5. Will the Braves bring Tim Hudson back?

Tim Hudson returned and looked strong in September. Will the Braves bring him back in 2010?

Tim Hudson's injury in August of 2008 really killed the Braves season. It was a devastating blow, and it created a huge hole in the rotation that forced GM Frank Wren to go out and sign extra pitchers to pick up the slack for Hudson's absence.

But Hudson returned on September 1 and had seven starts. Hudson finished 2-1 with four quality starts, a 3.61 ERA, 49 hits in 42.1 innings, 13 walks, and 30 strikeouts.

Hudson showed he was back, with solid work in the final five weeks of the season. And now that he's proved he can pitch again, the next decision will be about his contract.

Here is the language for Hudson's 2010 option. The Braves can pick up the option, for $12 million for next season. But if the club exercises that option, Hudson may void the deal and forfeit the $1 million buyout, which would then make him a free agent.

But Hudson has been clear in stating he wants to return to the Braves for the long-term. He's even hinted around that he would take a hometown discount to remain in Atlanta.

Hudson lives in Auburn, Alabama, about two hours from Atlanta. He has been extremely active in the community. He prefers to stay here. So why would the Braves not bring him back?

Let's say Hudson tells the Braves he would sign a three-year contract worth $27 million dollars, which breaks out to $9 million per season. That's $6.5 million less than Hudson was paid in 2009, so that would be a good amount of money coming off the books from last year.

Why would the Braves not want to do that? They love Hudson. Bobby Cox loves Hudson. He has emerged as a clubhouse leader over the last few years, especially after the departure of John Smoltz. So there are just too many reasons that make a Hudson return make sense..

It could come down to money, but again, with Hudson saying he'll take a hometown discount, why should that be an issue? If the Braves feel they can't move one of the other starters that might sway them from making a deal with Hudson. But if they do bring Hudson back, they could simply use one of their other starters to go get a power hitter this offseason.

Expect Hudson to return. When you look at the positives and the negatives, the negatives don't even appear on the radar. There might not be any negative to bringing Hudson back. It's only a matter of when the two sides can get together and what the deal will be to keep Hudson with the Braves for the next several seasons.

Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.

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