Braves free agents after this season and next season

Looking ahead to the Braves players who will or can become free agents over the next two offseasons...

The Braves are in good shape as far as retaining their players at the end of this season.  The position players who could potentially become free agents are: Eric Hinske, Alex Gonzalez,Julio Lugo, and Nate McLouth.  The Braves have a 1.5M option on Hinske which will be picked up.  There is no chance of McLouth's 10.65M option being picked up; the Braves will take the 1.25M buyout and let McLouth go.  There will be a lot of FA corner outfielders available if the Braves decide that they need to pick someone up, which is possible (although the first preference would probably be an offseason trade).  As for Gonzalez, the conventional wisdom is that the Braves would like to re-sign him for one year, and at some point during the 2012 season Tyler Pastornicky and/or Andrelton Simmons will be called up and tried out; by the end of the season one of those two will likely have earned the job.  I've seen no info or rumors about whether or not Gonzalez would be willing to re-sign for one year.  He is being paid 2.5M this year.  Julio Lugo is a gap-filler for this year and will probably not be retained.

No starting pitchers can become FAs except Kenshin Kawakami, who will be non-tendered.  Three relief pitchers can become FAs: Scott Linebrink, Scott Proctor, and George Sherrill.  It's unlikely that all three will be retained.  Linebrink has had a pretty decent season, but here's the problem there: Linebrink is in the last year of a 4-year contract, which is paying him 5.5M this year.  The reason the Braves aren't freaking out about that is because they are only paying 2M; the White Sox are picking up the other 3.5M as a condition of the trade that brought Linebrink to Atlanta.  I think the Braves would like to retain him for another year, but only if he takes significantly less than his last contract.  With the number of teams looking for relief pitching, and the fact that the work that the Braves have done with Linebrink has increased his market value, someone else will probably offer him more than 2M.  Linebrink waived a no-trade clause to come to Atlanta, so he might give us a discount to stay.  We'll see. 

One would almost certainly think Proctor will not be retained, but one also would not have guessed back in April that he would be with the team now, after being released in spring training.  So who knows; the Braves front office seems to like him for some reason. He is making a pro-rated 750K this year.   Sherrill is a useful LOOGY who has enjoyed a renaissance in Atlanta.  He's making 1.2M plus bonuses.  The Braves will probably offer him the same for 2012, and I think he'll accept.

For 2013, things get more complicated.  David Ross could be the #1 catcher with a lot of ML teams, and someone will offer him silly money, much more than the 1.625M/year under his current contract.  2013 will be Brian McCann's option year, and the Braves will need to commit some money to sign him to an extension.  Ross likes playing in Atlanta, but some other club will make him an offer that will be hard to ignore, and the Braves may be hard pressed to match another offer after they commit the necessary money to McCann.  The Braves will probably want to retain Hinske again and he will probably be due a salary bump, although not a huge one. 

As for pitchers, Derek Lowe will be an FA, and assuming he isn't traded before then, the Braves will have to decide how to play this.  The team won't be able to retain him at his current 15M/year (they will be needing money to commit to signing Hanson to a long-term contract), and Lowe is unlikely to sign for much less.  Assuming that Lowe will be a Type A or B FA, the Braves will have to decide whether to offer him arbitration in order to get compensation.  The problem is that Lowe might accept, and he would probably get about 15M again in arbitration.  There's a good chance that Lowe will be non-tendered.

The Braves have a 9M option on Tim Hudson for 2013, and assuming that Huddy is still pitching effectively at that point, the team will pick that up.  2013 will be Jair Jurrjens' walk year, and it appears likely that if he is still with the Braves by then, he will be traded during the season.  Jurrjens is a Scott Boras client, and Boras will be pushing him to go elsewhere; the Braves won't have money to commit to signing both JJ and Hanson to long-term deals, and with the prospects that are coming up, they really don't need to.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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