Braves re-sign free agent Hinske, cut ties with Diaz

Free agent Eric Hinske is staying with the Braves, but arbitration-eligible left fielder Matt Diaz is not.

Hinske signed a one-year, $1.45 million deal on Thursday that includes a $1.5  club option for 2012 and a $100,000 buyout. The veteran outfielder-first baseman turned down an offer from the Milwaukee Brewers in his home state of Wisconsin.

“I’m happy,” said Hinske, who hit .256 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs in 281 at-bats in 2010, including .298 with three homers as a pinch-hitter.  “Milwaukee made a big push. I think it kind of boiled down to, they weren’t willing to give me a two-year deal. Neither was Atlanta, but if neither was going to,  my heart was in Atlanta.

“I had so much fun there last year, and I think what they’re doing this offseason, bringing in [second baseman Dan] Uggla, and if Chipper [Jones] stays healthy I think we’ve got a real good shot next year.”

As expected, the Braves didn’t offer a contract to Diaz, who made $2.55 million in an injury-plagued 2010 season. He hit .250 with a career-low .302 on-base percentage and seven homers, and became expendable after the Braves traded for Uggla and announced Martin Prado would move from second to left field.

“It’s difficult sometimes, when salaries grow with arbitration, to have that type of salary in the role we foresee Matt having,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said.

Teams faced a midnight deadline Thursday to offer contracts to their remaining unsigned players, and the Braves tendered contracts for their other arbitration-eligibles: Uggla, Prado and pitchers Jair Jurrjens, Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty. Arb-eligible players who were non-tendered Thursday became free agents.

Hinske’s decision was a relief for Braves players and officials, who made it a priority to bring back the veteran who helped lead Atlanta to 91 wins and a postseason berth — their first trip to the playoffs since 2005.

“We saw just how valuable he was for our club,” Wren said of Hinske, 33, who has carved a niche as a bench player and pinch-hitter, after beginning his career as a Toronto third baseman and 2002 American League Rookie of the Year.

Wren said new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez urged him to do what he could to retain Hinske.

“Not only is he a guy that’s able to come up and get big hits for you late in the game,” Wren said, “but you can get him out there occasionally as an everyday player. And he provides valuable leadership in the clubhouse.”

Teammates lauded Hinske for his role in the Braves’ improved chemistry, calling him a leader since the beginning of spring training. He has played in the past four postseasons, including consecutive World Series appearances with three different teams during 2007-2009.

Hinske gets a raise to $1.35 million in 2011, after making $1 million in 2010 when he posted a .794 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) and was the Braves’ best left-handed bat off the bench. He had three homers in 47 pinch-hit at-bats, then added a pinch homer in the division series against San Francisco.

When other Braves left fielders struggled early, manager Bobby Cox put Hinske in the lineup, and he helped spark a season-turning resurgence after Atlanta’s nine-game losing skid in late April.

He hit .274 with 14 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs in 175 at-bats before the All-Star break, compared to .226  with 10 extra-base hits and 17 RBIs in 106 at-bats after the break.

He was effective in the late innings of close games, batting .302 with three homers and a 1.009 OPS in 43 at-bats.

Hinske praised the Nov. 16 trade for Uggla, who averaged 31 homers and more than 90 RBIs in five seasons with Florida.

“Right-handed power hitters are few and far between,” Hinske said. “He’s a difference maker, for sure. He killed us with the Marlins. It’s good to get a guy like that on our side.

“Even if we didn’t’ get him, I still wanted to come back. Now it’s an even better shot for us.”

The Braves welcome back one popular outfielder and said goodbye to another. Wren said he spoke with Diaz on Wednesday to prepare him for the non-tender possibility. It was not an easy phone call.

“Matt’s a great guy,” Wren said. “I called him yesterday morning to let him know this was likely going to happen. He somewhat expected it, and appreciated the call. We’ve all become very fond of Matt over the past five years, for what he’s provided both on and off the field.

“Just in talking to him, he said don’t forget about me for the future.”

Diaz was limited to 244 plate appearances due to a first-half thumb infection that required surgery. He had indicated he would pass up arbitration and return for a salary similar to last year’s.

