Anyway, now that the season is over, let's take a look at the Braves for 2011 and what Fredi will have to work with and some payroll numbers:
Pitching Staff (Starters):
- Derek Lowe - 2 years remaining at $15M per year. If the Derek Lowe we saw in September and October is the new Derek Lowe, I doubt the Braves will attempt to move him like they tried last year.
- Tim Hudson - 3 years left at $9M per year. Well worth it and will be remaining until 2013, when he's 37.
- Kenshin Kawakami - has 1 year left at $6.7M. The Braves will try hard to trade Kawakami in the off-season. He's 35, has been awful and is going to be tough to move. I think he'll get traded, but the Braves will have to eat most of his salary.
- Jair Jurrjens is arbitration eligible. He has 2 good years, but this year was a disaster due to injuries. I don't know how that affects his value or what it will be. He's arbitration eligible. I expect the Braves to be looking at $3-5M for 2011 for Jair and that they'll sign him.
- Tommy Hanson is not arbitration eligible and will make around $400k next year.
- Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are rookies and will also make the league minimum. One of them will be the 5th starter. The other will start the season in AAA Gwinnett or the bullpen.
- Kris Medlen - would be the 5th starter, if he wasn't going to spend the entire season rehabbing from TJ surgery. League minimum, probably covered by insurance.
- Peter Moylan - Moylan got $1.15M coming off Tommy John surgery. I expect he will get about $2M in arbitration and the Braves will keep him.
- Eric O'Flaherty is arbitration eligible. After an up-and-down season that saw him battle non-baseball related physical health problems, hard to say what O'Flaherty's worth is. If the Braves can re-sign him for less than $1M, I expect they would. A reliable lefty is hard to find.
- Johnny Venters - everyday Johnny will get some rookie of the year votes, and deservedly so. Venters came up through the system as a starter. It will be interesting to see if Gonzalez and McDowell (hope he stays) keepVenters in the pen or let him compete for a 5th starter spot. If the decision is made to move Lowe or Jurrjens, this could happen.
- Craig Kimbrel - the rookie is going to be given the closer job. League minimum.
- Michael Dunn - another left-handed rookie, Dunn will get a chance to re-earn a bullpen slot. However, with Venters, O'Flaherty, and Dunn, another left-handed reliever may become trade bait. My guess is Dunn's the odd man out.
- Christhian Martinez - not real sure his contract status, or if he's technically a rookie. He could make the bullpen, if he's not traded.
Pitchers NOT coming back:
- I think we can count on these guys not coming back, due to age/salary/ineffectiveness:
- Takashi Saito - he's 40, made $3.2M in 2010, was injured alot and is subject to arbitration. I doubt the Braves will offer him arbitration and let him become a free agent.
- Billy Wagner - duh! He means it, he's going to retire.
- Farnsworth - with a $5.25M team option, he is not coming back. Farnsworth will be lucky to get back to KC at $2M.
Pitching was what got this team to the playoffs in 2010. It will carry them again in 2011. Largest question mark is whether Kimbrel can handle the closer role.
This is the Braves biggest question mark. These things I think are certain:
- Chipper Jones will return.Chipper is going to make $13M next year. He's worth it still.
- Martin Prado is arbitration eligible. The Braves will offer it and he'll get about $6M (compare him to Placido Palanco).
- Brian McCann is signed through 2013. He's going to make $6.5M next year.
- Omar Infante - the team has a $2.5M team option on him. They'll exercise it.
- Alex Gonzalez - another guy for whom the team holds a $2.5M option. They'll exercise it, too.
- David Ross - the Braves signed Ross to a 2 year extension at $1.6M per year. May be the best back-up catcher in baseball.
- Jason Heyward - the rookie RF will make the league minimum. He'll be arbitration eligible about when Chipper retires.
- Freddie Freeman - the rookie 1B should make the club. League minimum for him. If he falters in the spring, we'll see who's available on the cheap then...
- Nate McLouth - looking at McLouth's contract, you learn why the Braves wanted him to get his stroke back and play. He's signed through 2011 at $6.5M next year. He has no trade value, so, he needs to work this winter and get his swing back.
- Matt Diaz - suffered through a rough year with an injury to his hand and never really got rolling. He's arbitration eligible and made $2.55M this year. My guess is Diaz wants to stay here, and would take around the same to stay. Is an OF of Heyward, McLouth, Infante what the Braves really want, with Diaz as the 4th OF?
- Brooks Conrad - the 30 year old rookie makes the league minimum. The Braves will keep him as a pinch hitter, occasional IF replacement.
- Rick Ankiel - if not for Ankiel's $6M mutual option for 2011, I'd expect him to stick around. I don't know where Ankiel can go. The Braves will not exercise their option, so, he'll become a free agent. I just don't see a market for Ankiel. He'll get invited to someone's camp in the spring, probably not the Braves, though.
Not coming back:
- Troy Glaus improved his value to someone this year. He's a free agent, and someone will likely sign him. Not the Braves, though. Hard to believe that Troy is only 33. Maybe an AL club looking for a DH. Wish him well, because he carried this team in the spring.
- Derrek Lee - Free agent first baseman will need to find a job somewhere else.
- Melky Cabrera - Arbitration eligible, but, I doubt he fits into the Braves plans in the OF. He made $3.1M this year. Depends on how Fredi feels about the choice between him and Diaz.
- Erik Hinske - a free agent who made $1M this year. Never saw Hinske at 1B. Would he take another $1M contract to be a PH and potential back-up in case Freeman falters at 1B?
That pretty much sums up the Braves existing players. They are going to add another LH power bat (Freeman) making them very left-handed, and increasing the need for a RH power outfielder. Their ability afford that kind of depends on whether they can move Kawakami and McLouth and their salaries. As I said, though, these guys have little trade value. If you see them traded in the winter for low-upside players, you know it's a salary dump.
Looking at MLBTradeRumors list of free agents, the best RH outfielder in the FA pool is clearly the Phillies Jason Werth (Carl Crawford's a lefty with not as much power). Inasmuch as he's been a Braves killer, it would be nice to bring him to Atlanta and get him away from the Phils. I'd expect he's looking for $18-20M. Xavier Nady as recently as 2 years ago hit 25 homers, but has really declined due to injury. He could be had for around $3M so could be a value shot. The Yankees Marcus Thames will also be a FA. He has never had the chance to play full time, but hits righties ok, and has a lot of pop. He's a just so-so outfielder, so LF would be his home. Pat Burrell will also be a FA. He's at the end of a 2 year deal at $8M per year. It'll be a push if he can duplicate that. He's a big RH bat who is a good fielder. Jose Guillen is 35 and has played for every team in MLB (almost). He's got good pop still, but is well traveled and made $12M/year on his last contract. Is he worth the $6-8M he'll command?