Wren seeking suitors for Soriano, Lowe
Braves GM also exploring options at first base, outfield
INDIANAPOLIS -- Having been provided permission to attempt to trade reliever Rafael Soriano as soon as possible, Braves general manager Frank Wren has once again committed his focus away from his reconstructed bullpen that seemingly won't include Soriano's financial burden.
While Wren spent a significant portion of Tuesday's schedule talking to teams interested in acquiring Soriano or Derek Lowe, he also continued to look at the free agents who could help him fill his need for a first baseman and an outfielder.
Free-agent outfielder Xavier Nady has made it known that would like to play in Atlanta, and the Braves have some interest in providing him this opportunity. But because Nady is coming off Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, Wren and his staff will continue to assess his health and determine if there is reason to believe the projections that he will be ready before the start of Spring Training.
The Braves had interest in Nady before he was traded to the Yankees in July 2008. During the '07 and '08 seasons, the 31-year-old outfielder combined to hit .293 and 45 homers, with an .840 OPS.
Early Tuesday evening, Wren once again said that his plans hadn't been altered when Soriano surprisingly accepted Atlanta's arbitration offer Monday and consequently secured himself a one-year non-guaranteed contract worth $6.5 million-$7 million.
Truth be told, Wren didn't have to time to fret about the financial consequences of Soriano's decision.
As Wren expected, Soriano's agent, Peter Greenberg, called shortly after this decision was announced to confirm that his client wanted the opportunity to continue serving as one of the primary late-inning relievers in Atlanta.
When he was told those roles were reserved for Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, Greenberg provided the Braves with the list of teams that had shown the most interest in Soriano, whose classification as a Type A reliever seemingly served as a deterrent to those clubs that weren't interested in providing him a desirable offer and surrendering a Draft pick to the Braves.
While Wren won't receive the two Draft picks (a first-rounder and sandwich pick) he hoped to receive when he took the risk of offering arbitration to Soriano, he is now confident that the right-handed reliever will at least provide him a return of prospects that will help him restrengthen his farm system that lacks the depth it possessed in the past.
"The competition to trade for him is going to determine who we get in return," Wren said.
Approximately 20 minutes after Soriano's decision was announced, Wren received an e-mail from an interested club. This interest grew as Atlanta's GM found himself fielding a flurry of phone calls and meeting with at least five clubs on Tuesday.
The Astros and Red Sox are believed to be two of the teams that will show the most interest in Soriano. Wren said he doesn't believe it will take long to get a deal done. In fact, he seemed to indicate it could be completed within the next week to 10 days.
While Wren still finds himself searching for a right-handed bat to upgrade his lineup, he doesn't foresee filling this need while making the trades involving Soriano and either Lowe or Javier Vazquez. There hasn't been any indication that the club has gained the sense that it will have to alter its desire to trade Lowe instead of Vazquez.
"We've felt for a while now that it is unlikely that we could get the hitter that we want through the trade market," Wren said while once again providing indication that he intends to fill his needs for a first baseman and outfielder via available free agents.
The more likely returns realized through these trades will be formed by groups of prospects. The Braves have let teams know that they are looking to add organizational depth at the shortstop position to guard against the reality that their farm system lacks depth at this position.
While the Braves envision Yunel Escobar serving as their shortstop for many years to come, they need to gain some insurance in the event that an injury would sideline him for a significant amount of time.
The fact that Atlanta is talking to clubs about shortstops further proves that it doubts whether Brandon Hicks, who was formerly considered a highly-regarded prospect, will make the offensive improvements that will allow him to display his strong defensive skills as a Major League shortstop.
While Wren thinks he might be able to move Soriano quickly, his attempt to trade Lowe or Vazquez still appears to be slowed by the fact that a true market hasn't yet been established for right-hander John Lackey, this year's top available free-agent starting pitcher.
As the Braves continue to make it known that they would rather trade Lowe, teams are starting their inquiries wondering how much of his remaining salary ($45 million over three years) Atlanta is willing to eat. This figure will be based on the level of return that Wren would be able to secure.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.