Busy Wren exits Meetings with stout bullpen
With Soriano traded for Chavez, focus now on trading Lowe
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thanks to Rafael Soriano's somewhat surprising decision to accept his arbitration offer on Monday night, Braves general manager Frank Wren experienced a busy week at this year's Winter Meetings and gained a Major League-ready reliever who could further improve his reconstructed bullpen.
When Soriano made his decision, Wren's fourth-floor suite at the downtown Marriott became the place to be for Major League GMs who were looking to use the trade market to upgrade their rotations and bullpens.
As promised, Wren moved quickly in his attempt to trade Soriano and struck trike a deal with the Rays on Wednesday night. In exchange for their former closer, the Braves received 26-year-old Jesse Chavez, a hard-throwing right-handed reliever who could further improve Atlanta's reconstructed bullpen.
The deal was officially announced on Friday afternoon after both clubs had the opportunity to fully review medical records.
Though Chavez was the Braves' only acquisition at this year's event, Wren is encouraged about the interest shown by a number of clubs that are interested in trading for one of his two high-priced starting pitchers -- Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez.
The Braves are concentrating their efforts on moving Lowe, a veteran hurler whom they believe stands as a more economically appealing option than John Lackey, the top option available from this year's thin crop of free-agent starting pitchers.
Wren experienced at least 20 face-to-face meetings with clubs looking to trade for his surplus of pitchers. Though many of these discussions centered around Soriano, there was also increased interest from clubs that like the dependability and durability that Lowe could bring to their rotation.
"I think we made some inroads on the starting-pitching front from the perspective that we have a lot better idea about who has those needs and what they need," Wren said. "So we'll continue to have those discussions."
With last week's acquisitions of closer Billy Wagner and setup man Takashi Saito, much of the recent focus has been on the pitching staff. But over the next few weeks, Wren will start placing a greater emphasis on filling his offensive needs -- which rest at first base and one of the corner outfield positions.
It appears that Wren's desire is to find a free agent who is capable of primarily playing first base and occasionally spelling one of the corner outfielders. Thus there is more reason to believe that the club intends to allow top prospect Jason Heyward to begin the season in Atlanta.
One of the versatile free agents at the top of Wren's wish list is Xavier Nady, who appears to be progressing through rehab after elbow-reconstruction surgery at a pace that will allow him to be ready at the start of Spring Training.
Nady, who drew interest from the Braves before he was traded to the Yankees last year, would certainly qualify as the right-handed bat with power potential that Atlanta is seeking.
Mark DeRosa could also fill this role, but the cost for the former Brave will have to drop before he is provided an opportunity to reunite with Chipper Jones and play with close friend Brian McCann.
Deals done: Traded Soriano to the Rays in exchange for Chavez; designated outfielder Ryan Church for assignment.
Rule 5 Draft activity: Lost left-hander Edgar Osuna, who was selected with the fifth pick in the Major League phase.
Goals accomplished: Wren gained a potentially solid reliever whom he hadn't previously envisioned and made some strides in his attempt to move one of his high-priced starting pitchers. In the process, he moved closer to placing his focus on filling his offensive needs.
Unfinished business: The Braves will continue their attempt to trade Lowe to a club that either views him as a more budget-friendly acquisition than Lackey or as a fall-back option in the event that they don't sign Lackey. Wren will also continue to look for a versatile player who can serve as his regular first baseman and also occasionally play the outfield. In addition, the club would like to trade Kelly Johnson before having to decide whether it will non-tender him before Saturday's deadline.
GM's bottom line: "We'd all like to have our club done, but it's a process, and it seems like it's going later and later. But we're making good strides. I think everybody feels good about where we are right now. From a pitching standpoint, we could go to Spring Training right now and be ready to go. But we've got to get a few things done on our offensive side." -- Wren, on how the offseason will progress
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.