Braves exercise options on Gonzalez, Infante
Club inks Proctor, declines deals for Farnsworth, Ankiel
ATLANTA -- After losing their tightly contested Division Series battle against the eventual world champion Giants, there wasn't any reason to wonder if the Braves would bring shortstop Alex Gonzalez and All-Star utility man Omar Infante back for the 2011 season.
Less than 24 hours after this year's free-agent season began, the Braves took time Tuesday afternoon to announce they have exercised the $2.5 million options for both Gonzalez and Infante. Based on their production this past year, both infielders likely could have garnered higher salaries if they had been given a chance to enter the free-agent market.
While Gonzalez and Infante will be attempting to build off this year's success, Scott Proctor will return to the Braves next year with the hope that he can regain his status as one of the game's most reliable middle relievers. The 33-year-old right-hander spent most of this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, struggling with his attempted return from Tommy John surgery.
Proctor, who posted a 3.58 ERA while combining for 166 appearances with the Yankees and Dodgers in 2006 and '07, has agreed to a one-year deal that includes a base salary of approximately $750,000 and incentives that could increase the package to $1 million.
Because Proctor is still an arbitration-eligible player, his contract isn't guaranteed. Thus if he struggles during Spring Training, the Braves could release him and owe him just a fraction of his base salary.
Proctor's elbow forced him to miss the entire 2009 season. He entered this season hoping to join the Atlanta bullpen by the start of May. But he struggled with his control and didn't show much promise until he allowed just one run and five hits in the final nine innings he completed for Gwinnett in August.
The Braves also confirmed that they will not be exercising the options for right-handed reliever Kyle Farnsworth and outfielder Rick Ankiel. They will spend $250,000 to buyout Farnsworth's $5.25 million option and $500,000 to negate Ankiel's $6 million option.
Three weeks after bidding adieu to his record-setting career, Billy Wagner has shown no desire to allow the Braves to exercise his $6.5 million option. When reached by phone Tuesday morning, the 39-year-old left-handed closer said he hasn't altered his plan to remain retired.
Gonzalez hit .250 and matched a career-high 23 homers while playing for the Blue Jays and Braves this past season. The 33-year-old shortstop's offensive production dropped significantly after he was acquired during the All-Star break in a five-player trade that sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto.
During his 72 games with the Braves, Gonzalez hit .240 with six homers and a.676 OPS. But the veteran shortstop provided solid defense and clutch hits down the stretch. He hit a walk-off homer during a Sept. 11 win over the Cardinals and delivered the game-tying eighth-inning double off Brian Wilson in the Game 2 win over the Giants in the National League Division Series.
Infante entered this season regarded as a valuable utility man and exited it as one of the most valuable members of manager Bobby Cox's last Braves club. The versatile Venezuelan ranked third among qualified National League players with a .321 batting average, played five different positions and made at least 12 starts at three different positions.
When Phillies manager Charlie Manuel opted to add a utility man to his National League roster in July, Infante was provided a surprising All-Star selection. The 28-year-old infielder has hit a Major League-best .352 with runners in scoring position since the start of the 2007 season.
The Braves have five more arbitration-eligible players -- infielder Martin Prado, outfielder Matt Diaz, right-handed reliever Peter Moylan, left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty and right-handed starter Jair Jurrjens -- remaining on their roster. Diaz appears to be the only member of this group who might not be tendered a contract by the Dec. 2 deadline.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.