Tag:Atlanta Braves
Posted on: January 13, 2009 12:35 pm
 

Braves agree to terms with Derek Lowe

On a day when Atlanta legend John Smoltz was being introduced in Boston, the Braves hope they regained their footing by coming to terms with free agent starting pitcher Derek Lowe.

The deal, which is not expected to be finalized until after Lowe undergoes a physical examination on Wednesday, will run four years and pay Lowe $60 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract.

Lowe's marks the third new starting pitcher arrival of the winter for the Braves -- and the second this week -- and will help soothe an unusually rancorous winter for an organization that rarely has dealed in controversy.

Atlanta's made-over rotation now includes Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez (acquired from the Chicago White Sox this winter) and Kenshin Kawakami (a Japanese free agent who will be introduced in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon). The fifth starter likely will come from a group including Jo-Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton and Jorge Campillo.

Heading into the winter, the Braves were determined to add at least two starting pitchers, and they explored several avenues. They worked to acquire Jake Peavy from San Diego for more than six weeks before that ultimately failed. They romanced free agent A.J. Burnett hard before the right-hander took the New York Yankees' money. They failed to re-sign Mike Hampton, watching him depart for Houston.

Meantime, the Braves also took a failed run at free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who wound up re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That, though, came only after a bitter public dispute in which the Braves said they reached a verbal agreement with Furcal, after which Atlanta president John Schuerholz blasted the agent, Paul Kinzer, promising never to do business with his agency and calling it "a disgrace."

Atlanta still would like to add another bat to its lineup, probably an outfielder. But in agreeing to terms with Lowe, 35, the Braves now have solidified their rotation with a right-hander who has worked 200 or more innings in five of the past seven seasons. Lowe has thrown 180 or more innings in all seven of those seasons.

With the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer, Lowe went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings. Over his past 10 starts, he was 6-1 with a 1.27 ERA. He helped pitch the Dodgers into the postseason in two of the past three years after helping the Boston Red Sox win a World Series in 2004.

Posted on: December 17, 2008 7:14 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2008 9:21 pm
 

Angry Braves move on from Furcal

On the first day of Christmas, Atlanta failed to land Jake Peavy.

On the second day of Christmas, the Braves missed on A.J. Burnett.

On the third day of Christmas, Atlanta lost out on shortstop Rafael Furcal.

They haven't even gotten to the swans a-swimming or maids a-milking part. The Grinch is having a better holiday season than these guys.

Furcal agreed to return to the Dodgers on Wednesday? Really? After the Braves on Tuesday clearly believed they had an agreement-in-principle with Furcal's people?

Since when did an economy in tatters cause a decline in the value of agents' words?

Wait. Don't answer that (unless you've got a really witty one-liner). Paul Kinzer has some explaining to do. What does he use for negotiations, toilet paper?

"My take is, it's very difficult to do business in this game when you don't have confidence in the other people you're dealing with," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "A deal's a deal.

"After reaching an agreement on all of the different terms Monday night, we were asked to give them a term sheet. We delivered on Tuesday morning a signed term sheet by fax, at their request.

"I've been in the game for 30-some years, and when you're done with a deal you do a term sheet. I can't imagine how we could have (misunderstood) anything."

Paul Kinzer, Furcal's agent, did not respond to multiple voice-mail messages left on Wednesday. Earlier in the day in New York, Kinzer disputed the notion that Furcal and the Braves had a "verbal agreement."

Among the things you expect to see in this game is incompetence from the Padres, penny-pinching from the Twins and general malaise from the Pirates.

You don't expect one of baseball's proudest franchises to become embroiled in some of the winter's most soapiest of stories.

Flush with more cash than they've had in years, the Braves came into this off-season both with a plan and élan. Granted, this is baseball in the crazy-money era, so nothing ever works out exactly like you draw it up.

Still, how difficult could it be to land two starting pitchers and maybe improve their offense?

In Atlanta, the answer has been Advil-inducing.

The Braves went from scheduling a physical examination Wednesday so Furcal's contract could be completed to watching the Dodgers cut in on their dance.

Things were set. At least, they were on Monday night, in Atlanta's view. The Braves had offered three years for $30 million, with a vesting option for a fourth year. Furcal would play second base in 2009 and lead off. Yunel Escobar would remain at shortstop. Kelly Johnson would move to left field.

"We looked at our club (envisioning) different scenarios," Wren said. "Not necessarily with a power outfield bat. We thought if we landed a dynamic leadoff hitter like Furcal, it would change our offensive club in a different way.