But with his salary and the lack of playing time expected to be available in left field, Diaz doesn’t fit in the Braves plans, at least for 2011.  Diaz has played only the corner outfield positions, with the exception of two brief appearances at first base in 2007.

He had a .313 average and career-best .878 OPS in 2009, with career-highs of 425 plate appearances, 13 homers and 58 RBIs. In his down year in 2010, Diaz still hit .273 with a .512 slugging percentage against left-handers.

During 2007-2009, he hit a blistering .369 against lefties, with 17 homers and a .975 OPS in 396 at-bats. He hit .265 with a .700 OPS in 468 at-bats against righties in that period.

Wren is still looking to strengthen the bullpen and bench. Wren didn’t specify, but targets might include a veteran pitcher with some  setup or closing experience, and a hitter who can play some center field and/or the middle infield.

326 comments Add your comment

Steve McP

December 2nd, 2010
3:08 pm

woo hoo – he has unfinished business here in Atlanta and needs to be in the WS with the Braves to keep his run going.

Booby Cox

December 2nd, 2010
3:13 pm

E Dog Rocks! Good move FW, hope Fredi plays him more, think he was underused last year, now need McOut to step up & play some CF & we have a decent outfield, Go Bravos Ugga Ugga!!!!

meh

December 2nd, 2010
3:13 pm

Puma

December 2nd, 2010
3:15 pm

Awesome, now can we fit Diaz in too. I wonder if Diaz would take something close to what Hinske just got. They seem to be of equal value to the team, not sure Diaz worth the $2.5 mil vs. Hinske’s $1.5 mil

ThePriceIsWrongBitch!

December 2nd, 2010
3:15 pm

Awesome! This is huge and doesn’t cost us much. Another strong play from Wren! Go Bravos!

Bruce Chen

December 2nd, 2010
3:16 pm

The Braves odds to win the 2011 World Series just moved down from 12-1 to even!

bulldog bubba

December 2nd, 2010
3:17 pm

A great relief.Merry Christmas to us!!!

Greg

December 2nd, 2010
3:17 pm

A good signing. This is a no-brainer for the Braves, but a tough call for Hinske. Glad he went our way on this.

Joey M

December 2nd, 2010
3:19 pm

CHRISTMAS CAME EARLY!!! This made me so happy. Thank you Eric. You would not be hard to replace, you would be impossible. Welcome back. Welcome home.

Mr. Enigma

December 2nd, 2010
3:20 pm

Ol’ Franky Wren is having a 5-star offseason.

Fish Bisch

December 2nd, 2010
3:20 pm

Re-Sign Melky!

QRod

December 2nd, 2010
3:21 pm

“…their first trip to the playoffs in six years.” Shouldn’t that be 4 years?

Robz747

December 2nd, 2010
3:22 pm

Puma… I don’t think we have room for another outfielder on the roster now… we need a utility infielder!! hate to see Matt Diaz go but looks as tho that’s the case….

Anybody know the top utility player options?

Husker Tony

December 2nd, 2010
3:22 pm

thats a good signing. def going to the world series now……………..

NORRIS

December 2nd, 2010
3:23 pm

still need an outfielder.

Zach J

December 2nd, 2010
3:23 pm

Great news! Good job Frankie!

atlwolf

December 2nd, 2010
3:24 pm

I really like how next year is looking. If we can find a speedy centerfielder, we’ll be an absolute beast. I’m looking forward to dethroning the Philthies next year!

bostonbravo

December 2nd, 2010
3:24 pm

what a waste of money

atlwolf

December 2nd, 2010
3:24 pm

First trip to the playoffs since 2005. Five years. Get it right folks.

German Shepherd Dawg

December 2nd, 2010
3:24 pm

Melky? Seriously?

I’d much rather have Diaz.

Go Dawgs!

December 2nd, 2010
3:25 pm

Hinske was my favorite Brave not named Martin Prado last year. Welcome back, E!

markie mark

December 2nd, 2010
3:25 pm

COOL….the pieces are falling into place…

German Shepherd Dawg

December 2nd, 2010
3:26 pm

Norris,

Yes, specifically we need a CF, preferably a base-stealing threat for lead off.

