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Braves likely to seek leadoff outfielder at Meetings

Braves likely to seek leadoff outfielder at Meetings

Braves likely to seek leadoff outfielder at Meetings
ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Frank Wren took care of his primary offseason assignment by signing his top target, B.J. Upton, to a five-year, $75.25 million deal. Now Wren will attempt to complete his roster reconstruction process with the addition of an outfielder and possibly a bench player.

When Wren travels to Nashville, Tenn., for the start of this year's Winter Meetings, his focus will likely be on finding an outfielder who could serve as a leadoff hitter. It appears he still has somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million to fill his remaining roster needs.

Upton should provide Atlanta with the middle-of-the-lineup right-handed presence that the club wanted to add to a lineup that already includes left-handed power threats Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann.

While the Braves know Upton will sit in the middle of their lineup, they do not know who will replace Michael Bourn as their catalyst at the top of the lineup. In attempt to fill this need, they will continue to evaluate the trade and free-agent markets.

One of their top options was erased on Thursday, when the Nationals acquired Denard Span from the Twins. The Braves were interested in acquiring Span to be their leadoff hitter.

Much of the activity surrounding Atlanta at next week's Meetings will likely involve the trade market. Along with the possibility of acquiring an outfielder via trade, there is a chance the Braves could attempt to move Tommy Hanson's $4 million salary in an effort to afford Shane Victorino or another free-agent outfielder.

Wren has remained active during the weeks leading up to this year's Meetings. After veteran backup catcher David Ross signed with the Red Sox, the Braves signed Gerald Laird to a two-year, $3 million contract. Then to highlight this offseason's activity, they outbid the Phillies with the five-year offer to Upton.

Club needs

Outfielder: Atlanta would like to add a left fielder who is capable of serving as their leadoff hitter. With some uncertainty about the state of the Rockies' front office, it might be a challenge to strike a deal for Dexter Fowler. If the Braves can free up some money, they could be in the market for Victorino, who is expected to receive a three-year deal worth approximately $27 million.

Third base: Atlanta doesn't need a third baseman. But if they are unable to find a left fielder, there is still a chance they could keep Martin Prado in left field and utilize Juan Francisco as their primary third baseman. Francisco has gotten himself in better shape and has impressed scouts with his play in the Dominican Winter League.

Bench/Clubhouse presence: The clubhouse will have a little different feel next year without the leadership that Chipper Jones, Ross and Eric Hinske have provided over the past few years. Tim Hudson will continue his role as one of the club's leaders and Dan Uggla will also likely assume an enhanced role. But there might also be a desire for the Braves to pursue a veteran bench player like Mark DeRosa, who is already tight with McCann and some of the other players.

Who they can or need to trade

SP Tommy Hanson: Hanson's value is certainly not what it was when he arrived as the game's top pitching prospect three years ago. Concerns about his drop in velocity and his unorthodox mechanics create questions about his future. But the big right-hander did win 13 games this past season and will make approximately $4 million this season. With the Cubs recently signing Scott Feldman for $6 million, there certainly could be a market for Hanson.

SP Julio Teheran: Teheran's status as one of the game's top pitching prospects took a little bit of a hit as he struggled with Triple-A Gwinnett this past season. But there will be plenty of teams interested in this 21-year-old right-hander, who pitched effectively in August and carried some of that success to the Dominican Winter League.

RHP Randall Delgado: Delgado has already impressed many scouts while already making more than 20 starts at the big league level. He might not have the same upside as Teheran, but Delgado has shown the potential to be a No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues.

Top prospects

RHPs Teheran, Delgado, Lucas Sims, J.R. Graham, Zeke Spruill, C Christian Bethancourt; LHPs Sean Gilmartin and Alex Wood; OF Todd Cunningham; 3B Joe Terdoslavich. With some pitching depth, Atlanta might be willing to trade a few of its top pitching prospects. Bethancourt, Graham and Sims would likely be the only members of this group that would be deemed untouchable.

Big contracts to possibly unload

If the Braves are going to move some money, they will likely have to do so by moving Hanson. There is essentially no reason to believe they could trade either McCann, who will miss most of April recovering from shoulder surgery, or Uggla, who has three years remaining on his contract.

Arbitration-eligible

Jair Jurrjens, RHP; Prado, INF; Eric O'Flaherty, LHP; Hanson, RHP; Paul Janish, SS; Jason Heyward, OF; Jonny Venters, LHP; Kris Medlen, RHP Peter Moylan.

Payroll summation

The payroll for the 2013 season will once again sit around $94 million. Wren will have approximately $10 million left to fill his remaining needs this offseason.

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

{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }