Archive for the ‘News’ Category

If Braves don’t add an Upton, Gattis could get look in LF

Now that Arizona outfielder Justin Upton has rejected a trade to the Mariners – Seattle was one of four teams on his no-trade list – and the Rangers reportedly moved on from Upton after deciding the price was too high, maybe the Braves have more leverage and could pull off a trade for the second Upton brother (ATL already has center fielder B.J.) without giving up such a bevy of young talent as Seattle agreed to part with.

But unless the Braves get the younger Upton for less than what Arizona GM Kevin Towers was asking earlier this offseason – Towers sought a package centered around shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who the Braves won’t trade – then Braves GM Frank Wren seems willing to go to spring training with the players they have now and see how things shake out before determining whether a big addition is necessary.

Justin Upton, 25, is signed for three more years – he’s owed $38.5 million over that period – and showed his huge potential in 2011 by hitting …

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HOF shutout: Bonds, Clemens (and Murph) left out

First-time eligible players Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the biggest stars implicated in baseball’s steroid era, were turned away by voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, as was Braves icon Dale Murphy – in his final year on the ballot — and everyone else up for consideration.

For the first time since 1996 and the eighth time since voting began in 1936, no players were elected by voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Craig Biggio came closest,  named on 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots in his first year of eligibility and falling 39 votes shy of the 75-percent election requirement.

Bonds had a record seven Most Valuable Player awards and broke Hank Aaron’s hallowed career home-run record, and Clemens finished with more than 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts to go with a record seven Cy Young Awards. Without question, they would’ve been first-ballot Hall of Famers if not for links to steroids.

Each got only about half of the required …

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Braves minor leaguer gets 50-game drug suspension

Braves minor league pitcher Billy Bullock was suspended 50 games for a second violation of baseball’s drug prevention and treatment program for a “drug of abuse.”

The suspension was announced Friday by the commissioner’s office. No specific drug was cited, but the program’s list of drugs of abuse includes cocaine, LSD, marijuana, opiates, ecstasy, GHB and PCP.

That’s a separate category than performance-enhancing substances, which includes 70 items such as various steroids and human growth hormone.

“We are always disappointed when these events take place,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said, “and we will continue to educate and counsel our players.”

Bullock, who is on the Triple-A Gwinnett roster, will serve his suspension without pay at the beginning of the 2013 season.

In 40 appearances last season between Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett, the hard-throwing right-hander compiled a 6.34 ERA with 67 strikeouts, but also a whopping 56 walks in 59-2/3 …

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Braves GM Wren encouraged by Dominican trip

While the Braves wait to see if they can work out a fit for a left fielder and leadoff hitter on the trade market, general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez spent four days in the Dominican Republic getting a closer look at some of their internal options.

They were encouraged by what they saw from their young players in winter ball there.

That started with Juan Francisco, the leading candidate to play third base if the Braves don’t acquire another left fielder and move Martin Prado to third. The Braves had charged Francisco with two things: cutting down on extra movement in his swing and getting in better shape.

“(Hitting coach) Greg Walker wanted him to continue to work on less rotation in the swing, and I think he’s done that,” Wren said Tuesday. “And we wanted him to get in better shape and he’s well on his way to that as well. He’s slimmed down and it’s noticeable. It’s still a couple of months before spring training, so I think there’s …

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Braves still LF shopping, glad they got CF early

The Braves don’t know who’ll hit leadoff or play left field when they open the season against Philadelphia on April 1, but they left the Winter Meetings in Nashville last week thankful to know who’ll be playing center field.

The five-year, $75.25 million contract the Braves gave center fielder B.J. Upton on Nov. 28 was the first significant move of baseball’s Hot Stove season, and at the time many of us thought the Braves were impulsive in so quickly giving Upton the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.

But in light of some deals signed since, and contract figures being bandied about for free agents in Nashville, the Upton deal has begun to look like – well,  maybe not a bargain, but not unreasonable.

If 32-year-old Shane Victorino, coming off a season in which he hit .255 with 11 homers, 55 RBIs and a .704 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, got a a three-year, $39 million contract from with Boston, and 32-year-old Nick Swisher rumored to be in line for a …

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Braves re-sign Johnson, leave WM without LF

NASHVILLE – Even if the season were to begin Friday, manager Fredi Gonzalez insisted the Braves would be OK despite making no deal for a new left fielder during the Winter Meetings.

But Opening Day was nearly four months away, plenty of time for general manager Frank Wren to sign or trade for a left fielder as well as a couple of bench players. Wren indicated Thursday that the bench players could be acquired much sooner (and within two hours of saying that he had one of them, outfielder/pinch-hitter Reed Johnson).

“I think some things could pop in the next few days, because a lot of seeds have been planted,” Wren said before leaving the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to drive back to Atlanta late Thursday morning. “We feel like we moved a little closer on some bench things, so hopefully we get some answers in the next day.”

Johnson agreed to terms by early afternoon, getting a one-year, $1.75 million contract with a club option for 2014. He’ll get $1.6 million in 2013, and …

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Braves continue search for LF, bench help

NASHVILLE – Reed Johnson could be back, but the Braves career of Matt Diaz appears to be over.

The Braves want to add two bench players – a right-handed hitter and a lefty – and hope that outfielder Johnson is one of them. The right-handed hitter had a .290 average and .337 OBP in 269 at-bats last season with the Cubs and Braves, including .413 as a pinch-hitter with a majors-leading 18 pinch hits.

Johnson hit .311 with a .798 OPS against left-handers, and general manager Frank Wren said the Braves have had discussions with Johnson’s agent.

“I think he’d like to come back, but I think he’s also at a point where he wants to just explore and see what opportunities are out there,” Wren said of the veteran, who came from Chicago in a July deadline trade along with Paul Maholm. “We’ve expressed an interest in bringing him back. He’s expressed an interest in coming back. But we’re just not there yet.”

Meanwhile, the Braves don’t plan to bring back Diaz, a …

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Teheran, Delgado available if trade ’significant’

NASHVILLE – The free-agent field thinned some and Braves general manager Frank Wren didn’t seem any closer to acquiring a left fielder after his first 24 hours at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. But he didn’t sound overly concerned.

Braves front-office officials spent Monday morning poring over (again) lists of all outfielders in every organization who could play left field and preferably bat leadoff, then narrowing it down to players realistically available.

The list was not extensive, and Wren said those remaining free agents who fit the description ranked below trade options for various reasons. That included price in some cases.

For example, the Braves have interest in free agent Shane Victorino, but not as long as the 31-year-old is asking for a contract as big as the four-year, $40 million deal that San Francisco re-signed Angel Pagan to on Monday. Pagan was another free-agent targeted by the Braves.

Wren didn’t name any specific trade possibilities remaining …

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Braves will look for LF at Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE – After the Braves signed free agent B.J. Upton last week, manager Fredi Gonzalez noted the range of the new center fielder and Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward and joked, ‘We may not even need a left fielder.”

Of course the Braves do need a left fielder, and they will continue to search for one during the major league Winter Meetings that begin Monday at the sprawling Opryland Resort.

With previously targeted Minnesota outfielder Denard Span off the board after being traded to Washington, the Braves don’t view leadoff-hitting ability as a requirement, since available and attractive options already are limited.

“I think there’s other options out there,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who arrived in Nashville with his top assistants on Sunday. “We’ll have a good chance to evaluate all of them because now we’re down to very few needs.”

Left field and a couple of bench spots are what the Braves need to fill, and indications are 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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