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News » Tight on money, Braves slow search for a hitter 2009-01-16

Tight on money, Braves slow search for a hitter 2009-01-16

Tight on money, Braves slow search for a hitter 2009-01-16
The Braves, at least for the moment, are pulling back in their search for a hitter.

Money is tighter following the team's combined $83 million commitment to pitchers Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, and the club is content to wait for potential bargains to develop on the free-agent market.

A trade remains a possibility, but the Braves are unwilling to meet the Yankees' price for outfielder Xavier Nady, knowing they might get better deals in July.

If they can hold off that long.

The outfielders on the Braves' 40-man roster — Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco and Matt Diaz; Jeff Francoeur, Brandon Jones and Greg Norton — are largely undistinguished. Jordan Schafer, a non-roster possibility, has only 297 at-bats above Class A.

The Braves' preference is for a right-handed hitter, but they could settle for a left-handed bat. Their left-handed hitting regulars — Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson and Casey Kotchman — all hit lefties well.

Andruw Jones? The Dodgers released him Thursday, making him availableat the minimum salary. However, the Braves are torn about whether to sign him, knowing his arrival might put manager Bobby Cox in a difficult position. Cox might feel obligated to play Jones out of loyalty, but Jones might not merit the opportunity.

Meanwhile, left-handed hitters such as Bobby Abreu, Garret Anderson and Adam Dunn are problematic for the Braves because of their respective prices and/or defensive inadequacies.

Lyon on the prowl

Barry Meister, the agent for right-hander Brandon Lyon, is telling teams that he has a two-year, $9 million offer for the free-agent reliever, according to major-league sources.

Two teams, the Tigers and Twins, are believed to be pursuing Lyon at that level. Lyon, 29, also is weighing a one-year offer from a third club, most likely the Cardinals.

Both the Tigers and Cardinals would use Lyon as a closer; the Cardinals also are considering bringing back Jason Isringhausen in that role. The Twins view Lyon as a potential setup man for closer Joe Nathan.

If Lyon indeed gets a two-year, $9 million deal, it would put him in the same range as Kyle Farnsworth, who signed a two-year, $9.25 million free-agent contract with the Royals.

Meister declined comment.

Papelbon next? Doubtful

Don't expect Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to follow the lead of second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Kevin Youkilis and sign a long-term contract with the team anytime soon.

Papelbon, 28, remains unwilling to give up any of his free-agent years, which the Red Sox consider a prerequisite for such deals. Pedroia and Youkilis each forfeited two years of free agency and negotiated a club option for a third.

Papelbon shares the same agents as Pedroia, Sam and Seth Levinson, but he spoke last spring about his desire to "set the bar" in the closer's market. The risk for Papelbon is that he will suffer an injury before becoming a free agent after the 2011 season.

Around the Horn

First baseman Ryan Howard and left-hander Cole Hamels will be the Phillies' biggest challenges in salary arbitration, but right-hander Ryan Madson will be no pushover. Madson, a free agent after next season, is represented by Scott Boras, and already has turned down a three-year, $12 million offer, according to a major-league source. After the Phillies won the World Series, Boras compared the combination of Madson and Brad Lidge to Mariano Rivera and John Wettleland ...

Free-agent right-hander Pedro Martinez might prefer to sign with a team east of the Mississippi River, but the Diamondbacks could present an interesting possibility. Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes had a good relationship with Martinez when the two were with the Red Sox, and Byrnes' special assistant and director of Latin American operations, Junior Noboa, is a Dominican countryman of Martinez's and highly regarded in the D.R. ...

Three problems that rival executives see in free-agent left-hander Oliver Perez, who seems likely to return to the Mets on a three- or four-year contract: Perez, 27, had the lowest groundball percentage in the National League last season. His walk rate was the third highest in the league after Barry Zito and Ian Snell. And he has yet to pitch 200 innings in a season ...

Martinez also remains on the Mets' radar, as does free-agent righty Ben Sheets, pending a review of his medical records. The Yankees, who continue to consider a number of free-agent starters, have little interest in Sheets and also don't appear very serious about Freddy Garcia, another free agent. Garcia's clearest opportunity to start probably is with the Rangers, but the Mets also could give him a chance, and the White Sox remain interested even after signing righty Bartolo Colon ...

The Orioles backed off free-agent righty Braden Looper after signing Japanese righty Koji Uehara and the Dodgers are more inclined to sign righty Jon Garland or lefty Randy Wolf. The Brewers, however, remain interested, and other clubs also are in the mix. Looper, 34, had a 3.75 ERA after June 1 last season, but some teams are concerned by his low strikeout rate and road performance the past two seasons with the Cardinals ...

Third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, who last played in the majors in 2006, is intriguing clubs with his performance in the Venezuelan Winter League. Alfonzo, 35, has a batting average/on-base/slugging line of .322/.383/.483, with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 60 games. He also lost weight, and could make a worthwhile investment on a minor-league deal, starting at Class AAA and working back to the majors.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: January 16, 2009

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