New stadium won't impact Braves' decisions for 2014
GM Wren looking at trade market to add ace, hopeful of re-signing right-hander Hudson
ATLANTA -- Much of the Braves-related chatter surrounding this year's General Managers Meetings has focused on the club's intention to move to a new suburban stadium for the start of the 2017 season. But this plan does not necessarily impact what will be done over the next few weeks and months.
"That's pretty long range, that's four years out," general manager Frank Wren said of the new stadium. "I don't think that has anything to do with what we're doing this season. I think it will start to in the next couple of years. I don't think it will have big implications currently."
As things currently stand, the only Braves player under contract through the 2017 season is B.J. Upton, whose five-year deal will expire that same year. Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Kris Medlen will all be eligible to become free agents after the 2015 season. Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Beachy and Chris Johnson could all become first-time free agents at the end of the 2016 season.
With all of this in mind, it is far too early to have a good feel for who will be wearing a Braves uniform after the completion of the next three seasons. But the next few months and possibly years will likely bring speculation about whether Heyward and Freeman will both still be in Atlanta when the new stadium opens.
The Braves briefly talked to Heyward in March about the possibility of buying out some of his arbitration years with a multiyear deal that would have obviously extended beyond 2015. But those negotiations died quickly.
Like Heyward last winter, Freeman will become eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason. Whether the Braves approach Freeman with a multiyear deal that would extend beyond 2016 remains to be seen.
But there is certainly reason for Wren and his staff to spend time this winter at least talking about whether it makes sense to extend multiyear offers to some key players who are either currently arbitration-eligible or set to become so within the next couple of years. The most likely candidates would be Heyward, Freeman and Andrelton Simmons, who will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.
While the Braves could certainly benefit from having a dominant Kimbrel around for many years to come, they will likely not attempt to buy out any of his arbitration seasons because of the unpredictability that comes during the lifespan of an effective closer.
Kimbrel will make more than $7 million as a first-year arbitration-eligible player this winter. If he extends the success he has had in his first three years as Atlanta's closer, there is a chance he could make more than $13 million in 2016 -- his third and final arbitration-eligible season -- and then likely venture into free agency without the certainty that he will still be with the Braves when the new stadium opens
While evaluating the futures of his many young talented players is certainly one of his responsibilities, Wren has spent the past few days talking to agents and fellow general managers about deals that could shape his 2014 roster.
It is no secret that Atlanta would like to acquire one of the few aces available on the trade market and find a team that is willing to assume a portion of the $26 million Dan Uggla is owed over the next two years.
Neither of these tasks will be easy. But Wren has seemingly been encouraged with some of the dialogue he has had over the past few days.
"In the case of some of the agents we've talked to, things are moving at maybe a little brisker pace than the past few years," Wren said. "That's kind of what I'm getting a sense of.
"As far as trades, I think there was a lot of preparation before we ever got here. I felt I got a good sense more than usual. Teams were ready to get this Hot Stove season going."
The Braves entered this offseason with the understanding they would likely be bidding adieu to Brian McCann, who has continued to draw strong interest from a number of teams, namely the Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees.
But Wren has at least remained hopeful of re-signing veteran pitcher Tim Hudson, who has also drawn interest from a number of clubs, including the Royals, Indians, Red Sox and Giants. The Braves made an initial one-year offer that Hudson opted not to counter. But Wren has continued to show interest in the 38-year-old pitcher, who missed the final two months of this season with a fractured right ankle.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.