Archive for November, 2012

Braves trade Hanson to Angels, cut ties with Jurrjens

Pitchers Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens have been in career-decline mode since the 2011 All-Star break, and by the end of the day Friday both were ex-Braves.

The Braves traded Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday for hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden, and non-tendered Jurrjens before Friday’s deadline for teams to offer contracts to their unsigned arbitration-eligible players.

Atlanta reliever Peter Moylan was also non-tendered. He and Jurrjens are now free agents and the Braves haven’t ruled out re-signing Moylan, perhaps to a minor-league deal.

The Hanson trade clears up more than $3 million in payroll that could help the Braves fill their remaining needs in left field and a couple of bench spots. But general manager Frank Wren said money wasn’t the reason for the trade.

He said it was about opening a rotation spot for one of the Braves young starters. Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado might now compete for the fifth spot in the rotation behind  Kris Medlen, Tim …

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Newest Brave Upton excited about fresh start

B.J. Upton finalized a five-year, $75.25 million contract with the Braves makes him the highest-paid player in franchise history, but his dad Manny was most pleased that he signed with Atlanta, a short flight from the family’s home in Chesapeake, Va.

“Put a little word in Frank’s ear so we can get the other one here,” Manny Upton said after a news conference Thursday at Turner Field, where center fielder B.J. donned a Braves jersey and posed for pictures with his new manager, Fredi Gonzalez, and general manager Frank Wren, who gave him the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

Manny and Yvonne Upton were smiling, proud parents on the day their 28-year-old son put Tampa Bay behind him and started with a clean slate and a team that moved aggressively.

The “other one” that Manny Upton spoke of bringing to Atlanta? That’s Justin Upton, 25, the Diamondbacks slugger who finished fourth in MVP balloting in 2011 and has been mentioned in trade rumors that …

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Braves sign Upton to 5-year, $75 million deal

The Braves made baseball’s first big offseason move when they agreed to terms with former Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton on a five-year contract worth $75.25 million, the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

The deal was agreed to Wednesday and became official Thursday after Upton passed a physical exam. He will be introduced at a 2 p.m. Thursday news conference at Turner Field.

Upton had already changed the avatar on his Twitter page to a Braves script “A” by early Wednesday evening, long before the Braves made an announcement.

Upton, 28, has spent his entire career with the Rays and hit .246 with a personal-best 28 homers along with 31 stolen bases in 2012. He will provide the Braves a badly needed right-handed presence in the middle of the lineup and team with right fielder Jason Heyward to give them a pair with the potential to go 30-30 (homers and stolen bases).

In a press release announcing the signing on Thursday, Braves general manager Frank Wren …

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Braves get nearly $20K per man for Wild Card

The Braves only played one game in the postseason, but every player who helped them get there received nearly $20,000 as a share of the players’ postseason pool.

For reaching the Wild Card Game against St. Louis, Braves players got a total of $980,452.04, which they distributed in 46 full shares of $19,609, and four partial shares.

The World Series champion San Francisco Giants handed out 50 full shares of $377,002.64 apiece, topping the previous record of $362,173 per share for the 2006 Cardinals. AL champion Detroit handed out 48 full shares worth $284,274.50.

The players from every postseason team vote how to distribute their portion of the postseason pie, often giving full shares to every player who spent time on the major league roster during the season, along with full or partial shares for some team employees such as clubhouse attendants.

The players’ pool is funded by gate receipts from postseason games, including 50 percent of the receipts from wild card games, 60 …

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Bossman Junior, El Oso Blanco & other matters

While we wait for a decision as soon as this week from the guy with the second-best nickname currently associated with a Brave or potential Brave, free-agent center fielder B.J. “Bossman Junior” Upton, let’s consider the ongoing winter-ball performance in Venezuala by the guy with the even better nickname, Evan Gattis, aka “El Oso Blanco” (The White Bear).

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear), in a recent Venezuelan Winter League game.

Gattis, aka "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear), in a recent Venezuelan Winter League game. Notice the lack of batting gloves. (AP photo)

(Coincidentally and apropos of nothing, there are El Oso Blanco supermarkets in Miami and the Tampa area, where Bossman Junior has spent his major league career until now with the Rays.)

While we’re on the subject, just imagine a Bossman Junior and El Oso Blanco (along with a J-Hey) in the same outfield some day. Hey, it might not be so far-fetched, considering the Braves and Phillies are believed to be frontrunners for Upton, and considering Gattis is once again answering the …

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Bethancourt among five minor leaguers added to 40-man

The Braves have added five minor leaguers to their 40-man roster, including catching prospect Christian Bethancourt and right-handed pitchers Zeke Spruill, David Hale, Cory Rasmus and Aaron Northcraft.

