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Peavy Not Wren's Only Offseason Focus

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Peavy not Wren's only offseason focus

With free agency looming, Braves look to updgrade rotation

By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Most recent attention surrounding the Braves has centered on their attempt to obtain Jake Peavy via a trade with the Padres. But when the free-agency period begins on Friday, there will be much more talk about Atlanta's pursuit of some of the top available starting pitchers.

If everything goes right for Braves general manager Frank Wren, he'll acquire Peavy and also sign Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett or Ryan Dempster -- the top three available free-agent starters not named CC Sabathia. With slightly more than $40 million to spend, Wren has the resources to pull off this tough task.

At the same time, Wren has plenty of motivation to do whatever it takes to strengthen a starting rotation that currently has National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate Jair Jurrjens standing as its ace.

Along with pursuing Peavy during last week's General Manager Meetings, Wren spent time talking to the representatives for Lowe, Burnett and Dempster. By the end of this week, Wren will be able to bid for the services of these starters, who will command the most attention from those teams that can't compete with the enormous offer the Yankees are expected to provide Sabathia.

Wren's intention throughout this offseason has been to acquire two top-caliber starting pitchers to add to his rotation, which will be absent of Tim Hudson until at least August. Thus, whether or not Wren gets Peavy, he'll definitely be making a push for at least one of the top available starters on the free-agent market.

The Braves' starting rotation looks much different than it did last November, when they added Tom Glavine and found themselves with four former 20-game winners. Hopes of that equating to a run toward the World Series were dashed when Glavine, Hudson and John Smoltz all were forced to undergo season-ending surgeries.

By the end of the season, the rotation's only healthy veteran was Mike Hampton, who could potentially return to the Braves next year. Hampton, Glavine and Smoltz have all filed for free agency.

Last week, Wren spoke to Hampton's agent, Mark Rodgers, and the two parties are expected to continue discussions. The veteran left-hander enhanced his value while proving effective and healthy during the season's final two months.

Hampton, who missed nearly three full seasons before returning to the mound on July 26, has said he feels some sense of loyalty to the Braves because of the patience they showed while he recovered from two separate left elbow surgeries and battled other injuries over the past few years.

Atlanta will also continue to monitor the rehab progress made by Smoltz, who feels confident he can return from right shoulder surgery, and Glavine, who had a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow repaired in August.

Until Glavine and Smoltz begin throwing again some time in December or early January, they won't be certain that they'll be able to continue their storied careers. But if they are able to pitch and choose to do so, they'd both definitely like to stay in Atlanta.

The Braves also have some interest in re-signing Will Ohman if the price is right. If he's deemed too expensive, they'll need to find a more economical option to utilize as a left-handed middle reliever.

Ohman's struggles during the season's final two months prevented him from earning status as a Type B free agent. Thus if he signs elsewhere, the Braves won't receive the compensation they'd envisioned when they chose not to deal him before this year's Trade Deadline.

In addition to strengthening his starting rotation, Wren also is in search of a power-hitting outfielder, who preferably hits right-handed. But it appears this need may be filled via trade. The Braves aren't in the market for Manny Ramirez and they aren't too excited about any of the other outfielders on the free-agent market.

While some Braves scouts like Raul Ibanez, the fact that he hits left-handed weakens his candidacy. Wren wants to find a right-handed power bat to place between the switch-hitting Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, who bats left-handed.

As for the right-handed Pat Burrell, he has drawn very little interest from the Braves. Although he's hit at least 29 homers each of the past four seasons, Burrell is a .257 career hitter whose lack of speed makes him a defensive liability.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Mailbag: What's the Braves' Plan B?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Atlanta fans' questions

By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

As the Jake Peavy saga continues, do the Braves have a Plan B, in case they can't get him?

-- Ryan S., Indianapolis

Acquiring Peavy would certainly put the Braves well on their way to a successful offseason. Having him as their ace for the next four years would further brighten an already bright future that is buoyed with a promising crop of Minor League talent.

