There are some interesting Braves news nuggets making the rounds this afternoon, so I'll toss up a post recapping some of the interesting stories of the week.
Bobbie Dittmeyer of MLB.com names the Braves as one of ten teams to have scouted 18-year-old Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi reportedly touches 95 on the gun, and he hasn't decided whether he will seek to remain in Japan or to make the jump across the pond a la Junichi Tazawa last winter. After the Braves' interest in Tazawa and their signing of Kenshin Kawakami, you have to think they'll be in on Kikuchi if he does come stateside.
David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the Braves are "serious" about getting a right-handed power bat, and emphasizes that they won't consider left-handed hitters. Seems obvious enough, but at least they aren't trying to sell us that we'll be fine with what we've got.
ESPN's Rumor Central (subscription required) throws a few names into the right-handed hitter hat. They see Matt Holliday and Jason Bay as too expensive for the Braves (duh). They are clearly just speculating offhand, but they name Dan Uggla, Miguel Tejada and even Gary Sheffield (gasp!) as potential targets.
Buster Olney of ESPN (Insider required) polled a group of executives, who say they expect the Braves to offer arbitration to Mike Gonzalez but not to Rafael Soriano. They also say that there is a decent chance that Gonzalez accepts arbitration, given the state of the economy and the abundance of relief pitching on the free-agent market. Interesting decision there, as Soriano is likely the bigger health risk, but also the better pitcher. Don't expect the Braves to offer arb to both, that's for sure...too risky that both accept.
DOB thinks the Braves "might" be able to find a team willing to take on most if not all of Derek Lowe's contract via trade, given the dearth of free-agent starting pitching. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if the Mets might be that team. Mark Bowman of MLB.com confirms that Frank Wren will "explore" the possibility of moving Lowe. The Mets did pursue Lowe heavily last winter, and they do need starting pitching at all costs. I still have some faith in D-Lowe, but shedding his salary could be a huge boon. Interesting story to watch.
In the Bowman article linked to above, Bobby Cox emphasizes that the Braves would have to be blown away to trade Javier Vazquez. As a huge Javy fan, that's what I like to hear. Given that he seems to be very comfortable in Atlanta, he could be another guy that would consider a reasonable contract extension.
Mark Bowman also has some more info on his blog. He names Ryan Church as a potential non-tender candidate this winter, which makes sense given his potential $3.5 million salary, his back problems, and the emergences of Matt Diaz and Jason Heyward. He also mentions that Kelly Johnson is "drawing attention" from several teams, though Cox hedges on the possibility of trading KJ by noting that Martin Prado plays right field in winter ball (and played a few innings there in the Braves' last game of the season) and could always move to the outfield to make room for Kelly at second. Likely story, Bobby. I still hold out hope for Johnson, but his rising salary could definitely be prohibitive, and if he can bring back value in trade, there's reason to pull the trigger.