ATLANTA -- Much of the early offseason speculation surrounding the Braves has focused on where Brian McCann and Tim Hudson might be playing next year. But this scope will widen as the Hot Stove season takes shape over the next few weeks.
With a stable core of talented young players in place, general manager Frank Wren can approach the annual roster reconstruction process comforted by the fact that he does not necessarily have any glaring needs.
Sure, Wren will be among the many clubs who survey the trade market in search of the rare ace that this year's free-agent market lacks. At the same time, he will attempt to find a team that is willing to trade for Dan Uggla and a portion of the $26 million the veteran second baseman is owed over the final two years of his contract.
It will not be easy for the Braves to land one of the few available aces or find a potential suitor for Uggla. But Wren will gain a better sense of how realistic these two possibilities are when he and his top aides spend next week (Monday-Wednesday) talking shop with their peers at the annual General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
History has shown the GM Meetings unearth possibilities that had not previously been explored by some clubs. During the first day of the 2010 Meetings, which were held in Orlando, Wren received an unexpected offer from former Marlins exec Larry Beinfest, who used a napkin to scribble the parameters of the deal that brought Uggla to Atlanta.
Three years later, the challenge of moving Uggla will prove to be much more taxing.
After struggling through his first three months with the Braves, Uggla hit .291 with 34 homers and a .938 OPS in the 130 games he played from July 5, 2011-June 5, 2012. But while hitting .181 with 31 homers and a .659 OPS in the 235 games that have followed, the 33-year-old second baseman has distanced himself from those glory days when he compiled five consecutive 30-homer seasons.
The two most attractive second basemen on this year's free-agent market are Robinson Cano and Omar Infante, who coincidently was traded by Atlanta in exchange for Uggla. There are seemingly just a few clubs that will be willing to pay the significant cost it will take to sign Cano.
But the supply of second basemen could also be increased if the Rangers' Ian Kinsler or the Angels' Howie Kendrick are made available on the trade market. Kinsler has a limited no-trade clause and is owed at least $62 million over the next four seasons. Kendrick has a less-limited no-trade clause and is owed $18.85 million over the final two years of his contract.
If the Braves move Uggla, they might have to eat at least 70 percent of his remaining salary. But this could leave Wren with an additional $6 million to $8 million to spend as he attempts to strengthen his roster this winter.
Atlanta will be among the teams linked to left-hander David Price and right-hander Max Scherzer, if Detroit truly is willing to deal the American League's Cy Young Award favorite. But the cost of getting either of these two aces might prove to be too steep, especially when the free-agent market is thin when it comes to frontline starting pitchers.
Hudson has already received a one-year offer from the Braves. But if this offer is not enhanced, the 38-year-old veteran will likely be pitching elsewhere next year. The Royals, Indians and Red Sox are among the clubs that have thus far shown the greatest interest.
If Hudson does indeed exit Atlanta, the Braves will still have a solid rotation that would include Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Brandon Beachy. Alex Wood stands as the early favorite to win the rotation's fifth spot.
While this rotation would be potentially solid, it would also lack a member who has made more than 85 career starts. When Wren talked about bringing Hudson back, he mentioned the desire to have an experienced presence in his rotation.
Wren might also be looking to add a veteran to his bullpen. One attractive option could be LaTroy Hawkins, who compiled a 2.93 ERA in 73 appearances for the Mets this past season. Along with aiding the young relievers, Hawkins could also serve as a good influence on B. J. Upton.
When Upton was in the midst of his struggles last year, he reached out to Hawkins for advice. The two players are both represented by Larry Reynolds.
------ Source: MLB.com