With a package that would likely have Yunel Escobar as the centerpiece, the Braves feel they are offering the Padres more than the Cubs or any other team has offered. Still, if Peavy continues to have reservations about joining the Braves and doesn't convince Padres general manager Kevin Towers that he wants to be traded to Atlanta, Braves GM Frank Wren will still be committed to acquiring two top-flight starters.

Whether or not they acquire Peavy, the Braves will continue their pursuit of Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett and Ryan Dempster. Of course, with Peavy in place, Atlanta would be a much more attractive destination for Lowe, Burnett, Dempster or any other free agent.

Plan A and Plan B are essentially the same, in the sense that the Braves want to do whatever possible to add two of the best available starters to their rotation. They have the financial resources to acquire two of the top available free agent starting pitchers. But with the limited number of attractive options, that would certainly be a tough task.

The Braves want to re-sign Mike Hampton. But doing that wouldn't alter their plan to put two more dependable starters at the front of the rotation. Pitching was the key to their run of 14 consecutive division titles, and as they continue their rebuilding phase, the central focus remains reloading their rotation with top-caliber arms, and they undoubtedly hope one of those is Peavy's.

If the Braves end up trading Escobar in the Peavy deal, who do you think they will put at shortstop next year?

-- Bryan C., Newnan, Ga.

If there is one position where the Braves don't have enviable depth in the Minor League system, it's at shortstop. If they were to deal Escobar, they would look outside of their organization for a replacement.

Braves fans are very familiar with both Rafael Furcal and Edgar Renteria, and both are available on the free-agent market. Furcal's current price tag might be too steep when you consider he missed most of this past season with a back injury that could continue to cause problems.

As for Renteria, he's battled a sore back over the past few years, and the Tigers quickly learned this past summer that his range is steadily decreasing. Still, he was a reliable defender during his days in Atlanta, and it might be worth taking a gamble on him with the belief that he simply can't play for teams in cold American League climates.

If the Braves aren't able to find a shortstop on the free-agent market, which also includes Orlando Cabrera, they will look at trade options. Jack Wilson, Maicer Izturis and Julio Lugo could be available.

Is there any chance that the Braves might target Zack Greinke in a trade with the Royals? He seems like someone who would fit into the front or middle of the rotation pretty well without spending much money.

-- Alex E., Kennesaw, Ga.

This past week, there were some unfounded rumors that the Braves were shopping Jeff Francoeur. The resulting speculation was that Royals GM Dayton Moore might be interested.

Moore undoubtedly has great respect for Francoeur, and the Braves are among the many teams that would love to have Greinke in their starting rotation.

But I don't think Moore is ready to trade Greinke, and he'd likely need more than just Francoeur to be persuaded to deal his young ace to Atlanta.

What does Chipper Jones have to do to win a Gold Glove? He keeps losing to David Wright, who hasn't been as good as Chipper defensively. Is playing in New York the only requirement?

-- Helen C., Northfield, Vt.

There doesn't seem to be much research done when some managers and coaches vote for the Gold Glove winners. Every year, you can look at the list of winners and be surprised with at least one selection. Last year, it was certainly surprising to see Wright selected ahead of many better candidates, including Jones, who had a much better fielding percentage (.971) than the Mets' third baseman (.954).

This year, Wright had a better fielding percentage (.962) than Jones (.958). But he committed 16 errors, seven more than the Cardinals' Troy Glaus, who led all NL third basemen with a .982 fielding percentage.

My opinion on Gold Gloves is that you are going to continue to be baffled by some winners if you try to honestly determine why they were selected.

Which of the prospects that Wren considers "untouchable" are most likely to be in Atlanta at some point next year?

-- Will P., Dell City, Ind.

Wren has never revealed exactly who is part of the group of prospects that he won't trade under any circumstances. It is assumed that Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward are definitely part of that group. Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran might also be included.

Hanson and Jordan Schafer seem to be the prospects with the best chances of being in Atlanta next year. Then over the next couple of seasons, you're going to see a regular wave of young talent that has Wren excited about his club's future.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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