Bunch of links for a lazy Sunday:
David O'Brien brings us some notes from the Takashi Saito press conference on Wednesday: Saito became friends with Billy Wagner after Wagner was traded to Boston last season, and both Wagner and Kenshin Kawakami helped "recruit" Saito to come play for the Braves. Saito says that his 2008 UCL injury is 100% behind him, that he never went to the training room at all in 2009 because of his arm. Also, it seems that the Braves will be flexible with their closing situation, with Saito getting some chances to work the ninth based on matchups and Billy Wagner's usage patterns.
Barbaro Canizares was cut to make room for Takashi Saito on the 40-man roster. If he clears waivers, he'll be back in action for Gwinnett next year. As I wrote in my profile of the first basemen, he's not a guy you worry about losing.
Mark Bowman says that Billy Wagner's contract was "erroneously reported" to have been worth $7 million. Wagner will in fact be due a $6.75 million salary in 2009, though Cot's Contracts shows that Wagner's 2011 option carries a $250,000 buyout (which would explain the reported $7 million guarantee).
You've probably seen the quotes from Rafael Soriano's agent that Soriano is considering accepting the Braves' arbitration offer. I still think that's just a smoke screen to coax out some interest from other clubs; when agents talk to the press so openly, they are usually just trying to drum up some publicity for their client. But Mark Bowman has more: it's been reported that Rafael Soriano could draw a salary upwards of $8 million through arbitration, but the Braves believe he won't get that much should he accept. Bowman says that the arbitration figure "would be based on the average annual salary gained by this year's free-agent relievers, [so] the Braves seem to believe he would more likely gain something in the neighborhood of $6.5 million." Wagner's signing under $7 million can't hurt the Braves' case before the arbitrator, if Soriano were to accept.
Mark Bowman quotes Marlon Byrd's agent as saying that the Braves have shown "strong interest" in the former Texas Ranger. I chalk this up as just another case of "agent-speak," with the agent trying to stoke a market for his client. I don't like Byrd, and I don't think he's a starter for a championship-caliber team. He's not really a center fielder anymore, and he's the vast majority of his hitting in the Rangers' offense-friendly home park. No, thank you.
In that same post, Bowman says that "some of the Braves players are lobbying for the club to bring Mark DeRosa back," and that "it's believed that DeRosa would be willing to take a 'hometown discount' from the Braves." Still, as Bowman notes, with DeRosa currently seeking a deal worth $8-9 million per year, DeRo's idea of a "discount" might be pretty different than Frank Wren's. DeRosa has his uses, but he's not a star, and shouldn't be paid as one.
Jon Heyman of SI.com names teams interested in first baseman Nick Johnson, and he throws "maybe the Braves" in there. Not sure what that means, whether he's just speculating because the Braves have a hole at first, or whether he's actually heard that the Braves might be interested. Johnson is a very good hitter and a great defender, and I like him for the Braves as long as Frank Wren builds in some redundancy for the inevitable periods when Johnson is hurt. Keeping Kelly Johnson would certainly help mitigate Johnson's injury risk. For what it's worth, David O'Brien doesn't think the Braves are all that high on Johnson (Nick, that is).