Braves GM encouraged by Uggla contract talks

Braves GM encouraged by Uggla contract talks

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren might not alter his roster before this year's Winter Meetings conclude Thursday. But he remains hopeful that he'll be able to keep this winter's most significant acquisition in Atlanta beyond the conclusion of the upcoming season.

When Wren acquired Dan Uggla from the Marlins in November, he accounted for his immediate need to add a right-handed power threat to the middle of his lineup. At the same time, he completed this transaction confident in the possibility that he could sign the All-Star second baseman to a multiyear deal before Uggla would become eligible for free agency next offseason.

Wren was encouraged by his initial conversations with Uggla and has remained so while continuing to discuss the matter with the veteran second baseman's agent, Terry Bross.

"The early discussions we've had -- really introductory discussions -- have been very pleasant," Wren said. "I think there's a mutual desire for us to keep him long term and for him to stay long term. I think that has come through loud and clear -- both from Terry and from Dan. I think we've made it clear that's what we want to happen."

The Marlins opted to trade Uggla after he reportedly rejected their four-year, $48 million offer. After the trade was completed, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said, "If somebody wants to give him five years, good luck to them. He's 31 years old."

When Uggla introduced himself to the Atlanta media two weeks ago, he said he wasn't necessarily looking for a five-year deal. Nor has Wren seemed to gain indication that a guaranteed fifth season would be necessary.

Along with looking to secure Uggla beyond 2011, the Braves are still making their push to move Kenshin Kawakami.

The Pirates, one of the clubs that has shown interest in Kawakami, have recently moved toward adding Scott Olsen and Kevin Correia to the list of starting pitchers they will bring to Spring Training. Like Kawakami, these two hurlers could end up being profitable economical gambles.

Despite the fact that Olsen and Correia have seemingly been secured, the Pirates could still prove to be one of the suitors for Kawakami. The Braves are simply looking for a club that is willing to acquire the 35-year-old Japanese hurler and assume at least a portion of the $6.67 million still owed to him.

"We know who has interest in him," Wren said. "There's a healthy interest in him."

Because he was placed on Double-A Mississippi's roster last month, Kawakami would be eligible to be selected in either the Major or Minor League phases of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. But because the selecting club would be responsible for the $6.67 million remaining on his contract, there is essentially no chance Kawakami would be selected Thursday.

Along with continuing his attempts to move Kawakami, Wren and his staff have started to take a closer look at some of the left-handed relievers they might add before Spring Training arrives.

Wren said he is also looking at the possibility to find role players who could enhance his club's depth in both the infield and outfield departments. But he once again expressed confidence in Diory Hernandez's ability to serve as a capable backup to shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

In addition, Wren said he is looking forward to seeing what non-roster invitee Ed Lucas displays during Spring Training. Since being selected by the Royals as a shortstop in the eighth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Lucas has played a number of positions while serving in a utility role at the Minor League level.

Still, Wren seems confident that Lucas could serve as an adequate backup shortstop in the event that Hernandez is unable to fill the role. There is also still reason to believe Tyler Pastornicky could prove ready to fill a middle-infield role at the Major League level by the time the All-Star break arrives.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.