2009 NEWS

2009 NEWS > 2/5/09

WILL GLAVINE RETURN TO BRAVES? NOTHING'S CERTAIN

By Ken Rosenthal
Original Article HERE.

The Braves have shown their unsentimental side in free agency by allowing right-hander John Smoltz to depart and declining to rush into a contract with center fielder Andruw Jones.

Like Smoltz, lefty Tom Glavine wants to stay in Atlanta. The Braves want him to stay, and Braves general manager Frank Wren appears to enjoy a better relationship with Glavine than he did with Smoltz.

Though Wren's talks with Glavine are only in the beginning stages, according to major-league sources, the team's tightening finances could lead to the departure of yet another Braves legend.

Glavine, who turns 43 on March 25, is believed to be seeking a guarantee in the $2 million to $3 million range as he rebounds from elbow and shoulder surgeries.

The Braves, in greater need of another outfielder than another starting pitcher, might not be in position to add both.

Earlier this offseason, the Braves traded for right-hander Javier Vazquez, who will earn $11.5 million in 2009, and signed free-agent righties Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami for a combined $83 million.

Those moves limited the Braves' remaining payroll flexibility; the team is believed to have between $6 million and $8 million left to spend in 2009.

Yankees outfielders Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady, two of the Braves' trade targets, will earn $6.55 million and $5.3 million this season, respectively. The Yankees are unlikely to include money in any deal except, perhaps, if they receive higher-quality prospects in return.

The Braves also are touching base with some of the remaining free-agent outfielders, including Bobby Abreu. But they might only sign a player such as Abreu if he settled for a deal in the $4 million to $5 million range, which is unlikely.

Glavine returned to the Braves last season on a one-year, $8 million free-agent contract. He went 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA in 13 starts before undergoing minor elbow and shoulder operations in August. But unlike Smoltz, who is coming off a more serious shoulder operation, he is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

The Braves offered Smoltz a $2 million base salary, plus a $1 million bonus if he made the Opening Day roster, according to a major-league source.

The Opening Day bonus was all but unattainable, and while the potential value of Smoltz's package was $12 million, many of his incentives 30 starts, 200 innings, Cy Young Award, World Series MVP would have been difficult for him to achieve.

The Red Sox guaranteed Smoltz $5.5 million and included $5 million in more attainable bonuses $125,000 for Smoltz's first day on the roster, $35,000 per day from June 1 to Oct. 3, $500,000 if Smoltz was active Oct. 4.

While Glavine also would want incentives on top of his guaranteed money, he is willing to share the risk with the Braves. He likely would settle for a total package in the $6 million range or about half of what the Braves offered Smoltz.

Right-hander Carl Pavano, a pitcher far less accomplished and respected than Glavine, signed a $1.5 million free-agent contract with the Indians earlier this offseason. His deal includes an additional $5.3 million in incentives that raises the potential value to $6.8 million.

Few would argue that Glavine deserves more than Pavano, but the Braves are set with their first four starters Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Vazquez and Kawakami.

They also have four candidates for the fifth spot lefty Jo-Jo Reyes and righties Tommy Hanson, Charlie Morton and Jorge Campillo.

Glavine would offer far more experience than those pitchers if healthy, giving the Braves a matchup advantage against virtually every other No. 5 starter.

His return also would increase the Braves' depth, better enabling them to withstand injuries or trade a starting pitcher to address another need.

Glavine initially said he only wanted to play in Atlanta, where he can stay close to his family. However, he has worked hard to rehabilitate his arm and now wants to take the logical next step by pitching in 2009.

The Nationals would represent an obvious possibility if Glavine chose to leave the Braves he is close with Nats president Stan Kasten, a former Braves executive.

Glavine, though, might be more inclined to consider contenders, particularly those on the East Coast. He conceivably could delay signing a contract until March, when pitching openings are certain to arise due to injuries.

He wants to stay. The Braves want to keep him.

But this offseason, little is guaranteed.