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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Voters dash Braves’ plan for Class-A team in N.C.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The Braves’ hopes of moving their high-Class A affiliate to Wilmington, N.C., were dealt a major blow Tuesday when voters issued a resounding “no” on a referendum to raise property taxes to pay for a proposed new ballpark.

Without $37 million in new taxes to build a ballpark on the Cape Fear River, the Wilmington plan is probably over and the Braves will remain in Lynchburg, Va., unless and until another option materializes. They had hoped to move to Wilmington in time for the 2015 season.

“As the mayor stated last night, they won’t pursue other [funding] options so most likely [it’s] dead,” said Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of business operations. “Fortunately all the good people in Lynchburg always understood this wasn’t about any dissatisfaction with them or our location.”

The Braves had hoped to move in order to have a state-of-the-art ballpark like those used by their other minor-league affiliates, and to have a player-development …

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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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Rehabbing McCann upbeat after surgery

LAWRENCEVILLE – If one didn’t know better, Brian McCann looked as if he might step up to the plate and compete with Chipper Jones and others in the home-run contest Saturday at McCann’s Rally Foundation celebrity softball game at Coolray Field.

But under the softball jersey were scars from Oct. 16 right-shoulder surgery. McCann was left to smile, shake hands and thank all the participants and fans who came out for the annual event to raise funds for childhood cancer research.

“I should probably be wearing [a sling] out here, but I’m being careful, I’m not going to do anything dumb,” he said, then went to have his picture taken with Rally Foundation kids.

Five days after having his $12 million team option for 2013 picked up by the Braves, and less than three weeks since surgery, McCann was more upbeat than during the final months of his career-worst season, when his shoulder was throbbing and he tried to play through it.

He faces about six months of rehab and could miss the …

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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 GM on Gattis: “Very good prospect”

He’s 26 years old and has but 933 plate appearances in professional baseball, none above the Double-A level. But don’t for a second think that Evan Gattis isn’t considered a legitimate prospect by the Braves. The know they have a special case with the big Texan catcher-turned-left fielder, who keeps responding to new challenges by crushing baseballs.

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Evan Gattis came up as a catcher, but the Braves moved him to left field to help potentially get his big bat to the majors sooner.

The Gattis legend has spread to Venezuela this winter, where he’s picked up the nickname “El Oso Blanco” (White Bear) from his mostly Latin teammates on the Aguilas squad while hitting .324 with five homers, 16 RBIs and a 1.009 OPS in 18 games through Thursday. And can I just say, that’s a damn fine nickname.

Gattis was tied for fourth in the Venezuelan Winter League in homers, fifth in OPS, and had six doubles and a league-high 43 total bases.

After getting off to a torrid start at Class-A Lynchburg …

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Schafer is back, but not to replace Bourn

The Braves reacquired Jordan Schafer from Houston on waivers Thursday, but quickly made it clear the enigmatic former Atlanta prospect was a low-cost addition for depth, not a contender to replace center fielder Michael Bourn if they lose the All-Star leadoff man to free agency.

Schafer, the Braves’ Opening Day center fielder in 2009, has a .221 career average and .305 on-base percentage with eight homers and 51 stolen bases in 238 games, including a .211 average  with four homers and 27 steals in 106 games for the Astros in 2012.

“We saw him on the waiver wire and felt he would improve our depth in the outfield,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “It doesn’t affect how we pursue or try to put together our team this winter. But he’s very talented. He has above-average talent in three areas – run, throw and defend.”

Also Thursday, the Braves announced the hiring of Dave Bialas as a minor league fielder coordinator and outrighted three players off their 40-man roster: …

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Heyward wins Braves’ first Gold Glove since ‘07

For the first time in five years, gold has returned to the Braves outfield.

Jason Heyward won the Gold Glove Award for National League right fielders on Tuesday, the first Brave to win a Gold Glove since outfielders Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur won in 2007.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and the entire Atlanta starting outfield were nominated for Gold Gloves this year, with Martin Prado among the finalists in left field and Michael Bourn in center. Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez won in left and Pittsburgh’s Andruw McCutchen in center, denying Bourn what would’ve been his third Gold Glove in four years.

Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, a former Brave, beat out Freeman and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto.

The win by Heyward, 23, was no surprise. He already won the Fielding Bible Award as the majors’ best right fielder for 2012. That award was based solely on statistical analysis, while the Gold Glove awards are determined in voting by major league managers and coaches.

“He’s …

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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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