"We would have improved our overall team speed and if we moved Kelly Johnson to left field, which he was amenable to doing, we would be keeping a solid offensive player with speed. We would have improved the club in two different areas."

Instead, by Wednesday, Furcal's people -- he's represented by Kinzer and Arn Tellem -- were engaged in serious discussions with the Dodgers.

Wren said late in the day Wednesday that the Braves still hadn't been told by Furcal's people that they would not accept Atlanta's offer, but "we've pretty much turned the page," Wren said. "I think it would be difficult at this point to re-engage them."

Or, how about, re-engage them on anybody, ever again? The Braves believe that part of the issue is that Kinzer was negotiating with them and Tellem, who is based in Los Angeles, was talking to the Dodgers. There were folks in baseball Wednesday night suggesting that the Braves may never sign a Tellem/Kinzer player again.

So, to review, Atlanta spent six weeks and two days negotiating a Peavy trade in October and November. The Braves thought they were moving close to a deal, but the Padres kept changing names on them.

They thought they had a deal with Furcal, only to have that blow up amid what appear to be highly questionable -- and likely unethical -- circumstances.

"It makes it difficult to do your business when a lot of times in this game you're dealing with people who either won't make a deal or can't make a deal," Wren said.

They did acquire starting pitcher Javier Vazquez from the White Sox earlier early this month.

"Thank goodness for Kenny Williams," Wren quipped, referring to Chicago's GM.

Oh, and they lost out on Burnett after offering a reported five years and $80 million. The Yankees offered five years and $82 million.

At least the dealing on that one was straight forward.

"That was geography," Wren said. "We just weren't close enough to his Maryland home for him and his family. We had all of the other ingredients. Logistically, it just didn't work for his family."

So now the Braves move forward, still searching for another starting pitcher and more team speed.

"We're not done yet," Wren said. "We started right back up again today, making calls, talking to clubs, talking to free agents. ...

"You learn in this game, you have disappointments, things happen on a daily basis. During the season, you wake up in the morning and immediately have to start getting ready for your next game. Now, you get up in the morning and get ready for your next challenge."


Posted on: December 10, 2008 10:29 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2008 4:56 am
 

Burnett, Lowe on deck after Sabathia

LAS VEGAS -- The expectation is, with CC Sabathia now off the board, the path is cleared for other pitchers to begin signing. And right-handers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe are in prime position to move quickly.

Negotiations intensified Wednesday for each of them, according to sources with knowledge of the talks, so much so that either -- or both -- could sign soon.

The New York Yankees are in hard on both, which could make life miserable for the Atlanta Braves where Burnett is concerned. The Braves arrived at these meetings with the intention of doing everything they could to sign the right-hander, according to a person with knowledge of Atlanta's thinking.

But the Yankees are pushing hard enough with a five-year offer, according to a person close to the talks, that it could hike the salary beyond the Braves' capability. Burnett is expected to command somewhere between $16 and $17 million a season, which might result in four years in the $64-$68 million range or five years in the $80-$85 million range.

The Braves were at four years for Burnett and reluctant to go to a fifth year, which could leave Burnett with a decision of whether to take a shorter term deal (four years) worth a little more money per year or a longer term deal (five years) worth a little less money per year but more money overall.

Early Thursday morning, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said that Burnett has reduced the field of interested teams down to three -- the Yankees, the Braves and Toronto.

Burnett exercised his opt-out clause to escape from a five-year, $55 million deal with Toronto at season's end. He was three years and $31 million in at the time.

Darek Braunecker, Burnett's agent, has always believed he could command a five-year deal for Burnett, though the opening bidding started at four years. Braunecker agreed that Sabathia's agreement should break the current logjam, but said he couldn't pinpoint how quickly the market will free up.

"It's hard to say," Braunecker said here Wednesday. "Obviously, that's kind of an important piece to determine what the market will bear and who remains in the mix and where the money could be headed. It's probably beneficial."

With the average annual value (AAV) of the Sabathia contract at $23 million a year, Burnett, Lowe and perhaps Ben Sheets would slot in accordingly. The New York Yankees and Texas have expressed interest in Sheets.

Meantime, even though the Yankees bumped Sabathia's deal up to seven years and $161 million from their original offer of six years and $140 million, the AAV is less. In the six-year offer, it was $23.3 million.