Taylor

December 2nd, 2010
3:28 pm

Good news – shaping into a great team…its too early to get this excited.

urban redneck

December 2nd, 2010
3:30 pm

sweet. this is huge.

that’s what she said.

GT Alum

December 2nd, 2010
3:30 pm

Robz747 -

Moving Prado to LF basically replaces Diaz on the roster. We really still don’t have anyone I think the Braves would be terribly comfortable putting in CF or RF if those guys need replaced. We still need to sign an OF, but Diaz doesn’t really fit that mold. The remaining OF would likely take Melky’s role from last year, but hopefully he’ll at least be better defensively than Melk Dud.

PhillieKiller

December 2nd, 2010
3:30 pm

A veteran reliever and our off season is done! Lets start training early and get an edge.

JC Boscan III

December 2nd, 2010
3:31 pm

Love Hinske’s enthusiasm, hate to see Diaz go. Unfortunately, Hinske might only get 150 ABs this year, with Prado in left and Freeman at 1st. Hinske started out with Toronto as a 3B, but the Braves seem hesitant to use him as a backup there. Now, who might be our backup SS?? Our options seem limited as of now. Diory Hernandez hits .300 at AAA but under .200 in the majors so far. Any thoughts??!

bruce mac

December 2nd, 2010
3:32 pm

If old Frank can get an outfielder with speed (like Upton), we are going to have a heck of a year. Great signing, can’t wait until spring training. Get your playoff tickets early Braves fans.

K with a K

December 2nd, 2010
3:35 pm

Bill Hall or Jose Lopez who was non-tendered today by the M’s would be good utility guys. Is Joe Thurston an option as a utility guy. For the out field I like Scotty Pods or Fred Lewis who is expected to be non tendered by the Blue Jays. In the pen how about Kerry Wood or Bobby Jenks.

Tami

December 2nd, 2010
3:37 pm

Glad to hear Hinske’s staying!!! This could mean “bye-bye” to Diaz. However, I’m thrilled Hinske’s still with the Braves.

David O'Brien

December 2nd, 2010
3:37 pm

QRod: Actually, both of us were wrong. I wrote six years, you said four. It shoulda been five years — Braves’ last postseason appearance before 2010 was in 2005.

coach smith

December 2nd, 2010
3:40 pm

Dave O’Brien

Not to be nit-picky but

The Braves missed the playoffs in 2006, 2007 , 2008, and 2009 and then made it in 2010 SO…it was only a 4-year drought from the playoffs

Puma

December 2nd, 2010
3:41 pm

Yeah, looks like Diaz will be gone, sad. I keep forgetting that Martin will be in LF next year, that makes outfield soooo much better.

And I keep forgetting we picked up Joe Mather who can play LF or CF and 1B (I think). So yeah, looks like OF is set with Mather and Hinske off the bench, both can back up Freeman and play some outfield. Looks like all we need is a veteran reliever and a 2B/SS defensive stud.

Kashi

December 2nd, 2010
3:42 pm

I guess Joe Mather could play all infield positions, JC Boscan III

hAL

December 2nd, 2010
3:42 pm

get scotty p and were set with at least two outfielders prado and scott n maybe haystack will deside anything on the inner half should just be taken for a stike rather then grounding it felbbley to second or first his strikeouts would increase bu at least thats only one out per his at bats an improvment over his you can bank on it roy year lmao

hAL

December 2nd, 2010
3:43 pm

joe mather plays cf like i do and im close to 70 lol

toby

December 2nd, 2010
3:45 pm

All we need is a speedy CF(Jacoby Ellsbury) and were a legit WS contender!!! lets do it,we have the pieces to trade!!

JC

December 2nd, 2010
3:47 pm

Nice. I likey me some Hinske. Not gonna wow you with numbers but is a clutch pinch hitter, a quality utility man, and a solid clubhouse guy. He makes the Braves better.

Southpaw

December 2nd, 2010
3:47 pm

Who’s in center? Who’s in center?

ThePriceIsWrongBitch!

December 2nd, 2010
3:47 pm

I’d take Bill Hall as our IF utility man anyday!

