Hudson, Braves complete three-year deal
Veteran right-hander set to be long-term part of Atlanta rotation
ATLANTA -- With a surplus of starting pitchers, Braves general manager Frank Wren could have easily bid adieu to Tim Hudson and prevented the need to spend the next couple of weeks determining which of his top-of-the-rotation starters he's going to trade.
But instead of running away from a difficult decision, Wren based his offseason plans around the attempt to appease Hudson's desire to remain in Atlanta and prove that his surgically repaired right arm and leadership skills will prove beneficial to the Braves for at least three more seasons.
With all of the final medical requirements addressed, the Braves announced Thursday morning that they have provided Hudson a three-year, $28 million contract extension that includes a team option for the 2013 season.
"Their opening offer to me was more than fair," Hudson said. "That showed me that they were really wanting to get something done. It didn't take too long to agree on something."
The terms of this deal, which calls for salaries of $9 million in each of the next three seasons, were agreed upon two weeks ago, after just a couple days of negotiations. This official announcement was delayed as the 34-year-old right-hander completed all of the components of his physical.
The Braves get a $9 million club option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout. If Hudson pitches at least 600 innings over the next three seasons, he would receive a $500,000 bonus after the 2012 season.
During the final weeks of this year's regular season, Hudson made it known that he wanted an extension and that he wasn't even thinking about his previous contract, which included a $12 million option for the 2010 season.
"I think it's a testament to how much Tim loves this organization and enjoys playing here," Wren said. "From our perspective, we love his ability to pitch, his competitiveness and the leadership he brings to our clubhouse and young pitchers. It's a perfect combination, and we wanted to do everything we could to bring him back."
While going 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA in the seven starts that he made after returning from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in September, Hudson gave the Braves confidence that he was healthy and capable of teaming with Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens to provide Atlanta with a formidable rotation over the course of the next few years.
At the ripe age of 23, both Hanson and Jurrjens find themselves gaining some of the same lofty praise that Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder earned when they were beginning their careers together with the A's.
"[Jurrjens] and Tommy are just two of the best young pitchers that I've seen in a long time," Hudson said. "I had a chance to play on a real good staff in Oakland and I'm willing to say that this is the best staff that I've been on in my big league career."
While Hudson, Jurrjens and Hanson know that they will be back in Atlanta next year, the remaining makeup of the Braves' rotation will be determined over the course of the next couple of weeks.
With Hudson secured, Atlanta can now continue its effort to trade either Derek Lowe, who is owed $45 million over the next three seasons, or Javier Vazquez, who will make $11.5 million before becoming eligible for free agency at the end of the 2010 season.
If interest from other clubs would improve, there's also a chance the Braves could instead move Kenshin Kawakami, who is owed $13.34 million over the next two seasons. But Kawakami wouldn't provide the same kind of return or financial flexibility that Wren could gain by moving either Lowe or Vazquez.
Wren indicated that he is still in the very early stages of determining which clubs be willing to take one of his starters and provide a return that would help him address his roster needs, which could include finding a first baseman, outfielder and closer.
|"There's a lot of promise with this team ... I wanted to be part of it."|
|-- Tim Hudson, on the Braves|
A native of Phenix City, Ala., which is located approximately 90 miles southwest of Turner Field, Hudson realized a lifetime dream in December 2004, when the Braves acquired him from the A's. Now the veteran right-hander hopes to prove that his surgically repaired arm will allow him to be even better than he was while going 56-39 with a 3.77 ERA during the five seasons that he's been in Atlanta.
When he learned that he had a torn ligament in his right elbow shortly after the 2008 All-Star break, Hudson began to wonder how long he might have been pitching with arm problems. Through his rehab, he regained strength in his right elbow and maybe just as importantly learned the importance of continuing to keep his shoulder strong.
"I'm excited about how [my shoulder] feels right now, and my goal is to not let it get like it was before," Hudson said.
Despite missing the final two months of the 2008 season and a majority of this past season, Hudson still ranked among the top pitchers of this decade. He ranked third among all Major League pitchers with a 3.50 ERA, fifth in wins (137) and eighth in innings pitched (1923 1/3). His .655 career winning percentage ranks 12th all-time among pitchers who have had at least 200 decisions.
While the opportunity to stay close to his family played a part, Hudson said his motivation to return to the Braves grew this past summer as he saw the likes of Martin Prado, Hanson and Jurrjens prove that the club has a bright future.
"I just think there's a lot of promise with this team, and, quite frankly, I wanted to be part of it," Hudson said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.