What does that mean? Well, for one thing, the Yankees, according to sources, remain interested in signing two more starting pitchers even after bagging Sabathia. And their resources still seem strong. The Yankees told Braunecker that Sabathia was completely separate from Burnett, who will turn 32 next month, and that one was not related to the other in negotiations.

"We've known all along that they intended to sign CC and another pitcher," Braunecker said. "The deals were always independent of each other."

Meantime, Atlanta was far down the path in talks with Burnett before Wednesday afternoon, when the Braves believe the Yankees increased their offer to five years.

Could there be a resolution with Burnett by, say, the end of the night?

"Anything is possible if the right deal presents itself," Braunecker said.

Lowe, aside from the Yankees, is being courted by Philadelphia and the New York Mets, and if they fail to land Burnett, the Braves could turn their attention Lowe's way. Boston also has expressed interest in Lowe, but the Red Sox right now have other priorities.

Lowe, 35, has some interest in returning to Boston, said a source with knowledge of his thinking, but it is not a priority for him. Meantime, despite the Los Angeles Dodgers' casting about for starting pitching, Lowe has no interest in returning there.

Regarding whether Sabathia's arrival would make the Yankees more attractive for Lowe or any other player, Scott Boras, his agent, said, "I think it gives payers more of a road map as to where the Yankees are going. If I was a baseball player and one team had CC Sabathia on it, that would be very welcome."

Posted on: December 10, 2008 6:46 pm
 

CC down, Burnett next?

LAS VEGAS -- The expectation is, with CC Sabathia now off the board, the path is cleared for other pitchers to begin signing. And right-hander A.J. Burnett is in prime position to move quickly.

"It's hard to say," Darek Braunecker, Burnett's agent, said here Wednesday afternoon. "Obviously, that's kind of an important piece to determine what the market will bear and who remains in the mix and where the money could be headed. It's probably beneficial."

With the average annual value (AAV) of the Sabathia contract just under $23 million a year, Burnett and Derek Lowe, among others would slot in accordingly.

Meantime, even though the Yankees bumped the deal up to seven years and just over $160 million from six years and $140 million, the AAV is less. In the six-year offer, it was $23.3 million.

What does that mean? Well, for one thing, the Yankees, according to sources, remain interested in signing two more starting pitchers even after bagging Sabathia. And their resources still seem strong. The Yankees told Braunecker that Sabathia was completely separate from Burnett, and that one was not related to the other in negotiatons.

"We've known all along that they intended to sign CC and another pitcher," Braunecker said. "The deals were always independent of each other."

Meantime, Atlanta is far down the path in talks with the right-hander.

Could there be a resolution with Burnett by, say, the end of the day today?

"Anything is possible if the right deal presents itself," Braunecker said.

Still, as of midafternoon local time Wednesday, nothing was imminent. Braunecker had meeting scheduled for much of the remainder of the day.

Posted on: December 9, 2008 7:07 pm
 

Braves, Yanks, Red Sox talking with Burnett

LAS VEGAS -- The agent for free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett said Tuesday that he's "down the road with Atlanta" in negotiations, added that he's had "significant dialogue" with Boston and estimated that "half-a-dozen" clubs are serious players in the Burnett talks.

"It's hard to say, but we're prepared to act if it's the right deal," Derek Braunecker told CBSSports.com regarding a potential time-frame as to when Burnett might sign. "But at the same time, there are so many dynamics."

Braunecker, speaking mid-afternoon Las Vegas time, said he had a couple of more meetings scheduled yet today with clubs. After that, he said, he'd probably "circle back" to some clubs he's already spoken with.

Atlanta reportedly has a four-year, $60 million offer -- plus a vesting option for a fifth year -- on the table to Burnett. Braunecker characterized the Braves as being "squarely in the mix."

So, too are the Yankees, who continue to wait to hear from CC Sabathia as well.

Of the handful of clubs talking with Burnett, Braunecker said that "another club was added to the mix" on Monday. 

Posted on: November 14, 2008 5:31 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2008 6:56 pm
 

Braves pull out of Peavy talks

The Atlanta Braves have pulled out of the Jake Peavy trade talks and will move ahead with other plans general manager Frank Wren told CBSSports.com on Friday.

"We notified the Padres yesterday that based on our last offer not being accepted, we were out of it," Wren said.

The Braves were set to send shortstop Yunel Escobar, pitcher Charlie Morton, reliever Blaine Boyer and Class A outfielder Gorkys Hernandez to the Padres for Peavy, who would have had to waive his no-trade clause.

