Braves satisfied with Deadline moves
Kotchman acquisition the prize of Wren's wheeling and dealing
ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Frank Wren wasn't able to collect all of the items on his wish list. But while simply bidding adieu to Mark Teixeira, he solidified the base of the roster that he'll develop during the 2008 season and beyond.
Had everything gone according to plan by Thursday's 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, Wren would have done more than simply trade Teixeira to the Angels in exchange for Casey Kotchman and Minor League pitcher Stephen Marek. There was a desire to acquire a power-hitting outfielder, and for at least a brief period, it appeared that desire had been fulfilled.
But once a deal that would have brought Jason Bay to Atlanta was shot down by Pittsburgh last Friday, Wren had to look elsewhere and focus on the possibility of moving lefty reliever Will Ohman and some of his other players who will be free agents at the end of this season.
Still, the Braves were in on the bidding for Bay until the final moments before Thursday's Trade Deadline. But they were never able to provide the Pirates the package that they received by including Bay in the blockbuster three-team trade that sent him to the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.
Last Friday, the Braves were convinced they had landed Bay in exchange for four Minor Leaguers, including shortstop Brent Lillibridge and outfielder Brandon Jones.
"Over the last week, we were very competitive for a lot of deals, including Bay," Wren said. "They chose to go in a different direction."
For a while, it seemed certain that Ohman, one of those free-agents-to-be, would be traded. But even with many teams showing interest in the left-handed reliever, the Braves never felt like the return was greater than the value they would receive from the compensatory Draft picks he'd provide by leaving via free agency.
"It wouldn't have made sense to trade Will for a fringe [Minor League prospect] and give that other team that Draft pick," Wren said.
Ohman, who has posted a 2.80 ERA and limited left-handed hitters to a .160 batting average in 56 appearances this year, is currently classified as a "Type B" free agent. This means if the Braves lose him to free agency, they would get a compensatory pick following the first round.
Making this Draft pick even more important is the fact that the Braves intend to be aggressive on the free-agent market by signing a player who would cause them to lose either a first- or second-round selection.
But Braves manager Bobby Cox is among those who will lobby to keep Ohman, who could command the $4 million annual salary that other free-agent left-handed relievers, like Ron Mahay and J.C. Romero, have recently gained.
"He's a good guy," Cox said of Ohman, who has become a very popular clubhouse figure. "He pitches whenever you call on him. He's upbeat and this has been his best season."
There's still a chance Wren could trade Ohman with a waivers-wire deal in August. But it's seemingly more likely that Mark Kotsay could be dealt next month to a team looking for a veteran outfielder who can provide depth and solid leadership skills.
As he continues to look toward 2009, Wren still needs to acquire a power-hitting outfielder. His top targets were Bay and Xavier Nady, whom the Pirates traded to the Yankees on Saturday. At some point this week, there was also talk about landing Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida, who is an Atlanta native.
With Kotchman in place at first base, Wren feels confident about the infield mix he'll carry into next year. Because Tim Hudson seems destined for Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, the need to find a top-caliber starting pitcher via a trade or free agency has certainly increased.
Thus as Wren continues his quest to rebuild, from now until the offseason, his focus will be on starting pitchers and a power-hitting outfielder, who preferably bats from the right side.
"Our infield is pretty well stocked with guys who we feel are above-average Major Leaguers," Wren said. "Our outfield is a work in progress."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.