Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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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Braves’ 2013 spring training will start earlier

Braves pitchers and catchers will report to spring training earlier than usual Feb. 11 and open the Grapefruit League schedule Feb. 22 against the American League League champion Detroit Tigers in a home game at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

It’s the earliest spring-training game ever for the Braves. Across the majors, spring training is earlier this year to accommodate the World Baseball Classic in March, being played for the first time since 2009. The Braves open their Grapefruit League schedule with back-to-back home games against the Tigers and Yankees Feb. 22-23, then travel to Bradenton, Fla., to face the Pirates on Feb. 24.

The Braves play 18 home games at Champion Stadium including four night games against Washington (March 1 and March 21), Detroit (March 7), and the Yankees (March 16).

Braves pitchers and catchers have their first workout Feb. 12. Other position players are due to report Feb. 14, and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 15. There are …

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No deals, but Braves say GM meetings productive

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Braves officials left the general managers meetings without crossing off any items on their offseason shopping list, but that didn’t mean their three days at a desert resort weren’t productive.

“Overall it was beneficial to sit down with clubs and discuss possibilities,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said before boarding a flight Friday afternoon out of nearby Palm Springs, “and we were able to advance some discussions.”

The Braves seek a center fielder/leadoff hitter and a power-hitting left fielder. At the GM meetings Wren and his top assistants, including Bruce Manno, John Coppolella and Jim Fregosi, got a better idea of what might be available and affordable on the trade and free-agent markets during discussions with various player agents and officials from other teams.

The groundwork for deals rather than deals themselves are generally what happens at the annual GM meetings, with the notable exception of the Braves’ trade for Dan Uggla at the …

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At GM meetings: Bourn to decline qualifying offer

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – To the surprise of no one, Braves free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn will decline the team’s one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer by Friday’s deadline.

“The market for him is going to be much greater than a one-year contract,” agent Scott Boras said of Bourn, who has or is expected to draw serious interest from multiple teams including NL East opponents Washington and Philadelphia.

While the Braves haven’t entirely given up the possibility of re-signing Bourn, they don’t seem at all inclined to approach the contract levels that Boras will seek for his client, which could be at least five years at more than $15 million annually.

The Braves are exploring other options via free agency – San Francisco’s Angel Pagan probably tops that short list — or through a trade. Minnesota center fielder Denard Span is likely high on the list of potential trade targets. He’s a leadoff hitter like Bourn, which is what the Braves prefer from a center fielder if …

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Braves might trade pitching for lineup needs

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The Braves again have more major league-ready starting pitchers than can fit into a rotation, and some are no longer viewed as next-to-untouchable by general manager Frank Wren.

The Braves seek a couple of hitters to fill out their lineup – a left fielder and a center fielder/leadoff man — and could use part of their pitching surplus to fill at least one of those needs

“There are clubs that recognize we may have some pitching,” Wren said Wednesday after talking with other GMs on the opening day of the general managers meetings that run through Friday. “Whether we’ve got enough to fill [other needs] or not, I don’t know.

“But we like the depth that we have, and we might be able to use it to get something that we need. And there’s some teams that have pieces that would be helpful to us.”

One of those teams is Minnesota, which needs pitching and is open to trading center fielder Denard Span, who has a .284 career batting average and .357 on-base percentage …

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Hot stove could get stoked at GM meetings

Braves fans have craved action on the free-agent or trade fronts since Atlanta’s postseason ended abruptly with a Wild Card loss to St. Louis.

Well, there could at least be some rumblings from the desert during the annual general managers’ meetings Wednesday through Friday in Indian Wells, Calif.

Things are usually relatively sedate at the GM meetings compared to the annual Winter Meetings held in December, as teams do more laying of groundwork for trades rather than actual finalizing of deals. But two years ago the Braves pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade for Dan Uggla from the Marlins on the first day of the GM meetings in Orlando.

This year the Braves have not one but two holes to fill in their lineup – center fielder/leadoff man and either a left fielder or third baseman — and are believed to have about $25 million to spend on those two players’ salaries for next season.

Braves GM Frank Wren has been known to strike quickly when a possible deal arises.

“It’s always …

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Braves make qualifying offer to Bourn

The Braves made a one-year qualifying offer to Michael Bourn before Friday’s deadline, as expected. Now the real intrigue begins.

Bourn is represented by high-powered agent Scott Boras, and the speedy leadoff man is expected to be pursued by multiple teams including Philadelphia and Washington. It’s assumed he’ll reject the one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer and field multi-year offers from various teams including possibly the Braves.

Under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, teams had until Friday to make one-year qualifying offers to their free agents in order to draw a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds if that player signs with another team.

The qualifying offer amount is the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball from the previous season. Free agents have seven days to accept or decline the offers, and if a player accepts he becomes signed for 2013.

It was seen as a foregone conclusion the Braves would make a qualifying …

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Braves retain McCann, Hudson, Maholm (updated)

Brian McCann and Tim Hudson will be back with the Braves next after having their contract options picked up Tuesday.

The Braves exercised 2013 options on McCann ($12 million), Hudson ($9 million) and pitcher Paul Maholm ($6.5 million) one day before a deadline to do so or make them free agents.

None of the moves was surprising, although there had been some speculation McCann’s option might be declined after the former six-time All-Star had shoulder surgery Oct. 16. He’s expected to require six months of rehab and could miss much of the opening month of the season.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said when team officials went over it, the decisions weren’t difficult.

“There was very little discussion,” he said. “All three guys are important parts of our club.”

McCann, 28, was the only Brave to make the All-Star team in each of his first six full seasons, and was a five-time Silver Slugger winner as the National League’s best-hitting catcher before 2012, when he …

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Ten Braves become free agents

Ten Braves were among the 137 major leaguer players who became free agents on Monday, the day after the World Series ended. The Braves had the most free agents in the National League and were second in the majors behind the Yankees’ 12.

Free agents can negotiate and sign with any club beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

For the Braves, the free-agent list included Jeff Baker, Miguel Batista, Michael Bourn, Matt Diaz, Chad Durbin, Eric Hinske, Reed Johnson, Lyle Overbay, David Ross and Ben Sheets, who announced he was retiring at the end of the 2012 season.

The Braves are expected to re-sign backup catcher Ross, and also are believed to have interest in bringing back reliever Durbin and outfielder Johnson. The Braves have said since the beginning of the 2012 season that they’d like to re-sign Bourn, but the center fielder and leadoff man, who is represented by powerful agent Scott Boras, could be deemed too expensive by the Braves.

In addition, four other Braves are eligible …

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Janish expected to make April return after shoulder surgery

Brian McCann isn’t the only Brave to undergo offseason shoulder surgery. Backup shortstop Paul Janish had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder shortly after the season ended. The Braves say he’s progressing well in his recovery and is expected to return in April.

Janish dislocated his shoulder making a diving play at shortstop in Miami against the Marlins on Sept. 18. He held off on surgery in the hopes that he could rehabilitate the injury and possibly play if the Braves made a run deep into the playoffs. But after the Braves were eliminated in the wild card game he went forward with the surgery.

Janish, who made $850,000 last season, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. He proved a valuable piece for the Braves filling in for two months for the injured Andrelton Simmons after the Braves acquired him in a trade from the Reds. Janish is known primarily for his glove, which is what the Braves needed most. He hit .186 (31-for-167) in 55 …

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