The Braves felt they were moving toward a deal, according to sources, and on Wednesday believed they were going to obtain the pitcher they had been attempting to acquire since October.

But then something changed, and in Wren's conversations with the Padres it became apparent that a deal was not as close the Braves were thinking. The Atlanta GM declined comment on what explanation the Padres gave him for not accepting the deal.

"It just didn't work," Wren said.

The Braves became perplexed over the past six weeks by the Padres' handling of the negotiations, sources with knowledge of the talks say, and still don't know for sure why San Diego sent such conflicting signals to them this week.

The Braves believe that they were assuming significant risk in the deal not only because of the package of players they were willing to deal, but also because of Peavy's history of injuries.

"We were never that comfortable with the players we were talking about because we're a club that likes to build from within," Wren said. "And as the deal evolved, it was going to impact too many of those players."

Despite periodic trepidation as negotiatons were moving forward, though, the Braves ultimately were willing to part with some prospects they viewed as key -- except for prospect Tommy Hanson.

Even at that, they still feel that their offer for Peavy surpassed any others the Padres have received.

So now the Braves will take their search for two starting pitchers elsewhere. Wren said that they have a couple of trade possibilities working, plus they will dive into the free agent market.

Aside from CC Sabathia, who they view as too expensive, the Braves figure to be involved in anybody and everybody on the free agent market. They've already believed to have touched base with A.J. Burnett, and figure to do the same with Derek Lowe and Ryan Dempster, among others.

"Jake is a player who would have fit into our club very well," Wren said. "But it was a very rich deal, and at the end of the day we just didn't feel like it made sense for our organization to keep talking."

Of course, the offseason is filled with posturing as clubs seek to make deals -- both in the trade and free-agent markets -- and everybody has an agenda and wants their angle out there.

Could this be a case of the Braves doing the same? If the Padres were to call back before Atlanta finishes its pitching plans for the winter, could something still get done?

"We're trying to improve our club," Wren said. "I'm never going to close the door to anything. We have no active discussions going on. We're actively pursuing other things.

"Would I take a call? Yes. But that's not our focus."

The Chicago Cubs, also searching for pitching, are believed to still be interested. However, Towers told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Friday that the club may turn to the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees.

Posted on: November 13, 2008 6:53 pm
 

Braves still waiting on Peavy

Pitcher Jake Peavy's slow, torturous path out of San Diego remained on hold Thursday.

"I don't know if this is gamesmanship or what," Barry Axelrod, Peavy's agent, said Thursday afternoon. "At one point the Braves were hot and heavy, then they were not. And then they're hot again."

Not hot enough, however, for the Padres to agree with Atlanta on what sources with knowledge of the talks say is a four-player package that, as of Wednesday night, was likely to send shortstop Yunel Escobar, starting pitcher Charlie Morton, Class A outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and reliever Blaine Boyer to San Diego.

"I assume if and when they get to the point where they've tentatively agreed on something, they will bring us in," Axelrod said. "They have to. I haven't been updated on any progress."

The Braves had been pushing the Padres for an answer before the free agent market opens on Friday (until then, clubs can negotiate only with their own free agents).

Atlanta needs at least two starting pitchers, and the Braves, who appear to have been the most aggressive of anyone in their pursuit of Peavy, would like to go into the free agent market knowing whether they're looking at signing one starter (in the event they complete a Peavy trade) or two (in the event they don't).

"I'm not surprised it's been difficult," Axelrod said. "It's a very difficult trade to make. Notwithstanding the no-trade rights Jake has. the Padres laid out that it was going to have to be a big package.

"The other team has to assume a hefty contract -- it's a bargain this year, and hefty after that -- and give up what Kevin (Towers, Padres' general manager) deems to be enough. And if it's a starting pitcher, infielder, reliever ... that could deplete somebody's system.

"It's a tough deal to make."

Axelrod spoke by telephone with Peavy earlier Thursday when the pitcher changed planes en route home from Puerto Rico and told him there was nothing to update.

"Most of our conversations have been him asking, 'What's new? Is anything new up?' and me saying, 'No, haven't heard anything, have a good trip, see ya when you get back,'" Axelrod said.

So the Padres have neither accepted the Braves' offer nor asked that Peavy waive the no-trade clause, and the cat-and-mouse game continues.

