12/4/2013 5:01 P.M. ET
Inbox: What veteran arms interest Braves?
Beat reporter Mark Bowman fields offseason questions from Atlanta fans
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Besides the obvious names (Kyle Lohse, Jeff Samardzija, Bartolo Colon ), are there any other veteran pitchers we may see the Braves pursue?
-- Clint M., Loganville, Ga.
As we saw with this week's trade that sent Doug Fister from the Tigers to the Nationals, there is always a chance to be surprised by Hot Stove developments. Along with being bewildered by Detroit's willingness to make this move that provided a seemingly marginal return, multiple scouts and executives have indicated they were not aware Fister was available.
So, while Lohse and Samardzija stand as two potential options on the trade market, there is certainly reason to believe this week's flurry of transactions could open the door for the Braves to find other pitchers who could be available via trade.
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Wish lists change rapidly this time of year. Five years ago, the Braves initially targeted Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett as they attempted to reconstruct their starting rotation. Derek Lowe was initially an afterthought. But once Peavy and Burnett were no longer options, Lowe found himself lured to Atlanta with a four-year, $60 million contract.
Braves general manager Frank Wren is in a completely different position this year. While he would like to add a starter, he is not staring at the same need he faced leading up to the 2009 season. With Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Julio Teheran, he already has the base for a solid rotation. If Alex Wood builds on what he did during his rookie season, he is more than capable of providing value in the rotation's fifth spot.
If possible, the Braves would like to add one of those "been there, done that" guys to this projected rotation that does not have a member who has made more than 85 career starts. But in their search, Wren and his staff will remain mindful of the fact that they do not want to block the path of Wood or some of the club's other talented pitching prospects who could be deemed Major League-ready before the end of the 2015 season.
So along with experience, the Braves are also looking for a pitcher who would likely serve as a short-term solution in Atlanta. Tim Hudson stood as the logical fit before the demand for him escalated his cost -- he signed a two-year, $23 million contract with the Giants, beyond what the Braves were willing to pay a 38-year-old pitcher who fractured the ankle of his push leg four months ago.
Given that he has indicated he might only want to pitch for another season or two, Burnett seems to be a potential fit for the Braves. But the veteran pitcher has continued to give teams clear indication that he will retire if he does not return to the Pirates.
Will the Braves attempt to sign Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons to long-term deals?
-- Donovan R., Cartersville, Ga.
As things currently stand, it would appear the most likely member of this trio to sign a multiyear deal would be Simmons. It is too early to accurately project what Simmons might earn once he becomes arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season. But after seeing him hit 17 homers and establish himself as the game's top defensive shortstop this past season, the Braves certainly have reason to attempt to gain cost control with the long-term deal that would extend beyond the 2018 season.
The Braves had a very brief discussion with Heyward as he entered his first arbitration-eligible season this year. Now that the 24-year-old right fielder is two seasons away from free agency, it might be even more difficult for the two parties to reach an agreement.
There is little reason to discount Heyward's tremendous potential. But injuries have marred production during his first four Major League seasons. Consequently, the Braves might not be comfortable making the kind of offer that would match what Heyward expects to make over his final two arbitration seasons (2014 and '15) and as a free agent after the 2015 season.
Freeman is approaching his first arbitration-eligible season with the benefit of having just finished fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award balloting. His situation is somewhat comparable to the one Joey Votto was in before the Reds gave him a three-year, $38 million deal (which included a $6 million signing bonus) as he prepared to enter the arbitration process for the first time.
When Votto signed his deal, he had hit .314 with 98 home runs and a .958 OPS in 1,870 plate appearances. Freeman's career stats include a .285 batting average, 68 home runs and a .825 OPS.
With this in mind, Freeman likely will not gain the same kind of three-year deal Votto signed before the 2011 season. But don't forget that Votto has since signed a 10-year, $225 million contract that could influence the mindset of both the Braves and Freeman during any potential negotiations.
What has happened to Freddy Garcia? Is there some reason that his name doesn't seem to be coming up in the discussion of a possible "veteran presence" in the starting rotation for 2014?
-- Kerry V., Hampton, Ga.
Garcia was valuable down the stretch and proved his doubters wrong during his matchup against Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 of the 2013 NL Division Series. The Braves have had at least some contact with the veteran pitcher this offseason. But for now, it seems he stands as a fall-back option.
With Garcia, the Braves would gain an experienced and versatile pitcher who could add depth to the pitching staff. If they were confident he would pitch like he did while posting a 1.83 ERA in the three September starts he made, it would be a no-brainer decision. But he's a surgically repaired 37-year-old hurler who spent July and most of August with Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate. It would be near impossible to make an accurate projection of what he could do over the course of an entire season.
-- Connor S., Marietta, Ga.
During the early months of this season, a Braves scout said that Salcedo was finally starting to round into form and show flashes of the potential that was envisioned when he received a $1.8 million signing bonus in 2010. But Salcedo ended up hitting just .239 with 12 home runs and a .675 OPS in the 132 games he played for Double-A Mississippi.
Through his first four professional seasons, Salcedo has hit .240, compiled a .689 OPS and continued to struggle mightily with the glove, even after making the move from shortstop to third base. For now, the Braves will continue to hold out hope that the 22-year-old infielder will eventually blossom.