The Braves will have a couple of major needs to fill this winter and a good sum of money to throw at those needs with the cash they’ll free up from Chipper Jones retiring and the contract of Derek Lowe finally expiring (along another potential significant salary or two that could be dropped).
General manager Frank Wren said his offseason focus is narrower than it has been in some recent years: Re-sign or replace Michael Bourn in center field, and replace Chipper Jones with either a third baseman or with a left fielder if they move Martin Prado to third base.
“We’ve got to determine what we do it center field, and that kind of couples with leadoff,” he said. “And then how we replace Chipper. And beyond that, our club’s pretty solid.
“I think the exciting part for all of us is we’ve got a dynamic young core. We had three young guys that were in that lineup [Friday] that have a chance to be All-Star players and have a chance to be leaders of this team for a long time. Our bullpen’s intact, our starting rotation’s intact. There’s a lot of things that are real positive going into next year.
“And guys are going to get better. We’ve got a very young pitching staff, and we’ve got some pitchers who are just on the horizon who have a chance to be good. I’m very, very optimistic about where we sit as a franchise, with the thought of adding a couple of key pieces.”
For the first time, Wren revealed Saturday that he contacted Bourn’s agent Scott Boras in the spring about discussing a contract extension. Boras is known for taking almost all of his clients to free agency who are eligible, especially those who are in the last year of their contracts.
Bourn was no exception.
“We made contact with his agent in spring training to start negotiations, and they were not prepared to negotiate at that point, and said they would prefer to wait until after the season,” Wren said. “We made it clear to Michael that we want him back, that we’d love to have him back. We also know there’s a process in place.”
The Braves will have money to spend, but Wren indicated they wouldn’t spend the bulk of it on one player.
“We’re losing one Hall of Fame player, and the salary that goes with a Hall of Fame player,” Wren said. “And we’re going to be looking to replace him. And as we do that, it gives us an opportunity to add another big player. And we’ll see what happens with Michael Bourn. We’d love to keep him and hope we do keep him.
“That being said, there are not a lot of pieces out there in the free-agent market this year that are all that appealing, so we might have to look other places….
“We’re going to be looking for premium players, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But a couple of things we’re always mindful of. We’re mindful of, we’re putting a team together. We’re not trying to put a player on this team. That’s our overriding philosophy of putting a good team together – if we think we can add two players that give us more than one player, we’re going to do that.
“So we’re not going to go outrageous salary-wise. We’ve seen that time after time how that can end up, so we’re not going to play that game.”