This concludes the five-part series on the top off-season questions facing the Atlanta Braves.
Question Five: To Tender or Non-Tender
With this question I'll take a look at which players the Braves might tender contracts to next year, and which ones they will not. Obviously guaranteed contracts don't count, so Derek Lowe, Chipper Jones, Tim Hudson, Brian McCann, David Ross, and Nate McLouth will all be back unless traded. So to will Kenshin Kawakami, who has a guaranteed contract of almost $7M.
I've written about Kenshin earlier in this series, and suggested that the Braves may choose to just cut KK loose and eat the rest of his contract. With a spotty Major League track record and a fairly sizable contract he would be a tough pitcher to trade. The smart move for the Braves, if they can't trade him, would be to wait until spring training to make a decision on him. That would give them an opportunity to see their other starting options, and decide which ones will be the best. The trade market for KK may also be better in spring than the off-season.
Kyle Farnsworth can opt out of his option year, a right he received through a clause in his contract that allows him to void his option if he is traded. If he does not opt out, then the Braves will likely buy him out for the $0.25M clause in his contract rather than pick up that option at a cost of $5.25M. Farnsworth is a decent power reliever, though somewhat erratic, and he's never shown a desire to pitch in Atlanta.
The other Royal-acquisition, Rick Ankiel, has a $0.5 buyout on a mutual option for 2011 worth $6M. The presence of Nate McLouth makes Ankiel a bit redundant in center field, especially since McLouth's contract is guaranteed, and McLouth showed more at the plate at the end of the season than Ankiel. Expect the Braves to punt.
The Braves have club options on infielders Alex Gonzalez and Omar Infante. Each option is for $2.5M; pretty reasonable for those guys. I expect the Braves to pick up the options on both of these guys.
Takashi Saito is a free agent, and I don't expect him to return. Melky Cabrera is a third-year arbitration case and there's almost no way he comes back. If the Braves somehow do tender him a contract ... no, wait, that will never happen. At least it better not happen.
Matt Diaz is arbitration eligible for the fourth time, and while he's cheaper than Melky would be, I still don't think the Braves will spend any money on him. It's time for them to go a different direction in the outfield, and that includes getting rid of Diaz.
Eric Hinske and Troy Glaus are free agents, and I hope to see Hinske back, but I wonder if he'll take his services to yet another team. He's likely the top pinch hitter on the free agent market, and that could drive his price out of the Braves range. Glaus will not be back.
Peter Moylan is an interesting case. He's a second year arbitration case, and even though he'll be expensive for what the Braves typically pay for middle relievers, I expect the Braves to tender him a contract. The first year arbitration cases, Jair Jurrjens, Eric O'Flaherty, and Martin Prado, will also be tendered contracts. They'll only receive minor raises.
The Braves will have a lot of the same team coming back next year. There will be some turnover, but there likely won't be as much turnover as there has been in recent off-seasons. One of the main things the Braves need to do is cut ties with some of the chaff on the roster. Melky, Diaz, Ankiel need to go. In a perfect world McLouth and Kawakami would also be off-loaded.