Being added to the roster prevents them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, which will be held Dec. 6 at the winter meetings. The Braves 40-man roster stands at 36.

Bethancourt, 21, is considered the Braves catcher of the future, with Brian McCann playing out the option year of his contract in 2013. Bethancourt hit .243 in 71 games for Double-A Mississippi before breaking a bone in his hand and missing the last month of the season. He has returned to form in the Dominican Winter League, where he is hitting .258 (8-for-31) in 12 games.

The Braves signed Gerald Laird as their backup catcher and replacement for David Ross but could turn to the strong-armed Bethancourt to help him fill in for McCann in early April. McCann is expected to miss at least the first couple of weeks of …

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Braves target Upton, while weighing other CF options

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien.)

The Braves are pursuing multiple options at center field, both through free agency and the trade market, but B.J. Upton has emerged as their top free agent choice.

Upton after one of his 28 homers in 2012

Upton after one of his 28 homers in 2012

Braves general manager Frank Wren said the Braves are still in on the biggest free agent names out there, including their own Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and Angel Pagan, but they are making a strong push for Upton.

“We like him,” Wren said Monday. “But this time of year you’ve got a lot of lines in the water. You’re not sure which fish you’re going to catch. So you have to make sure that you have enough lines out there that you catch a fish. And we’re very much in that mode. We’re checking. We’re involved on just about everything, every center fielder that we like.”

The Braves invited the former Tampa Bay Rays center fielder to Atlanta last Thursday where team officials spent six hours with …

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Braves still waiting for Salcedo to flourish

PHOENIX – When the Braves gave Dominican teen Edward Salcedo a $1.6 million signing bonus in 2010, a franchise record for a foreign amateur, they compared it to getting a No. 1 draft pick. They said he was a special player, that he might be ready to take over at shortstop or third base within a few years.

Thirty-three months later, Salcedo has a .240 career average and .694 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with 32 home runs, 156 RBIs and 124 errors in 339 minor-league games, none above the Class-A level.

“It may take him a little longer,” a Braves official said.

He moved full-time to third base and had a modest season at high-A Lynchburg, hitting .240 with a .295 OBP, though he did have 17 homers and 61 RBIs in 130 games. Salcedo was then sent to the Arizona Fall League to compete against many of baseball’s top prospects, including some who already had brief stints in the major leagues.

It did not go well. He finished with a league-worst .140 average and .454 OPS for …

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Braves sign Laird as backup catcher (updated)

The Braves hope that catcher Gerald Laird keeps a personal streak alive by playing in a third consecutive World Series in 2013.

Five days after losing backup catcher David Ross to the Red Sox, the Braves replaced him with free agent Laird, who played for 2012 AL champion Detroit and 2011 World Series champion St. Louis.

Laird, who turned 33 on Tuesday, got a two-year, $3 million deal that includes incentives worth up to $750,000 based on number of games started.

The right-handed hitter made $1 million in 2012, when he had his best season in four years. He hit .282 with two home runs, a .337 on-base percentage and .374 slugging percentage in 191 plate appearances, and excelled during a June stretch when Tigers catcher Alex Avila was hurt.

That was an important factor for the Braves, who will need Laird to play on a regular basis in April as starting catcher Brian McCann continues his rehabilitation from Oct. 16 shoulder surgery. McCann faces an expected six-month recovery and …

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Ahmed is Braves’ latest rising shortstop

PHOENIX — Told that a reporter in from Atlanta was here to interview him, Nick Ahmed looked up for a second, said OK, but didn’t rush to finish a card game the Braves shortstop prospect was playing with a Phoenix Desert Dogs teammate.

He’s young (22), but cool. Can’t seem too enthusiastically eager-to-please, you know?

This was last Saturday morning in Phoenix, heading into the fifth and final week of an Arizona Fall League season in which Ahmed has drawn attention from plenty of major league scouts, who often account for about 10 percent of the 200 or so folks in the seats for a 12:35 p.m. AFL game.

He had two triples in his first two at-bats Wednesday against Surprise and carried a .288 average, .361 on-base percentage and seven extra-base hits (one homer) in 73 at-bats before Thursday’s season finale. Ahmed had 10 RBIs and five stolen bases in 19 games, and 11 strikeouts gave him one of the lowest K rates in the league.

“He’s come out here and opened some eyes, …

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