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Braves busy on multiple fronts at Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren feels he made progress as he conversed with a number of agents and other executives this week. But as the third day of this year's Winter Meetings neared its end, he was still looking to satisfy his wish to add depth to his starting rotation, bench and bullpen.

"It's so unpredictable in this environment, because you have a lot of conversations," Wren said. "Sometimes you feel like you're getting close to a deal, and then it slides away a little bit. It's just so unpredictable. The next phone call, I might get something done."

As he concluded his late-afternoon briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Wren glanced at his phone to see if any of these conversations had led to an agreement. But he did not appear to find any replies that led him to think that a deal was imminent.

"I think we're making progress with discussions on a lot of different fronts," Wren said. "'Close' is so hard to define. But I do think we're making progress in filling some of those needs. You'd like to leave here with some of those things done."

The Braves remain hopeful that left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty will decide to return to Atlanta for at least one more season. If O'Flaherty does not experience any setbacks during his recovery from Tommy John surgery, he could be available as early as the first half of May.

O'Flaherty has given multiple members of the Braves organization reason to believe he will opt to continue pitching in Atlanta. The Nationals had been pursuing O'Flaherty, but it appears they satisfied their need for a left-handed reliever by acquiring Jerry Blevins from the A's on Wednesday.

Some of the hesitance the Braves have had to complete a deal has been a product of the cost of doing business on this year's free-agent market. Like they were not willing to match the two-year, $23 million contract Tim Hudson received from the Giants, their interest in Bartolo Colon was not significant enough to beat the two-year, $20 million offer the 41-year-old right-hander agreed to with the Mets on Wednesday.

The cost of doing business on the trade market has led the Braves away from pursuing the Rays' David Price and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija. But while Wren would like to add depth to the rotation, he does not view this as a pressing need that necessarily requires immediate attention.

With Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy and either Alex Wood or David Hale already in place to fill the rotation, Wren has the option to wait another or month or two with the hope that an attractive option will still be available at a reduced cost.

"Many times, you're looking [in January or February] and saying, 'If I knew he was going to be available at that price, I would have held on,'" Wren said. "But you never know. It's hard to predict."

The Braves have shown definite interest in bringing free agent Eric Chavez to Atlanta to satisfy their wish to add a capable pinch-hitter who also could serve as a positive clubhouse influence. Chavez also would have the capability of occasionally spelling Chris Johnson at third base. But with a number of other clubs also interested in his services, Chavez has not yet provided clear indication that he is interested in playing for the Braves.

The Braves have also shown interest in free agent Raul Ibanez and Greg Dobbs, who could be available via a trade with the Marlins. But as things currently stand, Ibanez and Dobbs appear to be secondary options.

"I think there are still some things that could work out for us," Wren said. "We're working hard to get a couple pieces for our club."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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