Rufus

December 2nd, 2010
3:48 pm

While great news for the Braves I think this is the end for Mr Diaz in Atlanta. I hate that because he’s a great guy and good player who had one mediocre year this year.

GT Alum

December 2nd, 2010
3:49 pm

The remaining bench spots might be filled by some of the guys already in the system – Castillo, Lucas, Bowman, Costanza, Ramirez, Young, Mather.

J L

December 2nd, 2010
3:51 pm

How great would the line-up be if we could get a speedy, good defensive center fielder. I know it may cost a lot but WREN

J L

December 2nd, 2010
3:52 pm

would look like gm of the decade if he could get elsbury or gardner

Rico Brogna

December 2nd, 2010
3:53 pm

I can play some center field!

Ian

December 2nd, 2010
3:53 pm

On another note, the White Sox Non-Tendered closer Bobby Jenks. I’m not sure about his salary, and what it would cost the Braves, but he’s pretty much worth it. A K machine and a firey personality, and a great closer.

Joey M

December 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

I think the asking price for Ellsbury will be too high. I wonder what the chances are we could trade for Franklin Gutierrez. I would even like to see Scott Podsednik get signed, even though he is another left handed hitter. McLouth should get the chance to prove himself again. He did pretty well for us when he was called back up. I just hate to wait for him to boom or bust and than have to scramble to fill his spot. I just don’t see Mather as being the answer if McLouth goes back into a lull.

Don

December 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

Ellsbury spent most all of last year where???? Hint, it was not on the field it was on the DR and he was shutdown before the end of the year. While he as a good player before the injuries, you do not back you whold year on a DL based player. We have done that too often in the past!

Chris

December 2nd, 2010
3:56 pm

We need to get Scott Hairston. He was non-tendered by the Padres. He can play all 3 OF positions and he historically kills LHP so the worst case could be a CF platoon with Nate. More likely is that, as our OFers miss time with injury, he gets 300+ AB. This would be a substantial improvement over the Melk-dud from 2010. Make it happen, Wren!

faux positive

December 2nd, 2010
3:57 pm

I’m really glad Hinske was re signed. He had a good season. I’m hopeful about Matt Diaz, but hopeully he’ ll be happy if he’s released and winds up playing more next season. I’m still not sure about Freeman, not very impressive last Sept. when he came up. Injured his thumb doing the dumb head first slide and missed the Arizona league. With mclout back, he will probably be a sucky player again drawing a big salary and doing s**t for the Braves. If he hits .200 I would be amazed. Can’t wait for spring training though and hope I eat my words.

TREMAINE

December 2nd, 2010
3:58 pm

justin1

December 2nd, 2010
3:58 pm

Great news…Unless that really does seal the deal on Matty D. Which it most likely does. Its gonna be sad to see him in another uni, thats for sure.

[...] Hinske has re-signed with the Braves. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the news. Hinske has signed on for a one-year contract that includes a second year option. [...]

Ian

December 2nd, 2010
4:00 pm

Wouldn’t it be funny if Nate McLouth next season hit 310 and hit 30+ homers……… IF…..

justin1

December 2nd, 2010
4:01 pm

hAl…you say youre close to 70? At what point are you planning on learning to spell??

Braves Fan

December 2nd, 2010
4:01 pm

Welcome Back Hinske!

Retired Soldier

December 2nd, 2010
4:02 pm

Outstanding, I think 2011 has great promise.

NORRIS

December 2nd, 2010
4:04 pm

lot of names off the books from last year. Which means a lot of positions to fill. (should have been money free)
Melky, wagner, Saito, ankiel, farnsworth, infante, dunn, diaz, glauss, and lee.
so we fill two of those with uggla and freeman. This leaves 8 spots.
Got hinske back so we didnt count him.

Marlow29

December 2nd, 2010
4:05 pm

This is great Holiday News. Maybe we can nab 1 more solid bench player during the Winter Meetings to solidify an already resurged team!

Chief Knockahoma

December 2nd, 2010
4:07 pm

All that’s left is for the Braves to sign George Sherrill as their veteran reliever. Not.

Yep

December 2nd, 2010
4:07 pm

Churchy

December 2nd, 2010
4:08 pm

Hinske is a beast. Great news.

