Frank Wren, the Braves' executive vice president and general manager, answered questions from fans in a live Web chat on Thursday. Wren discussed the state of the starting rotation, who is and isn't on the trading block, Jake Peavy and other trade rumors, Bobby Cox's future and Ken Griffey Sr. Read what else Wren said in the chat transcript below.
Wren: Welcome, everyone. It seems like the offseason has been going on for six months instead of a month and a half. I'll try to answer as many questions as possible.
glenn1981: What pitchers are you targeting, if any, in the trade world?
Wren: That is one, as you can imagine, that would be tough to answer publicly. Let's just say we have several pitchers we have targeted.
proga91111: Are there any possibilities to have Tommy Hanson in the rotation for the start of next year?
Wren: Tommy has been tremendous in Arizona, we will let him continue to "show us" where he needs to pitch next year.
atlbrave82: Is Jordan Schafer going to get a chance to play center field this spring for Atlanta?
Wren: He was playing in Mexico until last week when he injured a finger and had to come home. He will be in the mix and I would say right now he is penciled in for Triple-A.
bigdaddy2: Has any thought being given to converting Tyler Flowers to a corner outfielder while still using him as the backup catcher every fifth day?
Wren: Tyler has played first base when he was rehabbing his knee in '07, but I think the outfield might be a bit of a stretch for him. He also has been very good in Arizona, as most of you know.
atlbrave82: Is Mike Hampton willing to come back at a large discount since he did not play much and was paid very well for a few years?
Wren: I think Mike is interested in coming back, and we will see where the negotiations end up. I know he likes this organization.
atlbrave82: I have heard that Rafael Furcal would be willing to come back to Atlanta for a discount price. If we trade Yunel Escobar, is that a possibilty?
Wren: I don't want to get the cart before the horse, but in our discussions, Rafael would like to come back if the opportunity presented itself.
Thanatos: What will the Braves' budget be in 2009?
Wren: It will be up again from last year. That is the third year in a row we have increased our payroll.
wdtr: What luck are you having at finding starting pitching since the Jake Peavy deal?
Wren: It's a little early to tell. We have a lot of "lines in the water" and we will see if we can get some bites.
krickeys: What kind of inroads are being made with international scouting?
Wren: We didn't really have to make inroads since we have one of, if not the strongest, international scouting staffs in the game. Johnny Almaraz and his staff are very highly thought of and extremely productive for us.
Thanatos: What was it like replacing what many consider a legend like John Schuerholz?
Wren: Having worked alongside John for so many years, I can't try to be like John, but we have very similar views about putting a team together.
marsh10: Hey Frank, I'm going to work in a minute and wanted to know how the Peavy deal is going? And also, who are you looking at to man the outfield as a right-handed power hitter?
Wren: As we said last week, we have turned our focus in other directions. We are looking for a productive bat in the outfield, but they are scarce as well.
ozzy99: How will Tom Glavine and John Smoltz fit into next year's rotation with the hopeful addition of some offseason pitching prospects along with young guns Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo?
Wren: They will be great additions to our staff if and when they can pitch. We have to go about our offseason planning as if they won't be back and then adjust if they are.
santori34: What are you doing about starting pitching and relievers? It was a serious problem last year.
Wren: Our starting pitching was a strength until all the injuries, and our bullpen should be very good with Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano being healthy and with Mike Gonzalez for the whole year. We clearly have to acquire some starting pitching.
falcons360: Hey Frank, when are we going to get a pitcher?
Wren: I wish I knew. Hopefully soon.
Thanatos: We have all heard how you are currently trying to acquire pitching. What will you be looking at upgrading on the offensive side?
Wren: We need more production from our outfield, for sure.
krice42: Mr. Wren, what are your opinions on the use of instant replay?
Wren: I like the way it is being used at present, and we will see in the future if there is a desire to expand it.
kylan: How much of what goes on between GMs this time of year is "smoke-screening"?
Wren: Probably a lot. We all have our own styles of dealing with the media. Some are very open and others very closed. In today's world, the media will run with any tidbit to beat the other guy. Sometimes it is with a little truth and a whole lot of supposition, as we saw firsthand in the Peavy story.
Thanatos: What is the plan if Jeff Francouer struggles again next year? Will you try to acquire a solid outfielder to back him up?
Wren: We are counting on that not happening. There just aren't that many solid guys available to start backing up your regulars, but we will have some depth in our outfield.
miguel561: What is the possibility that you could sign A.J. Burnett, knowing there are a lot of clubs after him?
Wren: It's way too early to know the answer to that one. We would like to have him in our rotation, though.
