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Braves make strides at quiet Winter Meetings

Wren confident he'll soon be able to add depth to starting rotation, bullpen, bench

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Braves general manager Frank Wren exited the Winter Meetings on Thursday, he had the same needs he possessed at the start of this four-day event.

But Wren seems confident that some of the conversations he had with agents and other executives this week could soon allow him to satisfy his desire to add depth to his starting rotation, bench and bullpen.

"You always want to get things done as quickly as you possibly can," Wren said. "But I think it was a really productive [week] for us. We were able to sort through all the possibilities early in the week and then [on Wednesday] get it a little closer to finality. I feel we have a chance to get some things done that will be important for our team."

Instead of attempting to make a big splash by pursuing David Price or Jeff Samardzija, Wren spent this week pursuing less flashy options that could fortify a roster that will include many of the same key players that helped the Braves notch 96 victories and cruise toward the National League East title this past season.

Wren is cognizant of the fact that some fans have become impatient while waiting for Atlanta to make a key acquisition in an offseason that has thus far been highlighted by the free-agent departures of Tim Hudson and Brian McCann.

But instead of falling victim to this pressure by rushing to make a deal, Wren has attempted to remain patient in his search to satisfy what he does not consider to be "dire needs."

"There are a lot of positives with our team," Wren said. "We have a lot of things that people out there are looking for. We have a lot of things in place that helped us win 96 games. And we have a lot of young core pieces that should only get better. It's not like we have a lot of guys on the downside of their careers. We have guys on the ascent. So we should get better just because these guys have four or five years in the big leagues now. That doesn't mean we stop trying to add. But we have a really good core."

To strengthen this core, Wren would like to find a veteran who would have the ability to serve as a reliable pinch-hitter and clubhouse leader. The Braves are interested in having Eric Chavez fill this role. But Chavez has not yet provided indication that he is evaluating the possibility of playing in Atlanta.

Many of the same relievers who helped the Braves produce a Major League-best ERA this past season will return next year. This relief corps could be further strengthened if Eric O'Flaherty opts to return to Atlanta.

As for the starting rotation, the Braves are confident that they already have a strong base with the presence of Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Julio Teheran. But Wren would like to add some depth in this department to serve as insurance in the event that Beachy's elbow continues to be bothersome or Alex Wood stumbles during his first full Major League season.

"I think we have a chance to get things done over the next week as we get to the holidays, because I do think we have made progress," Wren said.

Deals done: Jordan Walden avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.49 million contract. The club also gained some organizational depth by signing right-handed reliever Yunesky Maya to a Minor League contract.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Braves did not make any selections during Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft. But the club lost two pitchers -- Blaine Sims and Mike Lee -- during the Minor League phase.

Goals accomplished: As this week progressed, Wren seemed to gain a better sense that he will be able to erase the few items that are on his wish list. He had multiple conversations with a number of clubs, including the Twins, who are looking to add starting pitching, but might be willing to deal veteran starting pitcher Kevin Correia, who will be eligible for free agency after making $5.5 million this year.

Unfinished business: The Braves are hoping to soon learn whether O'Flaherty will decide to return to Atlanta for at least one more season. They will continue to evaluate the possibility of trading Dan Uggla and a portion of the $26 million he is owed over the next two seasons. But at the same time, there are members of the organization who believe it would be better to keep Uggla with the hope that he will continue to provide power and consistent plate discipline while regaining the offensive consistency that he has lacked over the past season and a half.

Team's bottom line: "I don't know if there is an importance or a significance to when you get [a deal] done. But whenever that day is, you feel good about having that part of it behind you. We're always thinking and talking to people. The more needs you can fill, the more creative you can become." -- Wren

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves