Archive for November, 2011

McCann contract situation looms for Braves

While most Braves fans are wondering who’ll be their Opening Day shortstop and whether Jair Jurrjens and/or the popular Martin Prado will be traded by the end of next week’s Winter Meetings, a potentially bigger issue looms in the not-too-distant future: Brian McCann.

Braves' Brian McCann, the best hitting catcher in the National League, is signed through 2012 with a $12 million team option for 2013. Then what?

Braves' Brian McCann, the best hitting catcher in the National League, is signed through 2012 with a $12 million team option for 2013. Then what?

Specifically, will the Braves make the six-time All-Star catcher a franchise player along the lines of Chipper Jones by signing McCann to a long-term extension in the next year or so?

McCann will make $11.5 million in the final season of his contract in 2012 (the base salary of $8.5 million was increased the maximum $3 million by escalators tied to All-Star appearances and Silver Slugger awards).

There is a $12 million option for 2013, a straight team option with a $500,000 buyout. Between now and the end of the ’12 season — we’ll operate under an assumption the team …

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Hudson has back surgery, should be ready for spring

Braves pitcher Tim Hudson had back surgery for a herniated disc on Monday, and doctors said the 36-year-old right-hander should be fully recovered for spring training.

His back bothered him to varying degrees for the past two seasons, but surgery was necessitated only after the pain increased during Hudson’s recent offseason workouts. He could be cleared to resume throwing in about six weeks.

Hudson was 16-10 with a 3.22 ERA in 33 starts in 2011, leading the Braves in wins, ERA and innings (215) and ranking second in strikeouts (158). He missed a start in late May with back stiffness.

“We’ve known for a couple of years, but it just kind of escalated to the point where he needed to do this,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “The hope all along was that this would be a post-career surgery, but the reality is it just got progressively worse.”

Hudson is owed $9 million in 2012 in the last season of a three-year, $28 million contract extension that also includes a $9 million …

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Braves decline to offer Gonzalez arbitration

The Braves did not offer salary arbitration to free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez on Wednesday’s deadline, choosing not to risk him accepting and commanding more than $3 million in arbitration.

The Braves forfeited a chance at gaining a supplemental draft pick from another team that signs him.

Gonzalez, 34, is seeking a two-year deal, which the Braves weren’t prepared to offer. He seems likely to get one on the open market, given the demand for shortstops this offseason. Clint Barmes just signed a two-year deal with the Pirates worth $11 million, and veteran shortstop Jamey Carroll signed a two-year deal worth at least $6.5 million with the Twins.

But Gonzalez also might have chosen to stay in Atlanta where he seemed to enjoy his time, and given the raise he’s likely to command on his $2.5 million salary, he did not fit into the Braves plans. Gonzalez is coming off a standout defensive season but hit only .241 with a .270 on-base percentage.

The Braves are looking to either …

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Braves sign 14 minor league free agents, invite 11 to camp

The Braves announced the signing of 14 minor league free agents on Tuesday, including 11 who have been invited to spring training. Among the non-roster invitees are six players who saw time in the major leagues last season, including catcher J.C. Boscan, who returns for a 13th season in the Braves organization and his 15th in the minors overall.

Other familiar faces in camp will be left-hander Yohan Flande, who was a non-roster invitee last season before spending the year on the Gwinnett Braves’ staff, and first baseman Ernesto Mejia. Mejia is back for his eighth minor league season in the Braves’ system after leading Double-A Mississippi in home runs (26), RBIs (99) and doubles (37) last year, while hitting .297.

The Braves signed five newcomers who played in the major leagues last season: infielder Josh Wilson, who hit .224 with two home runs in 60 games with the Diamondbacks and Brewers; infielder Drew Sutton, who split time between Triple-A Pawtucket and the Red Sox, for …

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Mark Cuban not interested in buying Braves

If Liberty Media decides to sell the Braves, billionaire Mark Cuban said he wouldn’t make an offer.

“I like franchises that need a lot of help,” the iconoclastic Dallas Mavericks owner said in an email Saturday. “The Braves have a great franchise.”

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

Cuban recently looked into buying the Los Angeles Dodgers, but said the asking price of $1 billion to $1.2 billion was too high. He lost a bidding war for the then-bankrupt Texas Rangers in 2010, and expressed interest in buying the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

A recent poll in an Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Braves blog asked fans if they would like to see Cuban try to buy the Braves. Ninety-five percent of nearly 8,000 people who responded voted yes.

“I’m flattered by the fans’ response,” Cuban said via email. “While I respect the amazing tradition and history of the Braves, and ATL is a great sports town, it’s not a franchise I would pursue.”