Thanatos: How long till Tommy Hanson is a Major League starting pitcher?
Wren: Not too long. I'm not sure if that is sometime in '09 or the beginning of '10, but it's not too far away.
Thanatos: Which arbitration-eligible player do you see getting a large pay raise?
Wren: All of our first-time arbitration-eligible players will get rather large raises, but we don't have anyone off the charts like Ryan Howard last year.
BBKing: Is Escobar the only Brave on the trading block?
Wren: Escobar is not on the trading block. We have conversations about players regularly, but that doesn't mean they are on "the block" -- it just means they are desired by other clubs.
Thanatos: How did you get started in baseball?
Wren: I played in the Minor Leagues for five years, coached for four years and have been in the front office for 23 years.
Thanatos: What is your relationship with other GMs? Any that you prefer to avoid? Any that you would prefer to trade with?
Wren: Like anything else, there are only 30 GMs in the game, so we all are pretty friendly. There are none I avoid, but there are some that I prefer to deal with.
Thanatos: Tyler Flowers is blooming in the AFL, what is the future for him since Brian McCann is behind the plate?
Wren: We see him as a quality young power hitter and developing as a solid catcher. A lot of things can happen between now and when he arrives in the big leagues.
atticus11: Have there been any new talks with the Padres about acquiring Peavy?
ukmatt2: Mr. Wren, congratulations on a positive start to your time as GM. How close are we to putting out a starting team as of today? Do you think the likes of Matt Diaz and Casey Kotchman are players that will help us move forwards as a team?
Wren: Thank you. We have our infield in place and we are still working on our outfield. I think Casey can clearly be part of our team going forward, and if we didn't think so, clubs would line up for him based on the interest from other GMs. Matt had a tough year with the injury, but he is still a good hitter and has dedicated himself this winter and is in great shape.
Thanatos: Eventually, Bobby Cox will retire. Is there a person that you and the Braves are grooming to take over for him when the time comes?
Wren: Not yet. We will cross that bridge when the time comes.
onespeed: Frank, I was hoping you could share your view as a GM on how much you rely on statistical analysis (sabermetrics) when trying to fill out your 25-man roster?
Wren: It is one piece of the puzzle. It is important to understand the statistical "profile" for each position to help put the team together.
Thanatos: Have the Braves considered bringing Julio Franco back as a coach?
Wren: We have discussed the idea, but we don't have a spot for him at this time.
gforce2: Have you received any indication from John Smoltz that he intends to pitch in 2009 ?
Wren: I talked to him last week, and he plans to try.
Thanatos: What percentage of Braves games do you attend in a season?
Wren: All home games and maybe 20 road games. I try to go see our Minor League teams when the big club goes out of town.
braves1524: What's the chance of getting Ryan Ludwick this season?
Wren: I can't discuss other teams' players.
Thanatos: Who is your favorite ballplayer of all time?
Wren: Ken Griffey Sr. I bet that's a surprise. I grew up a big Reds fan, and I loved his combination of speed and athleticism.
jakeyb1:Good day, Mr. Wren. I was wondering about Anthony Lerew's status. Is he still with the organization? If so, how is he progressing?
Wren: He is pitching in Puerto Rico this winter. He had a lost year in '08 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
whirlic: Hi Frank. I think you have been doing a great job. What are we going to do about getting some new pitching? If we could sign Burnett, I would be ecstatic. I wish you continued success.
Wren: Thanks. I would take that, too!
jurrjens87: Have the Braves ever thought of maybe bringing Paul Byrd back and what's the latest on Junichi Tazawa?
Wren: We have discussed Paul. He is a tremendous teammate and a dependable starting pitcher. Tazawa is still pitching for his industrial league team and has not finished his season, and therefore. he can't sign yet.
preacherj: Frank, thanks for taking my question. In looking for a power bat in the outfield, how much does left- vs. right-handed play into things? We have several lefties that could hit consecutively it seems. Does this affect if you look only for a right-handed bat?
Wren: We would prefer a right-handed bat, because of our left-handed hitters we already have. And the vast majority of our kids coming are left-handed hitters. But if you look at our key returning guys, McCann, Kelly Johnson and Kotchman, they all hit left-handed pitchers as well or better than they hit right-handers. We can go either way, really.
lumbajack: With $40 million plus to spend this offseason, is there pressure to have to spend that money so the budget doesn't get cut the next year?