Even if Hinske has a bad year and pulls a Greg Norton, it doesn’t matter as Hinske is a cool dude.

Joey

December 2nd, 2010
4:09 pm

Ian, I (and the Braves) would just be happy if he would just put up his career averages. Maybe he gets straightened out.

Heisenberg

December 2nd, 2010
4:10 pm

Part of the challenge with with bringing back Diaz is salary. I believe he made around 2.5M last year and is up for arbitration. Although he has indicated he is willing to bypass arbitration and play for same amount, it does not appear as if he is valued at 2.5M by Braves. I have always liked him but we can get his production for a lot less. The problem is there is something in the CBA that restricts how much a players salary can be cut when still under club control. So the only way Braves can bring back Diaz is to non-tender him and let him see what he can get on the open market. Only then could we consider re-signing him for 1 mil. But if someone offers more, then all you can do is say congrats and good luck.

mudcat

December 2nd, 2010
4:12 pm

Scott Podsednek hit .297, stole 35 bases, has a good glove, solid clubhouse guy and is a free agent. What is FW waiting on?

Ray

December 2nd, 2010
4:13 pm

DOB, in your opinion do the Braves offer Diaz a contract?

Turtsnap

December 2nd, 2010
4:13 pm

Awesome news! Hinske was a key component to our success last year. Glad to see an athlete seeing that the Braves are trying their best to remain competitive!!

stew

December 2nd, 2010
4:14 pm

Get Justin Upton and I don’t care who our centerfielder would be! That would make Prado a utility player. Maybe BJ might be more practical. What’s with all this clubhouse crap? The game is won between the lines. Do we really need someone to tell us to “keep our heads up” during a nine game losing streak? The players win or lose the game not the manager, the coaches, or the clubhouse/chemistry. Cox won because Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery were solid.

Geezer

December 2nd, 2010
4:14 pm

Please don’t waste any time or money on trying to resign MELK-DUD. What a waste of money and position.

David O'Brien

December 2nd, 2010
4:14 pm

The Braves missed the playoffs in 2006, 2007 , 2008, and 2009 and then made it in 2010 SO…it was only a 4-year drought from the playoffs — Coach Smith.

Yes, which means they returned this year for the first time in five years.

NORRIS

December 2nd, 2010
4:15 pm

I am all for PODSEDNIK! He would be a great leadoff hitter.

stew

December 2nd, 2010
4:16 pm

Can we get something for Lowe now that he may have some value?

BigTimeTECHFan

December 2nd, 2010
4:17 pm

Braves can get
25 HR, 100 RBI, 20 SB from Hayward
25 HR, 100 RBI, 05 SB from Uggla
20 HR, 85 RBI, 05 SB from McCann
18 HR, 85 RBI, 05 SB from Chipper
12 HR, 65 RBI, from Freeman
12 HR, 65 RBI, runs from Prado
15 HR, 65 RBI, 15 SB from Gonzalez

all looks good

GT Alum

December 2nd, 2010
4:18 pm

Norris -

Some of the money freed up by those guys is going to raises for guys who are owed more money this year (like McCann make $1M more, McLouth make $2M more) and a lot of it will go toward Uggla.

Lee took Chipper’s roster spot, so Chipper will be replacing him, assuming Chipper’s able. The simplest way to think of who Uggla replaces might be to say he replaces Infante. The Braves will likely have Scott Proctor and Stephen Marek replacing two of those bullpen spots, and FW’s said he’s looking for a vet reliever to take another. Ankiel basically took McLouth’s spot when McLouth was sent down, so we won’t replace McLouth.

JK

December 2nd, 2010
4:18 pm

Hinske FTW! How is this even a question. It had to get done. He deserved a 2 year deal. He is a leader in the club house.

Bill Stanfill

December 2nd, 2010
4:20 pm

Whadda-ya-say we chip in and get DOB a Basic MATH Review book: the Braves had a 4-YEAR drought, not reaching the play-offs in the ‘06 through the ‘09 seasons. 1=1=1=1=4

I applaud the Hinske signing. It’s a relief not to have to scour the market for his replacement.