Cuban, 52, prefers to buy franchises in some need and turn them …

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Wren: Must be sure trades strengthen Braves

A year ago, the Braves made the first big trade of the 2010 offseason by dealing for Dan Uggla at the mid-November general managers meetings, where usually there is more groundwork done for trades later in the winter than actual trades completed.

Prado had a subpar season after missing more than a month with a staph infection. The 2010 All-Star second baseman was moved to left field in '11 to accomodate Dan Uggla.

Prado had a subpar season after missing more than a month with a staph infection. The 2010 All-Star second baseman was moved to left field in '11 to accomodate Dan Uggla.

Then there was a rumor two weeks ago that spread quickly, a rumor that the Braves might be willing to trade pitcher Jair Jurrjens and left fielder Martin Prado in order to free up cash to pursue a shortstop and power-hitting outfielder.

Couple those two situations — the Uggla trade of Nov. 16, 2010 and the Jurrjens/Prado rumors of the past couple of weeks – and it was understandable that Braves fans were braced for a trade or two to go down at the GM meetings this past week in Milwaukee.

Then no trade happened.

No trade even came close to happening, despite leaked …

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Braves add Hoover, 2 other pitchers to 40-man roster

The Braves purchased the contracts of minor league right-handers Jaye Chapman and J.J. Hoover and lefty Luis Avilan, adding the three to their 40-man roster to ensure they can’t be poached by another organization in next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Chapman, 24, went 3-3 with a 2.50 ERA and four saves in 52 games (one start) for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett in 2011. He had a 2.98 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 54-1/3 innings for Gwinnett after an early season promotion.

Hoover was 3-6 with a 2.64 ERA in 43 games (14 starts) for Mississippi and Gwinnett, collecting 117 strikeouts with 40 walks in 105-2/3 innings. The hard-throwing 23-year-old excelled after a move to the bullpen, where he could compete for a major league job.

Opponents hit .174 against him in 12 games (two starts) in Triple-A. He has a 3.14 ERA and 425 strikeouts in 401 innings during four minor league seasons, and Baseball America rated Hoover’s slider as the best in the Braves’ pitching-rich system.

Avilan, …

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Braves prez Schuerholz pitches “Murph” for HOF

The Braves today sent a letter from team president John Schuerholz to Hall of Fame-voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America and others in the media, supporting former Atlanta standout Dale Murphy’s election to the HOF on the upcoming ballot.

Time is running out for HOF consideration for “Murph,” a Braves icon who is on the ballot for the 14th year and hasn’t come close to election. The maximum eligibility is 15 years on the ballot.

Murphy was a two-time National League MVP (1982, 1983), seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner. He finished his career with a .265 average, .346 on-base percentage, 398 home runs and 1,266 RBIs in 18 seasons, 15 of which were spent with the Braves.  He finished 12th or higher in the league  MVP balloting six times.

His career average and OBP declined significantly during his final six injury-plagued seasons, after his last great season in 1987 when he hit .295 with a career-high 44 homers, 105 RBIs and a …

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It’s Braves vs. prospects in spring finale at Gwinnett

The Braves will try something different to spice up the end of spring training in 2012, playing an exhibition game against some of their top prospects at Triple-A Gwinnett’s Coolray Field on April 3 at 6:05 p.m.

In past years the Braves played a pair of exhibition games against an American League team at Turner Field between the final Grapefruit League game in Florida and the regular season opener. Those games, sparsely attended in recent years, aren’t on the schedule in ‘12.

The Braves will open their 34-game spring training schedule March 3 with a home game against Detroit at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and close the Florida schedule with an April 2 home game against the New York Mets.

The New York Yankees play the Braves twice in Lake Buena Vista — March 10 and March 28 — and World Series champion St. Louis visits on March 19. Philadelphia plays the Braves once at Lake Buena Vista, on April 1.

Braves pitchers and catchers report to …

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Kimbrel wins NL Rookie of Year, Freeman runner-up

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel shattered the major league rookie record for saves in 2011, and on Monday he and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman accomplished something no rookie teammates had done in more than two decades.

Kimbrel was a unanimous winner of the National League Rookie of the Year award from the Baseball Writers Association of America, and Freeman was the runner-up. Philadelphia pitcher Vance Worley finished third.

The Braves became the first team with the top two finishers in National or American League rookie of the year balloting since 1989, when the Chicago Cubs’ Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith finished first and second in the NL.

“It’s an award you only get one chance to win and I’m honored to have that privilege,” said Kimbrel, 23, who got all 32 first-place votes and 160 total points to become the 10th unanimous selection and first since Albert Pujols in 2001.

He’s the fifth Atlanta rookie to win the BBWAA award and first since Rafael Furcal in 2000.

“It …

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