Mailbag: Where will Atlanta find a bat?

Mailbag: Where will Atlanta find a bat?

Who are the players Braves general manager Frank Wren will most likely look at while trying to find a power-hitting outfielder?
-- Kenny G., Nashville, Tenn.

You mean after he's done pursuing Manny Ramirez? I mean can you imagine Manny and Chipper Jones sitting alongside each other in the middle of that lineup? OK, unless you're a hopeless dreamer, remove that image from your imagination. Odds of Manny being in Atlanta next year are only slightly better than him entering the National League Championship Series with a shaved head.

When looking for potential options, it's easiest to look at the outfielders who will be free agents this winter. Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn fit this category. But I haven't gotten the sense either of these players are high on the club's wish list. Plus, Wren provided some indication that if possible, he'd like to fill this need via the trade market.

If the Angels, who are also preparing for a busy offseason, decline Vladimir Guerrero's option and he becomes a free agent, he'd might be more attractive than any of the current crop of likely free agents. But can you really count on him to play more than 125 games in the outfield?

While looking for an outfielder Wren could land via trade, it might be best to look at the players eligible for free agency after the 2009 season. Matt Holliday and Jason Bay headline this list. With Bay enjoying instant stardom in Red Sox Nation, it's seeming likely that he and his affordable contract will be staying in Boston.

A more likely option for Atlanta could be Xavier Nady, who was on Wren's radar before being traded to the Yankees before this year's Trade Deadline. If the Yankees are willing to deal, the Braves certainly have reason to make an offer for Nady, who could double his $3.35 million salary through arbitration.

With Nady in place, the Yankees might be more apt to say goodbye to Bobby Abreu, who is reportedly looking for a three-year contract. At 34 years old, Abreu might not be worth the $16 million salary that he earned this past season. But coming off consecutive 100-RBI seasons, he's certainly worth a look.

It is obvious that Jo-Jo Reyes is not a Major League pitcher. Is he in Atlanta's plans for the Minors next year or is he trade bait?
-- Craig V., Des Moines, Iowa

That's your opinion, and Reyes has certainly given you every reason to draw that conclusion. But he's still just 23 years old, and just before he went 0-7 with a 7.81 ERA in his final 13 appearances this year, he gave the impression that he'd turned the corner.

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During the two starts preceding this forgettable stretch, he limited the Angels to two earned runs in eight innings and allowed just two runs in seven innings against the Rangers. Along with proving he likes pitching vs. the American League West, he showed the poise and consistency that was absent during the season's final three months.

Reyes has the physical tools to be successful at the Major League level. Tom Glavine and John Smoltz liked him enough that they monitored many of his bullpen sessions until he decided that the Hall of Fame knowledge they were providing was handicapping his mental process during games.

Late in the season, Reyes revealed that around the All-Star break, he told Glavine and Smoltz that he didn't want their assistance anymore. That was only slightly less disturbing than the fact that he admitted he came to his first Major League Spring Training this year unprepared to consistently locate his pitches.

Given all of the embarrassment he encountered this year, Reyes has every reason to push himself as hard as ever over the next few months. He's already tested the patience of a very patient Bobby Cox, and that obviously suggests his future with the Braves might be on its last leg.

What are the expectations going into next year from both the players and the front office? And how do you see the Braves doing next year?
-- John G., New York

With a respectable finish this season, the Braves were able to enter the offseason with some sense of optimism and wonder. The wonder surrounds what the next few months will bring. There are currently far too many roster-reconstruction questions to make an accurate prediction.

If they are able to land a power-hitting outfielder, the lineup will certainly has the potential to be formidable, especially if Jeff Francoeur is able to at least regain his former promise.

But pitching wins championships, and right now, the Braves' rotation obviously has serious problems. Wren's search for two starting pitchers will be a very difficult one. Obviously he'd like to find at least one of those starters on the free-agent market and possibly find one via trade.

Landing a top-caliber starter and power-hitting outfielder during the offseason via trade seems to be a daunting. But Wren believes he has the resources to find success on the trade market, and because of that, he and his players can at least remain optimistic about the 2009 season.

What is the likelihood that the Braves will land CC Sabathia?
-- Ted G., New York

It's seemingly a long shot that the Braves will be able to lure Sabathia to Atlanta. If they were simply looking for one starter, there might have been a chance the hefty lefty could sign with the Braves. But he'll command close to half of their available funds, and with the multiple needs Wren must fill, he likely can't get into that bidding war.

Is Smoltz going to be in a Braves uniform next year?
-- Jason P., Tampa, Fla.

If Smoltz is able to pitch next year, he'll likely stay in Atlanta. Smoltz has proven it's never wise to doubt him, and because of this, my guess is that he'll back. But we really won't know until he tests his surgically repaired right shoulder in January. At that time, we'll also gain a better understanding of whether he'd be best utilized as a starter or reliever.

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