Braves GM Frank Wren’s lack of offseason moves is showing his confidence in the team he currently has in place, despite last year’s late-season collapse that caused Atlanta to miss the playoffs.
ATLANTA — There has been no flashy free agent signing, no blockbuster trade this offseason for the Atlanta Braves.
General manager Frank Wren says there also has been no panic.
Wren says the quiet winter is proof of his confidence in the Braves’ talent, even after the team blew an 8 1/2-game wild-card lead in September.
With one month remaining before pitchers and catchers conduct their first spring training workout Feb. 20, the roster is mostly unchanged. The notable exceptions are the departures of right-hander Derek Lowe, who was dealt to Cleveland for a minor league pitcher, and shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who signed with Milwaukee.
Despite rumors that right-hander Jair Jurrjens or outfielder Martin Prado might be on the market, Wren said he never pursued a deal. Instead, he re-signed both.
“Like we’ve said all winter long, we’re not looking to trade anyone,” Wren said this week. “We like our team, and if people come calling we’ll at least look around and see if there’s a way that we can get better. But short of that, we like the guys we have and what they bring.”
Wren said the Braves will be better by having last year’s big trade-deadline addition, Michael Bourn, hitting leadoff for a full season.
He’s also expecting better production from Prado, right fielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Dan Uggla.
“We think we have a chance to be better just with guys bouncing back and doing what they’ve normally done,” Wren said. “There were a number of guys that weren’t quite on their game last year and we still managed to have a good season, albeit with a tough last month.”
The September swoon was devastating for the Braves and their fans.
After holding at least a share of the wild-card lead since June 9, the Braves fell one game behind St. Louis in the wild-card race on the final day of the season with a 13-inning loss to Philadelphia. Atlanta lost 18 of 27 games in September.
Wren said he’s confident players have moved past the meltdown.
“Having conversations with them over the course of the winter, it was really tough early in the winter for everyone,” he said. “I think their mood, their mindset is to move past it and show everyone you can talk all you want, but you’ve got to do it on the field. We’ve got to go out and show people that September was not what this team was made of.”
The Braves finished 13th in the NL in batting (.243) and 10th in runs. As a result, former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker was hired to replace Larry Parrish as the hitting coach.
Wren said Walker has started his work with Heyward, who hit .277 with 18 homers and 82 RBI as a rookie in 2010 before slumping to hit only .227 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs last year.
Prado, a 2010 All-Star, was out more than a month with a staph infection in his right knee. After hitting over .300 three straight seasons, he finished at .260 with 13 homers and 57 RBI.
Uggla hit only .185 before the All-Star break before a dramatic turnaround. He hit .296 with 21 homers after the break. He finished with the power numbers the team expected — 36 homers and 82 RBI — but hit only .233.
Wren said 22-year-old rookie Tyler Pastornicky will have the chance to win the starting job at shortstop. He hit .299 at Double-A Mississippi and .365 in 27 games at Triple-A Gwinnett last year. Jack Wilson was re-signed as a veteran safety net at the position.
Wren said right-hander Tim Hudson, who had surgery in November to repair a herniated disc in his back, is on pace to be ready for spring training. Wren said Jurrjens and right-hander Tommy Hanson, each of whom were sidelined with injuries in September, also will be ready for spring.
Jurrjens plans to wear a brace for added stability for his right knee, which caused problems in the second half of last season. Hanson went on the DL on Aug. 14 with rotator cuff tendinitis in his right shoulder.
The rise of five rookie pitchers made trading Lowe for minor league left-hander Chris Jones an easy decision, especially after Lowe went 0-5 in September.
Right-hander Brandon Beachy was 7-3 in 25 starts. Left-hander Mike Minor was 5-3 in 15 starts. Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran also spent time in the rotation as rookies. Right-hander Arodys Vizcaino made 17 appearances in relief.
Hudson, Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy are the likely top four starters. Minor, Delgado and Teheran will compete for another spot.
Teams in need of pitching could look at the Braves’ abundance of young starters and perhaps make an offer for Jurrjens in the spring. Wren said he’d rather keep all his pitchers.
“Depth in pitching is a real asset for a team,” he said. “We’ve taken the approach all year long that we’re not looking to trade away from our depth.”