12/08/08 10:42 PM EST
GM Wren busy talking deals on Day 1
Outfielders Ankiel, Hart, Hermida squarely on Braves' radar
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
But as the first day of this year's Winter Meetings came to a close on Monday, Wren and many other general managers felt like they were stuck in neutral.
"I'd say the conversations are a little slower than usual, especially during the first day of the Meetings," Wren said. "It just doesn't seem like there is an impetus to get something done right now. I think, at some point, it will break."
Obviously, the slow market that has been present throughout this offseason will accelerate at some point. Until then, Wren will attempt to fight feelings of impatience with the realization that many other clubs are also still looking to satisfy their primary roster needs.
"As long as you don't feel like you're being left behind, it doesn't matter when it happens," Wren said. "The fact of the matter is that everybody is in the same situation."
Late Monday night, there was some talk that the Padres might be nearing a trade that would satisfy Jake Peavy's wish to pitch for the Cubs. Wren once again indicated on Monday night that he hasn't had any discussions about Peavy since ending active negotiations with the Padres on Nov. 13.
During the course of Monday's events, Wren said that he spoke to two representatives of free agents and to about eight different clubs about potential trades.
It's no secret that Wren's primary focus remains signing A.J. Burnett to serve as his ace. It doesn't appear that there has been much progress since the Braves offered Burnett a four-year contract with an option last week.
But this doesn't provide reason for alarm or surprise. Multiple league officials have said they believe Burnett will wait to see where his market stands after CC Sabathia signs. There's obviously reason to believe the coveted right-hander could gain a greater demand from the teams that lose out in the bidding for Sabathia.
While Wren didn't specify which teams he spoke to on Monday, he's never shied away from the fact that he'd like to land a power-hitting outfielder via the trade market. Rick Ankiel, Corey Hart and Jeremy Hermida are among the outfielders the Braves have at least discussed.
The Cardinals may be willing to move one of their outfielders and the Braves have previously talked to them about Ryan Ludwick. Those discussions, which took place a little more than a month ago, didn't progress very far.
Thus the Braves have turned their attention toward Rick Ankiel, who hit 25 homers for the Cardinals this past season, or two fewer than the combined total of Atlanta's outfielders. Ankiel's drawback comes from the fact that he is a Scott Boras client who will be eligible for free agency next season.
In addition, because Ankiel is so revered by Cardinals fans, the Braves might need to provide a compensation package that they'd deem too steep in exchange for an outfielder who might only be around for one season.
With the left-handed-hitting Ankiel, the Braves would have an outfielder who could play both corner positions and occasionally play center, giving the right-handed-hitting Matt Diaz the chance to play left field.
In order to get Hart, who has combined to hit .280 with 44 homers and a .495 slugging percentage during the past two years, the Braves know that they would have to provide the Brewers with an attractive package.
There isn't any guarantee that the Brewers are going to trade Hart, who will be arbitration-eligible for the next three seasons. But there have been some whispers that they might do so to slash a small portion of their payroll. The 26-year-old outfielder will likely make approximately $2.5 million through arbitration.
If the Marlins opt to trade Hermida, who has combined to hit 35 homers over the past two seasons, they likely wouldn't demand the level of return the Braves would need to provide to get Hart or Ankiel.
Another interesting tidbit from Monday came via a Major League source, who said the Reds may have some interest in Jeff Francoeur. But the Braves are still providing every indication that they aren't actively shopping Francoeur.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.