Braves have questions to be answered
by Charles Odum
Associated Press Sports Writer
October 14, 2013 11:53 PM | 1187 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — Braves general manager Frank Wren and his staff will discuss looming decisions on two free agents, catcher Brian McCann and pitcher Tim Hudson, in organizational meetings which being Tuesday in Orlando.

Two more players to be discussed are Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, who lost starting jobs this season.

Wren said Monday he still feels the disappointment of Atlanta’s NL division series loss to the Dodgers. He said the team “took a step forward” by winning 96 games and the NL East division title.

“We didn’t reach our ultimate goal and so I’m disappointed,” Wren said. “Our ultimate goal was to win a World Series. That’s why we do what we do. Division championships are nice. Winning 96 games is great, but if you’re not still standing as one of the last few teams to get to the World Series, it’s somewhat disappointing.”

Wren said the Braves struggled to overcome the loss of Hudson, 38, whose season ended with a broken ankle on July 24. Brandon Beachy had setbacks when trying to return from elbow ligament-replacement surgery and didn’t rejoin the rotation as expected.

Wren said he will “need a little more information than we have now” on Hudson’s recovery but said the right-hander “is progressing.”

“It would surprise me if we did not at least have some conversations with him,” Wren said of Hudson.

Left-hander Paul Maholm also is a free agent.

Wren said the Braves have good depth in starting pitchers but said there would be room for Hudson in the rotation if he is re-signed. Candidates for the 2014 rotation could include Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Alex Wood, Beachy and possibly Hudson.

Wren said despite that depth, the rotation lacks an ace. He said there are potential aces in the farm system. Top Braves pitching prospects include Sean Gilmartin, Lucas Sims and Jason Hursh, all first-round picks, and J.R. Graham.

“We recognize that is an area of need and whether we can acquire that prior to our young guys arriving here, I’m not sure,” Wren said. “It’s very difficult to acquire.”

McCann, who will be 30 at the start of the 2014 season, could be difficult to re-sign. He has hit 20 or more homers in six straight seasons and is a seven-time All-Star.

Wren said he is confident Evan Gattis, who spent much of the second half of his rookie season as the starting left fielder, can be a capable defensive catcher.

“We saw enough of his catching skills early in the season to know that he could handle this job,” Wren said of Gattis.

Upton and Uggla each hit below .190. Uggla was left off the postseason roster after hitting .179 with 22 homers. Uggla’s hitting woes continued following laser eye surgery in August. He hit .083 in August, .112 in September and then was left off the division series roster.

“I think we made a decision who is our best 25,” Wren said Monday. “He wasn’t on that roster, and so we need him to perform better. That’s plain and simple.

“I hope for Dan’s sake and our sake that he can make some adjustments with an offseason of getting used to normal vision.”

Wren said he believes Upton tried too hard to play up to the biggest free-agent contract in team history — five years and $72.25 million.

“What I hope happened to B.J. and what I’m theorizing is that he fell into the same trap that so many free agents fall into, trying to do too much and trying to justify and win over a new fan base,” Wren said. “It’s a deep hole that gets deeper and deeper the harder you try. We’ve seen dozens and dozens of players go through it.”

Upton, 29, hit only .184 with 9 homers, 26 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. He had three strikeouts in three at-bats in the division series. It was his fifth straight season hitting below .250, but it was a sharp decline from his 2012 season with Tampa Bay, when he hit .246 with 28 homers, 78 RBIs and 31 stolen bases.

“B.J. is very talented,” Wren said. “He’s young. He can do a lot of things on the baseball field. We’ve got to help him get back on track. That’s plain and simple. There a reason why there were a number of clubs after him last winter. I know he didn’t show it very consistently here.”

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said last week he expects Upton to open next season as the starting centerfielder.

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