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Braves plot patiently as Meetings near conclusion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As the third day of this year's Winter Meetings unfolded at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Wednesday, Braves general manager Frank Wren remained patient with the hope that some of this week's discussions will prove fruitful in the days and weeks that follow.

When Wren and the members of his staff begin driving back to Atlanta late Thursday morning, there is a chance that they will have left Nashville without making an acquisition during these Meetings.

But if this proves true, Wren will still have the satisfaction of knowing that he made his most significant move of the offseason with last week's signing of B.J Upton.

"I think it's a good thing we got B.J. done early," Wren said. "We had a situation where we wanted him and he wanted us. So we got it done early. But I would have hated to get here with that need still in place, because it's a tougher environment to get it done."

While Upton has already secured his five-year, $75.25 million contract, the other two top outfielders in this year's free-agent market -- Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn -- remain unsigned.

With the Braves and Nationals already taking care of their need to acquire a center fielder, Bourn's potential suitors have dwindled. But it seems apparent that his agent, Scott Boras, will still be attempting to get his client a contract that exceeds the one signed by Upton.

"He's a franchise guy," Boras said after describing Bourn as the game's best defensive center fielder.

As the Braves continue to monitor a number of trade possibilities, they recognize the fact that some of movement on the trade market is influenced by the fact that some teams are waiting to see where Hamilton and Bourn land.

"I think there's unfortunately a lot of competition for very few players," Wren said. "I think that first day or two, there was a lot of conversation where they were seeing the level of interest. Now they're coming back and saying, 'Would you include this guy?' You say, 'No,' and then they go back to the other conversations that they are having."

There is no doubt that the Braves would have some interest in the speedy and versatile Emilio Bonifacio, who could serve as a valuable super utility guy. But as things stand, it does not appear like the Blue Jays would be willing to trade Bonifacio without a significant return.

The Braves have not been linked to any of the multi-team trade talks involving D-backs outfielder Justin Upton. But they have continued to monitor the possibility that they might eventually be able to find a match that would bring Upton to Atlanta to play with his older brother.

This year's Meetings will conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. The Braves do not expect to select or lose any players during the Major League phase of this Draft.

While discussing a number of different possibilities this week, the Braves have welcomed two veteran scouts -- Dave Holliday and Brad Sloan -- to their staff. Holliday and Sloan have both been hired to serve as special assistants to the general manager.

Holliday and Sloan will serve as Major League scouts, with Holliday's focus being the American League. Jeff Wren will maintain his role as special assistant to the GM and cover the National League. The club's top scout, Jim Fregosi, will continue to cover both the AL and NL.

The Braves have also promoted Dom Chiti to special assistant to the GM/pitching development and special assignment. A highly respected pitching guru, Chiti will work with many of the organization's young pitchers and occasionally go on assignment to evaluate Major League-ready international players.

Atlanta Braves, B.J. Upton