Lots of good Braves news to cover this Thursday afternoon:
- First off, I want to give a shout-out to our growing group of commenters. Blogging is much more enjoyable when you've got a responsive audience, so keep reading and commenting! Tell your friends about us! Most importantly, though, feel free to let us know if there is something you'd like to see us write about. Thank you!
- Mark Bowman of MLB.com has a "Hot Stove Report" piece up, with some interesting nuggets. To begin with, he says that "because it seems likely [the Braves] will be willing to give Jason Heyward a chance to begin the 2010 season in their outfield, [finding an outfielder] doesn't seem to be as great of a concern." That bothers me a little bit: Jason Heyward is still just 20 years old and has played just 50 games in the high minors. I am not saying Heyward won't be very, very good, but the team will be much better off if it treats Heyward like it treated Tim Hudson last year: prepare as if you don't have him and then be excited when you do. If Heyward proves ready, he will make room for himself, but leaving a spot open for him is awfully risky. Standing pat with a Diaz/McLouth/Heyward outfield would be a mistake, especially given that Diaz is risky as well.
- Bowman again: "If the Braves are going to make an early transaction via free agency, they will likely do so in the bullpen department. They are among the clubs interested in veteran closer Billy Wagner, whose status as a Type A free agent would cause the signing team to lose a draft pick." Everyone knows the Red Sox are going to offer Wagner arbitration, so the Braves don't need to wait around until December 1 to try to sign him. Wagner has always wanted to pitch in Atlanta, and Bobby Cox has always liked him. He's a helluva closer, and he looked great after returning from Tommy John surgery last year. Perhaps a one-year, $6 million deal with an option for 2011? He fits very well in the Braves' bullpen picture.
- It doesn't sound like the Braves have ever been all that interested in bringing back Rafael Soriano or Mike Gonzalez, so it's encouraging to hear that the Red Sox have asked for medical records on both. The Yankees, not to be outdone, also apparently "plan to pursue" both. Gonzo's new agent Scott Boras says 15 teams have called about his client (we've heard that the Nationals are one of those). With all that interest flying around, Bowman says, "It now appears the Braves may be comfortable offering arbitration to both of these veteran relievers." That would help offset the picks lost by potentially signing Wagner, and give the Braves some nice picks for the 2010 draft, especially with Adam LaRoche also potentially netting them a pick.
- Last, but certainly not least, Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that it appears that "the Yankees, ever so quietly, are letting teams know that RF Nick Swisher is available." He's used his excellent secondary skills to post a .371 OBP while slugging .498, for a solid .375 wOBA. He is a plus defender in both outfield corners, and he can even cut it at first base if need be (if that's not handy, I don't know what is). To boot, he's due just $16.75 million over the next two years, or $26 million over the next three if his option is exercised. And his year was no Yankee Stadium illusion: he hit .268/.361/.585 on the road. This is a guy Frank Wren should have gotten last winter, and who he needs to get this winter. If any potential deal also involves Derek Lowe (even if it means sending the Bombers a prospect), it will be a coup.
Discuss away! Let the offseason begin!