Trade talk should keep Braves busy at Meetings
Teams continue to show interest in acquiring Jurrjens, Prado
When Braves general manager Frank Wren traveled to Las Vegas for Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings in 2008, he was searching for two starting pitchers and still feeling some of the pain created by the 90-loss season his club had just endured.
Three years later, Wren will travel to the Winter Meetings with a surplus of starting pitching and the satisfaction of knowing his club already possesses many of the pieces it needs to avoid another September collapse and return to the playoffs.
When Wren and his staff members arrive in Dallas on Sunday for the start of next week's Winter Meetings, they will not possess an extensive shopping list. But with a number of teams still showing interest in Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado, the members of the Braves baseball operations department should be quite busy.
Even though teams have shown interest in both Prado and Jurrjens, there is still a definite chance both begin the 2012 season still wearing a Braves uniform.
While the Braves have made it known they are willing to listen to all offers, interested teams have learned over the past month that Wren will not trade Jurrjens or Prado without receiving a significant return -- one that could include the power-hitting outfielder he would like to add to manager Fredi Gonzalez's lineup.
"We don't feel pressured to make a big splash, but we do feel pressured to improve our team," Wren said. "We are not looking to deal one particular player and we are not looking to cut payroll. We're just looking to improve our team."
The Rockies and Tigers are among the teams that have shown interest in the versatile Prado, who struggled through injuries while playing left field this past season. Still, many teams still view the hard-working versatile Venezuelan the same as they did in 2010, when he established himself as an All-Star second baseman.
The Rangers, Yankees, Marlins and every other club searching for starting pitching have shown some interest in Jurrjens. That interest could grow even greater once free-agent starting pitchers C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle choose their next employer.
"We've had a lot of lead-up conversations during the General Managers Meetings [earlier this month]," Wren said. "Things cooled a little bit as teams waited on the [Collective Bargaining Agreement] and watched how things played out with free agency. We'll probably hear from some more teams. But we really don't know what to expect."
While the Braves have not made a significant transaction this offseason, Wren certainly created some excitement when he traded Derek Lowe to the Indians and dismissed Larry Parrish after just one season as Atlanta's hitting coach. The Braves saved $5 million by trading Lowe, who is owed $15 million entering the final year of his four-year, $60 million contract.
The Braves have a definite need to find a shortstop to replace Alex Gonzalez and the desire to find a power-hitting outfielder.
While there is a chance they could find an outfielder via free agency, it seems more likely that they would satisfy this desire via the package they are seeking in return for Jurrjens or Prado.
As for the need to acquire a shortstop, it does not appear the Braves will be aggressive in this market. Instead, they might simply find a veteran who would be targeted to serve as a backup and insurance in the event that Tyler Pastornicky is not ready to begin the season as Atlanta's starting shortstop.
Pastornicky has played just 27 games above the Double-A level and there are some scouts who still question whether he is ready for the Major Leagues. But the Braves have developed a great appreciation for his approach and the belief that he has the ability to produce the kind of professional at-bats that could prove productive at the bottom of the lineup.
Wren has said he is not interested in acquiring a veteran shortstop who would come with a multi-year commitment. This would simply block the career paths of the 21-year-old Pastornicky and the 22-year-old Andrelton Simmons, who has been considered by some scouts to be the game's best defensive shortstop prospect.
There are some within the organization who believe Simmons could be ready, at least from a defensive perspective, to play at the Majors after this year's All-Star break.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.