Meantime, when a deal for Peavy is struck, it almost certainly will require more than a simple "yes" or "no" when it comes to waiving the no-trade clause. Even regarding the initial small list of potential clubs to whom Peavy has said he probably would accept a deal, the pitcher and Axelrod have compiled a checklist of sorts that they would require that includes things such as a housing allowance, guaranteeing his $22 million option for 2013 and travel for his wife and children.

Depending on the acquiring club, Peavy may require more or less from that list. It is believed that his preference is to play in Chicago with the Cubs. Wherever he lands, he is expected to demand a full no-trade clause.

"People keep asking me, 'What do you expect?'" Axelrod said. "I tell them I don't know. I've been doing this 30 years and I've never been through one of these before. I don't have any precedent.

"I had Phil Nevin and he was traded twice with no-trade clauses, and that had to be considered. But I've never had one quite like this."

 

Posted on: November 12, 2008 10:48 pm
 

Braves, Padres near Peavy deal

The Atlanta Braves, full-steam ahead in their pursuit of right-hander Jake Peavy, are offering a four-player package of players, and San Diego is expected to request that Peavy waive his no-trade clause so the deal can be completed, CBSSports.com has learned.

Barry Axelrod, Peavy's agent, said Wednesday evening that he had not spoken with Padres general manager Kevin Towers. And if that conversation takes place on Thursday, it still may be a bit before the Padres and Braves receive an answer -- Peavy is scheduled to fly home from a trip to Puerto Rico and will be traveling much of the day.

Under terms of the deal discussed by the Braves and Padres, San Diego would receive shortstop Yunel Escobar, Class A outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, one of two starting pitchers -- Charlie Morton or Jo-Jo Reyes -- and either reliever Blaine Boyer or one of two minor-league left-handers (one of which is believed to be Jeff Locke).

In addition to Escobar and Hernandez, it is believed that the Padres, if the deal is completed, will opt for Morton, a 25-year-old right-hander who was 4-8 with a 6.15 ERA in 16 appearances -- 15 starts -- in 2008. They also are said to be leaning toward Boyer, a 27-year-old right-hander who was one of manager Bobby Cox's chief workhorses last season, finishing tied for ninth in the NL with 76 appearances.

Though Padres scouts like Locke, he's only 21 and not yet ready for the majors. The Padres' bullpen was deeply disappointing last season and, now, with iconic closer Trevor Hoffman apparently having pitched his last game for the Padres, is close to being in complete disarray.

The Braves have been pressuring the Padres for an answer by Friday, when the free agent market opens, because they need at least two starters -- and they want to know whether Peavy will be a Brave before they dive in. They are expected to pursue A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster and others -- and sign maybe one if they acquire Peavy, and two if they don't.

However, now the spotlight is close to swinging to Peavy, whose preference is said to be in Chicago with the Cubs. However, internally, the Padres view the Cubs' offer -- believed to include outfielder Felix Pie, infielder Ronny Cedeno and left-hander Sean Marshall, as being nowhere close to that of the Braves.

Whether Peavy agrees to accept a deal to Atlanta could become contingent on any number of things, including Atlanta guaranteeing Peavy's $22 million option for 2013, a full-no trade clause or travel considerations for Peavy's wife and children (the Peavys intend to keep their full-time home in San Diego, according to Axelrod).

Peavy, 27, won the NL Cy Young award following the 2007 season in a unanimous vote. Though a strained elbow shelved him for part of 2008, he still compiled a 2.85 ERA in 27 starts, finishing 10-11 for a Padres club that lost 99 games.

Considered one of the game's few true aces when he's healthy, Peavy has compiled ERAs of 2.88 or lower in four of the past five seasons.

In Atlanta, he would help accomplish Braves GM Frank Wren's goal of getting back to what the club was known for in the 1990s, a strong starting rotation.

Morton was part of that rotation for part of '08, and the Braves had envisioned him remaining there. Atlanta's third-round pick in the 2002 draft, Morton is a "stuff" guy -- his fastball reaches into the upper-90s -- but he also throws a big curve and, over the past two years, has made significant strides in his command.

Atlanta's willingness to include Escobar in the package has been a surprise to some, because the Braves traded a solid shortstop prospect, Elvis Andrus, in the package to Texas for Mark Teixeira in 2007. At that time, Escobar was viewed as Atlanta's shortstop of the future.

Though Escobar hit .288 with a .366 on-base percentage, 10 homers and 60 RBI, he committed 16 errors for the Braves in what many considered a disappointing '08 season. Cox is said to have become disenchanted with him, which no doubt played a part in the fact that the Braves would part with Escobar.

 


 
 
 
 
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