Wren: No, that's not an issue. The bigger issue is we want to build for the very long haul, so we want to hold onto our kids and to sign the right guys to supplement a very talented crop of young players. That is the bigger consideration.
onespeed: Are you ever frustrated by the MLB scheduling, especially when it comes to playing so many games within your division as well as how the strength of schedule for different teams varies so much during Interleague Play?
Wren: It is an argument that always come up, and it does frustrate you sometimes. It can't be helped with the American League and the National League not being equal size. The divisions are not all equal size and traditional rivals not being the same strength. There are lots of difficult issues to deal with.
preacherj: Any indication on who will be the closer going into 2009? Is that completely Bobby's call?
Wren: That is Bobby's call, but based on '08, I think Gonzo will be the guy to beat when we report to Disney.
Thanatos:Who will be the big free agents from the Braves next year? Will you attempt to lock any up long-term before next offseason?
Wren: Our only free agents next year will be Gonzo, Soriano and Omar Infante. We'll evaluate that later in the season.
braves1090: I've heard a lot of trade rumors involving Chicago White Sox and former Braves outfileder Jermaine Dye. Have you had any conversations with the White Sox's GM?
Wren: I have had several conversations with Kenny Williams, but I can't say who we talked about.
atlbrave82: Mr. Wren, I am from Atlanta, living in San Diego. I was wondering if Bobby Cox retires after this year, what are the chances of Terry Pendleton getting a shot as manager of the the Braves?
Wren: Terry is a very bright guy, and I think if he wants to manage, he will get consideration, as he has for other open managerial jobs in the past.
preacherj: Mr. Wren, any new word on how Smoltz/Glavine are doing this offseason?
Wren: They are both doing very well.
tpetrusa: Frank, what are the chances, if any, that we might be dealing with K.C. for their newly acquired Coco Crisp as a center-field option for 2009?
hunterb55: Is Manny Ramirez a possible Braves player?
Wren: I don't think so. He is very talented, though.
foo_g: Has it been discussed to move Chipper Jones to first base in an attempt to decrease the potential for injuries and ensure that his bat stays in the lineup? Does Casey Kotchman have the versatility to play some outfield under these circumstances?
Wren: Chipper is still a very good third baseman. His injuries by and large have nothing to do with the position he plays, so we are happy to leave him right there. He also wants to stay there.
koolmap: What are the chances that we can get two top-notch, front-of-the-rotation guys this offseason?
Wren: That's our goal. But it is a limited market. We'll have to see how it ends up.
snealinda: We haven't seen much action in the free-agent/trading market with the Braves yet? Can we expect some type of movement soon?
Wren: The market as a whole has been slow. We have a lot of things we are working on. Hopefully soon.
atlbrave82: Have there been any recent talks with the Padres about Peavy, and are they really asking for too much or is it the no-trade clause that is the concern?
Wren: We never got that far.
Thanatos: Will you attempt to acquire a shortstop in the offseason, or trust that Escobar will not be traded?
Wren: Escobar is our shortstop.
ajax1031: Do you really think that resigning Hampton is a good idea? Don't we need to get away from injury-prone players?
Wren: I think Mike is still a very good pitcher.
mattress25: Mr. Wren, are there any prospects in the Minors that are being overshadowed by Tommy Hanson, Jordan Schafer, etc., who may surprise us and may make the team out of Spring Training, as Gregor Blanco did in 2008?
Wren: I think our depth in our system is what makes us a prime trading partner for so many other clubs. We have enough depth at several positions that we can trade young players to fill needs without hurting our long-term plans. There are a couple names that come to mind, but I don't want to put undue pressure on them by naming them here.
todd13: Do you think the Braves might want Brian Fuentes?
Wren: That's really not a need of ours.
rbt778: Kelly Johnson is a natural left fielder and a pretty good No. 7 hitter. How about Dye or Ordonez trade for power bat and let Hernandez or Blanco go for the trade?
Wren: Kelly is a natural shortstop who we moved to left field, and he had a tremendous last six weeks and he is getting better at second base all the time.
Thanatos: What is the hardest thing about being a general manager in the MLB?
Wren: The amount of time spent dealing with non-baseball issues -- media, agents etc. I have no complaints, but that's just the hardest.
mattress25: Mr. Wren, how do you see the bullpen stacking up for 2009 with Mike Gonzalez closing and hopefully getting Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan healthy?
Wren: Thats our strength, we think.
snealinda: We haven't seen any action from the Braves yet this offseason. Should we be concerned as fans that we will not make many moves to improve?
Wren: It's very early. Most things happen after Thanksgiving and Dec 1 -- the arbitration offer date to free agents.
Wren: Thanks for all the questions, and we are working hard to put the best team on the field in '09 and beyond.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.