ATLANTA — Braves general manager Frank Wren will continue to evaluate different opportunities to improve his club over the next few weeks and months. But as he looks at the current makeup of his roster, he believes he already has the makings of a pretty strong team.
“Right now we feel comfortable about how our team comes together,” Wren said. “Can we get better? Sure. But we also feel like we can be very competitive the way we are.”
At the start of this week, Wren had his visions of acquiring a leadoff hitter by trading for Shin-Soo Choo. He remained optimistic about landing Choo up until he learned that the Indians were instead including Choo in the three-way deal that brought highly-regarded pitching prospect Trevor Bauer, veteran outfielder Drew Stubbs and two relievers to Cleveland.
With Choo off the board, it appears less clear whether the Braves will end up acquiring an outfielder before the start of the regular season.
Wren has indicated that he does not have much interest in the outfielders remaining on the free-agent market. So if the Braves end up adding another outfielder, it seems likely that they would do so via trade.
Once Josh Hamilton chose to sign a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels on Thursday, the buzz around the Hot Stove market focused on whether the Angels would react by trading speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos or power-hitting outfielder Mark Trumbo.
While the Braves would certainly have interest in Trumbo, there does not seem to be much belief that the Angels will end up trading the 26-year-old outfielder who will not be arbitration-eligible until the end of this upcoming season.
Because the Braves already have acquired a strong defensive center fielder with their signing of B.J. Upton, there does not seem to be much of a fit for Bourjos, whose greatest value may come courtesy of his glove.
While Bourjos has the speed to serve as a leadoff hitter, multiple scouts have indicated that they do not see him as a fit in that role. Bourjos, who will turn 26 on March 31, has hit .247 with a .301 on-base percentage in 940 career plate appearances at the Major League level.
The Braves have expressed interest in acquiring the speedy and versatile Emilio Bonifacio from the Blue Jays. But through these attempts, they have gained the sense that Toronto is not very interested in moving Bonifacio.
Another popular name on the trade front has been Dexter Fowler, who would likely welcome the opportunity to play in his hometown of Atlanta alongside his good friend Jason Heyward. But with some uncertainty within the ranks of the Rockies’ front office, the Braves have never gained a sense that Colorado will move Fowler for anything less than a significant return.
While continuing his search for an outfielder, Wren took time this week to sign veteran utility man Ramiro Pena to a one-year deal worth just north of the Major League minimum. The move raised some eyebrows, considering the Braves had already signed backup infielder Paul Janish to a Major League contract.
With the possibility that Janish could miss most of April recovering from shoulder surgery, the Braves signed Pena to add depth to their middle infield. Pena’s addition increases the likelihood that Tyler Pastornicky will spend most of the 2013 season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Janish is viewed as a better defensive player than Pena. But because Janish is the only member of this duo with a Minor League option remaining, there is no guarantee that he would join the Atlanta roster once he is deemed healthy.
The switch-hitting Pena will be targeted to spend most of the season as a backup infielder in Atlanta. But if the Braves need somebody to replace shortstop Andrelton Simmons for a significant stretch, Janish would be more likely to draw the everyday assignment.
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