Behind Enemy Lines: Atlanta Braves

The Braves started their off-season by signing a key pitcher to an extension. But, that's not all that's happening down in Atlanta.

A week after word leaked that the Braves and right-hander Tim Hudson were on the verge of agreeing to a three-year deal, the sides finally announced the contract on November 12.

Hudson will make a guaranteed $28 million, with another $500,000 to be paid if he pitches 600-plus innings from 2010 to 2012. The Braves hold a $9 million option for 2013, with a $1 million buyout.

Under Hudson's previous contract, the Braves held a $12 million option for 2009, but that was shelved when the sides went to work on keeping him in Atlanta long term.

After missing most of the 2009 season following Tommy John elbow surgery, Hudson returned to finish strong. He made seven starts and went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA.

With Hudson back in the fold, the Braves now have a plethora of starting pitching options.

When Hudson joined the rotation late in the season, the Braves bumped Kenshin Kawakami to the bullpen. The Braves also have solid veterans Javier Vazquez and Derek Lowe and promising youngsters Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson under contract, giving them six potential starting pitchers.

"J.J. and Tommy are two of the best young pitchers I've seen in a long time," Hudson said. "I'm willing to say this is by far the best staff I've been on in my big-league career. We have some great pitchers who can go out there and give us a great chance to win every time."

Braves Banter

  • 2B Martin Prado has traditionally played winter ball to make himself better, and because he never got much playing time before this season. Now that he has earned the starting second base job - still not something he's taking for granted, by the way - he'll be using this offseason to let his injured groin heal.
  • LHP Mike Gonzalez, who has filed for free agency, will be considering everything in a contract, including length and dollars, of course, but also the quality of a team's starting staff and defense. The Braves are more likely to make an offer to Gonzalez than to their other free agent closer, RHP Rafael Soriano.
  • RHP Scott Proctor signed a one-year minor league contract with Atlanta, a direct reflection of the success the Braves experienced with the returns of RHP Peter Moylan and RHP Tim Hudson from Tommy John surgery. Proctor had the procedure done in May 2009. General manager Frank Wren noted in the signing press release that "pitchers typically return to game action in about 12 or 13 months after ligament-replacement surgery. We are looking forward to Scott returning to full health and helping our club in 2010."
  • 1B Adam LaRoche has a lot of fans among his teammates, including 3B Chipper Jones and RHP Tim Hudson, who have publicly called on GM Frank Wren to sign the free agent. Wren is weighing LaRoche's poor offensive stars against his defense, not to mention the Braves' need for a bridge to first baseman-of-the-future Freddie Freeman, who is probably at least a year away from the majors.
  • CF Jordan Schafer has been assured by GM Frank Wren that he is not out of the Braves' plans, despite the trade for CF Nate McLouth and the expected arrival next season of CF Jason Heyward. Schafer, who skipped Class AAA when he made the 2009 opening-day roster, was sent to Class AAA Gwinnett midway through the season after a wrist injury killed his offense.

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