Fish Bisch

December 2nd, 2010
4:21 pm

Melky can play Centerfield.

Bill Stanfill

December 2nd, 2010
4:22 pm

Wait-a-minute: 1+1+1+1=4 Did I get it right this time?

Tmac

December 2nd, 2010
4:23 pm

WHO HOLDS THE OPTION ON THE 2ND YEAR?

Owl Hunter

December 2nd, 2010
4:23 pm

Stew

Prado as a utility player? Seriously? We’re not going after either Upton.

Allen

December 2nd, 2010
4:24 pm

Will ATL go after Bobby Jenks now for a Veteran Closer in the BP?

Melky

December 2nd, 2010
4:24 pm

I’d like for Wren to go after Scott Podsednik, and someone like Ty Wigginton for 1b/3b backup.

Matt

December 2nd, 2010
4:27 pm

Bill, if you have $2,010, and you give me $2,005, how much do you have left. I’m pretty sure my six year-old daughter knows the answer. It was the first time in five years since they were in the playoffs (October 2005 to October 2010). My God.

Chris

December 2nd, 2010
4:28 pm

Podsednik: 27 extra base hits in 539 AB. That might be ok if he were willing to take some walks, but he had only 40. That’s not a good combo. Plus, Ultimate Zone Rating (advanced fielding metric) had him as a -10.5 in the outfield this year.

Scott Hairston, however, has some power (career .435 SLG, .190 ISO) and plays average OF defense (UZR = 0.2). His career numbers against LHP: .278/.331/.498. He’s coming off his worst season, but was only 30 and played half his games at Petco, where hitters go to die. Also, his .236 BABiP shows that he’s primed for a rebound season.

Mutts

December 2nd, 2010
4:29 pm

This good news. Hinske is a winner.

Dawgdad (The Original)

December 2nd, 2010
4:32 pm

Great to have Hinske, but just wait Matty D will come back and kill us. He will join his buddy Charlie Manual in Filthy or the Marlins. He will probably go through one of his streaks against us, 7 for 7 or so and cost us a couple of games. Love to have him back, but I know the Braves prefer to shop at Value City rather than Kohl’s.

Puma

December 2nd, 2010
4:33 pm

Bill – DOB’s got you, there may have been 4 playoffs that occurred between Braves appearances, but the expired time between each playoff appearance was 5 years. Take a minute, or two, and work that one out. Then can we please drop this retarded argument?

BravoFan

December 2nd, 2010
4:33 pm

Like Tony the Tiger says “That’s GREAT!!!!”

LawDawg

December 2nd, 2010
4:35 pm

Yes, they missed the playoff’s 4 years straight, 06,07,08 &09. Yes they reached the playoff’s for the 1st time in 5 years 06,07,08,09 &10. It’s the same difference :o ).

Paul Hewitt

December 2nd, 2010
4:35 pm

How come Atlantans love Hinske but can’t wait for me to leave?

Skeezix

December 2nd, 2010
4:37 pm

Fantastic!! The guy is a great clutch hitter.

Skeezix

December 2nd, 2010
4:44 pm

Who can count to five? Use your fingers if you have to. 2006 + 2007 +2008 +2009 +2010 = 5 years.

1eyedJack

December 2nd, 2010
4:45 pm

Play Ball!!!!!

Phredd

December 2nd, 2010
4:47 pm

Best news today!

carlton

December 2nd, 2010
4:47 pm

DOB:

I saw the Pirates signed Andy Marte to a minor league deal. How did he miss? How could everyone been wrong about him? It happens, I know. What’s your take?

Sam Miller

December 2nd, 2010
4:47 pm

Thanks for all you did in Atlanta, Diaz!

old timer

December 2nd, 2010
4:49 pm

Team option, player option? They should have just signed him for two years.

Eddie

December 2nd, 2010
4:49 pm

Joe Mather is really the Jerry Mather The Beaver and Moylan is Lumpy.

mudcat

December 2nd, 2010
4:50 pm

SCOTT HAIRSTON?!? The guy who hit .210 this year, who struck out 69 times in only 295 AB’s. THAT Scott Hairston? Please! Stick to horseshoes or tiddleywinks or something your more familiar with.

Add your comment