(THIS IS UPDATED FROM AN EARLIER BLOG WITH HUDSON NOW CLOSE TO SIGNING)
The Braves’ offseason is about to start the best way possible: with pitcher Tim Hudson signed to a new contract.
Our David O’Brien is reporting that Hudson is close to signing a three-year contract extension worth approximately $9 million per season. Assuming that deal is finalized, consider this a good omen for the winter. A year ago, general manager Frank Wren whiffed in several of his early free agents pursuits, and negotiations played out in a public forum. This deal, he’s closing early.
Yes, the Braves need a bat. That’s no secret. But the offseason roster makeover had to start with Hudson. He made a successful comeback from elbow surgery and gives the Braves one of baseball’s strongest starting rotations, with probably Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens and two of the following: Javier Vazquez, Kenshin Kawakami and/or Derek Lowe. (Vazquez is entering the final year of his contract, making him a valuable trade asset, but he was the team’s best starter from start to finish last season and Wren would prefer to avoid dealing him.)
I swapped emails with Wren late Tuesday night. After reading David’s story over the weekend about negotiations beginning this week with Hudson’s agent, I was hoping to get a general feel for talks. Now, I certainly never expected Wren to respond, “Funny you should ask. We just offered $X.X million per year and they countered at $X.X million. I’ve sent you both proposals in an attachment.”
So when Wren gave me no numbers, I wasn’t disappointed.
But if there was any lingering doubt that the Braves wanted Hudson in their starting rotation next season, Wren obliterated it with this email: “As you know, we don’t comment on negotiations, but I will say that Tim progressed as we thought he would coming off the surgery and we expect him to be even better next year with additional time off from this season to get stronger.”
Let me translate: signing Hudson was priority one.
Re-signing him is the right decision. As much as keeping him means a significant financial commitment, it gives the Braves the best possible starting rotation.
The obvious cynical comeback to that is: “Oh not, not another old pitcher coming off surgery.” But Hudson is less of a risk than either Tom Glavine or John Smoltz were. He’s not nearly as old (34) and the Braves already have had a chance to see him pitch post surgery (seven starts, 2-1, 3.61., 30 strikeouts and 13 walks in 42.1 innings).
If Wren gets Hudson signed, the focus the rest of the offseason switches to trading an arm for a bat (or two).
But Hudson had to be the first domino to fall — and it’s about to.