Following a 2013 campaign in which the Atlanta Braves won 96 games, General Manager Frank Wren will attempt to resign several veteran players and make only minor adjustments to prepare for the 2014 season.
Wren met with a selection of sports writers last week to answer questions relating to this season and looking to possible acquisitions and departures this offseason.
While many names were discussed surrounding arbitration and trade targets, the primary topics of conversation focused on free agent Brian McCann, veteran starting pitcher Tim Hudson, and embattled second baseman Dan Uggla.
McCann, a fan favorite since he arrived in Atlanta in 2005, is a free agent this offseason, and is expected to receive an offer from a team in the DH friendly American League that will far exceed any offer the Braves are willing to give. According to one MLB executive, McCann could sign for $100 million over six years.
The Braves need McCann's leadership in the locker room and his bat on the field but are unlikely to match anything close to $100 million. And with the solid play of rookie catcher Evan Gattis and the promise of top prospect Christian Betancourt, the Braves could use that money to pursue an ace starter or replace Uggla in a deal that would almost certainly require the Braves to eat part of the $26 million that he is due over the next two years.
Uggla, who was left off of the National League Division Series roster following a dismal regular season, will have to convince the Braves that he deserves another shot at second base in 2014.
Among potential suitors at second base are Cincinnati Reds slugger Brandon Phillips and Kelly Johnson of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Phillips, who is from the Atlanta area, is a proven star but his personality conflicts with the Reds this season may cause the Braves to look elsewhere.
Johnson, who was drafted by the Braves in 2000, made his debut with the team in 2005 before signing a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the 2010 season.
The Braves would benefit greatly from Johnson's defense at second base and his success as a utility player. Johnson also has the ability to hit for power, steal bases, and play many positions in the field. He has also proven himself to be a team player, an attribute the Braves should find particularly attractive.
Signing or trading for an ace, which will be discussed in part two of this article, should also be on the docket for the Braves. The return of the Braves nucleus next year accompanied with the signing of key free agents should make Atlanta championship contenders in 2014.
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