Braves quiet, out of running for Mahay
GM Wren says Atlanta won't re-sign free-agent reliever
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren will likely still be searching for a center fielder and a backup catcher when this year's Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday.
While Wren spent a portion of Wednesday discussing trades and free-agent signings that would allow him to fulfill either or both of these roster desires, he certainly didn't provide any indication that there are any imminent deals. But at the same time, these discussions could certainly continue once he leaves Nashville at the conclusion of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
"We got some answers, but we probably found out things weren't going to work, more so than things are going to work," Wren said early Wednesday evening while addressing a couple of media members in his suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
For the most part during what was a rather quiet Wednesday, Wren gained a sense that many of his peers were going back to the drawing board to reformulate some of their plans.
"It has quieted down a lot," Wren said. "We talked to probably four or five teams today, and I don't see the same urgency to get something done. It's almost as if teams are shopping again. They're just trying to see what you're thinking."
Obviously the search for a center fielder more experienced than Josh Anderson or Jordan Schafer remains high on Wren's priority list. But he's also working the phones in search of a backup catcher who could lend the veteran qualities that Clint Sammons, Corky Miller and Brayan Pena aren't able to provide.
"There's catching available," Wren said. "We are weighing how well we like them with the cost and we're talking trades with catching as well. That would likely be our preference, because we like some guys on the trade market a little better than we do the guys on the free-agent market."
While Wren seems to favor the trade route in his search for a catcher, he has had some discussions with veteran free-agent catcher Damian Miller, who spent the past three seasons with the Brewers. The 38-year-old backstop has had a few telephone conversations over the past few weeks with Braves manager Bobby Cox.
"There's interest," said Miller's agent, Bob Garber, who also indicated that the two parties had held discussions as recently as this week.
Miller, who hit .237 and played in 58 games as Johnny Estrada's backup in Milwaukee this past season, is also drawing some interest from the Nationals. He made $2.25 million last year. If he's willing to play for closer to $1 million, Atlanta's interest could increase.
While acquiring left-handed reliever Will Ohman in Tuesday's three-player trade with the Cubs, the Braves found an affordable replacement for Ron Mahay, who might be nearing a deal with the Yankees.
Despite the fact that one of Mahay's representatives indicated that the Braves might call back again later this week, Wren has shut the door on the possibility of retaining the veteran left-handed reliever.
"For all intents and purposes, we're not a player [for Mahay]," Wren said.
The final official order of business during this year's Winter Meetings will come Thursday morning during the Rule 5 Draft. If the Braves were to lose an unprotected player in this Draft, they would receive $50,000 from the team that made the selection and would have the chance to regain the player at a cost of $25,000 if he doesn't remain on the club's 25-man roster throughout the 2008 season.
Wren said there is a chance two of his organization's players could be selected. Infielder Diory Hernandez, who combined to hit .307 with Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Mississippi in 2007, and the recently acquired Joe Borchard appear to be the most attractive options for other teams.
Borchard, who signed with the Braves as a six-year Minor League free agent earlier this week, hit .196 in 85 games with the Marlins this year. Because every other team had a previous chance to sign him without the necessity of paying $50,000 and keeping him on their 25-man roster throughout the entire season, the probability of him being selected is minimal.
As long as Borchard remains with the Braves, he'll at least have a chance to provide organizational depth at the outfield position. But he hasn't been mentioned as a candidate for center field.
It appears the Braves are planning to utilize Matt Diaz and Brandon Jones in a platoon in left field. Jones, who is coming off an impressive Minor League season, was hitting .289 with Novojoa in the Mexican Winter League before injuring his right shoulder last week.
Jones has returned to his Florida home and will be evaluated by Braves doctors later this week.
"We don't think it's anything real significant, other than he just needs some rest," Wren said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.