Notes: Not easy to fill void in center
Braves may go with prospects Anderson or Schafer in '08
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren knows it wouldn't hurt to allow Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer the opportunity to gain more seasoning in the Minors. But at the same time, he's faced with the reality that he might not be able to find a sensible deal that would provide him with a more experienced option to replace Andruw Jones in center field.
"It's not going to be easy," Wren said from his Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center suite on Tuesday afternoon. "There are a couple of guys out there that are available. But there are strings attached in most or all cases that make it a little difficult. Whether it's the players the [other teams] are looking for, or the contract that [the players] have, or the length of the contract that the players have, there are strings attached that make them less desirable for us."
With this being said, the Tuesday trade Wren made with the Cubs didn't actually begin materializing until late Monday night, when the two parties began discussing the possibility of both left-handed reliever Will Ohman and veteran utility man Omar Infante coming to Atlanta. They were obtained in exchange for right-handed reliever Jose Ascanio.
While getting both Ohman and Infante, Wren erased two of the four roster needs he possessed when he arrived at this week's Winter Meetings. Now he'll continue his search for a center fielder and a veteran backup catcher.
"We're looking at guys who can fill those needs," Wren said. "We had discussions about them in the last day as well."
Wren's search for a center fielder is hindered by the limitations created by finances and future planning. He is looking for an economical option that would only fill the position until it's deemed that the 21-year-old Schafer, who has never played above Class A, is ready for the Majors.
While the Braves have said they'd be comfortable starting the season with either Anderson, who at least got a taste of the Majors with the Astros in September, or Schafer, they are continuing to look at other options.
But contrary to some reports that have indicated Atlanta has offered Chuck James in exchange for David DeJesus, the Braves haven't been provided any indication that the Royals would be willing to trade DeJesus.
Free agent Corey Patterson, who hails from Atlanta, certainly increased his stock while hitting .313 after the All-Star break for the Orioles in 2007. But unless he's willing to accept a one- or two-year deal that would include an annual salary of $2 million or less, the Braves aren't going to keep him on their radar.
Liking what he hears: During the first two days of the Winter Meetings, Braves manager Bobby Cox has become even more excited about Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez, who were obtained from the Tigers for Edgar Renteria in October.
Jurrjens will have a shot at making the rotation in Spring Training. While having breakfast with Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Monday, Cox was assured that the 21-year-old right-hander from Curacao would have definitely been part of Detroit's starting rotation this season.
In other discussions with Tigers officials, Cox has gained an even greater excitement about Hernandez, who hit .293 with 54 stolen bases in 65 attempts with Class A West Michigan in 2007. The 20-year-old outfielder has just one full year of professional baseball experience and likely won't be in Atlanta until 2010.
"I liked him a lot when Frank traded for him and I had never laid eyes on him," Cox said. "I like him even better being at these Winter Meetings, talking to people inside the Detroit organization and outside of it. He's not a kid that's going to pop up here for a couple more years. But [with him] you've certainly got a chance to have an All-Star-caliber player in your system. People are just raving about him."
Lillibridge update: Tuesday's acquisition of Infante likely ensures Brent Lillibridge will have an opportunity to gain some more seasoning in the Minors at the beginning of the 2008 season. But the 24-year-old shortstop has definitely caught the attention of Cox, who said again on Tuesday that he "really likes him."
Had he not been bothered by a sore wrist, Lillibridge would have been sent to play winter ball to get acquainted with the outfield and prepare to compete for the starting center-field spot. His wrist is seemingly healthy and he's scheduled to begin hitting exercises again next week.
Free-agent update: Other than somewhere outside of Atlanta, there still isn't any clear sign where Jones and Ron Mahay are going to land. Mahay's agent, Lonnie Cooper, said he expected his client might land a deal before the end of this week. The Yankees are believed to be one of the teams willing to provide the left-handed reliever a three-year deal worth at least $12 million.
As for Jones, some general managers are trying to get a sense of whether anybody has even made an offer. The Royals have had some interest and it's believed both the White Sox and Giants might soon increase their interest. One general manager said he's under the belief that the Gold Glove center fielder's agent, Scott Boras, is still seeking a five-year, $100 million deal.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.