Monday, October 19, 2009

Atlanta Braves Offseason Outlook

Free Agents: Adam LaRoche, 1B; Greg Norton, 1B; Garrett Anderson, OF; x-Tim Hudson, SP; Mike Gonzalez, RP; Rafael Soriano, RP

Arbitration Eligible: Kelly Johnson, 2B; Ryan Church, OF; Matt Diaz, OF; Peter Moylan, RP

Needs: 1B, Corner Outfield, RP

Likely Outcome: There is going to be a bit of turnover in the bullpen as it does not seem likely that both the 8th and 9th inning options for 2009 will return. However expect most of the starting rotation to stay the same. The Braves are in an fortunate situation with six legitimate starting pitchers including Tim Hudson, who is in an option year of his contract worth 12M. It is going to be a tough decision, but the Braves would be able to maneuver in the free agent market a lot easier with an Hudson's contract off the books. It would be coming at a cost as that decision would effectively take one of the top starters out of the rotation. Offensively, I expect to see the Braves get very creative in the trade market to add some power at the corners. With the highest home run total for any Brave this season at 24, a big bat is needed to make the Braves a legitimate playoff contender. Adam LaRoche played well in September, but he is not a big power solution. Prince Fielder would be an ideal candidate via trade.

With the Hudson salary off the books, the Braves could be players on Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, but their salaries will likely be out of reach thanks to large-market competition. Angels Outfielder Bobby Abreu could be a good fit in the corner outfield as he would add gap power and speed. The bench is going to be a bit different as well. Adding some speed in a Scott Podsednik would make some sense.

This is a team hungry for a playoff appearance in Bobby Cox's final season as manager. Frank Wren showed this season in the Nate McClouth and Adam LaRoche trades that he is ready to make the necessary moves to improve this team. I expect the Braves to be a scary looking team in April with weaknesses potentially in the bullpen.

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