive-based deals for both. 

Manager Bobby Cox expects to add two quality starters, whether via free agency or trade.  I would target Derek Lowe due to his strong health record.  He might cost $14-15MM per year.  After that I’d ink a more affordable veteran like Paul Byrd, Freddy Garcia, or Randy Wolf.  That bargain starter may come from Japan, with Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami considered the top names.

That strategy would leave money for a quality left field bat – perhaps Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, Raul Ibanez, Brian Giles, or Juan Rivera.  It would also be wise to add a stopgap center fielder in the Mark Kotsay/Randy Winn mold.

On the trade side, the Braves may be willing to move Johnson and/or Francoeur.  The trade market for starters may include Tim Redding, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson, Ian Snell, Nate Robertson, Jarrod Washburn, Justin Duchscherer, and Boof Bonser.  See any matches there?  The Braves would be selling low on Francoeur.  Would swapping him for Brian Bannister make sense?

Frank Wren has a challenging offseason ahead of him; he’ll attempt to revamp the rotation and outfield.

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