ATLANTA -- As Braves general manager Frank Wren prepares for the 2010 season, he finds himself dealing with the surplus created by last year's successful rotation-reconstruction process and facing the reality that he may need to find a new closer.
At this time last year, Wren was attempting to rebuild a rotation that consisted of just one returnee. Now with Tim Hudson's three-year contract extension expected to be completed within the next couple of days, the Braves find themselves with one too many starters.
While it would be a luxury for the Braves to keep each of their top six starters, it appears that they'll attempt to move either Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez to create the financial flexibility that would allow them to fill their other roster needs with quality players.
Lowe is owed $45 million over the next three seasons and Vazquez will make $11.5 million before becoming eligible for free agency at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
With the funds that would be made available by moving one of these veteran right-handers, the Braves are hoping to find the pieces that would enable them to make it over the final leap they weren't able to clear this past season, when their postseason hopes were erased during the final week of the regular season.
"I think, realistically, we're a 90-win team as we're constructed now," Wren said at the conclusion of the 2009 season. "With some additions, we can hopefully do better than that."
With the strong possibility that Adam LaRoche, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano could all be lost via free agency, the Braves are currently in search of a first baseman and a closer. There's also a chance that they'll pursue an outfielder to guard against the possibility that they won't deem Jason Heyward to be Major League-ready coming out of Spring Training next year.
Assuming that Gonzalez and Soriano will get better offers to close elsewhere, the Braves are expected to continue to gauge the cost of signing veteran closer Billy Wagner, who posted a 1.72 ERA in the 17 appearances that he made after returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in late August.
There has also been a recent buzz that the Braves may attempt to trade for Pirates closer Matt Capps, who made $2.3 million this past season and has two remaining arbitration-eligible seasons. It's believed the Pirates will be actively shopping the 26-year-old right-handed reliever, who hails from the Atlanta area.
While there's a chance that the market could put LaRoche in position where he could return to Atlanta with the one-year offer the Braves may be willing to provide, there seems to be a greater likelihood that the Braves will be finding next year's first baseman via trade, free agency or the expanded list of non-tendered players that are expected to be available this year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.