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Braves shift offseason pitching strategy

Braves shift offseason pitching strategy

ATLANTA -- Now that the starting pitching options have started to dwindle on the free-agent market, it's even easier to understand why the Braves worked so hard in an attempt to acquire ace Jake Peavy.

Still, even with Ryan Dempster having re-signed with the Cubs and A.J. Burnett reportedly preparing to receive a five-year, $80 million offer from the Yankees on Tuesday, the Braves aren't flinching or preparing to immediately reengage in Peavy trade negotiations with the Padres.

If the Braves are going to resume their pursuit of Peavy, it appears the Padres are going to have to make the first move. Atlanta general manager Frank Wren and his staff currently have their sights elsewhere, as they attempt to land two high-quality starting pitchers.

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"We're still staying on course," Wren said. "There's other guys that we like and there are other trade opportunities. The list isn't long, but there are other options out there."

It didn't surprise Atlanta that Dempster gained his wish to stay in Chicago. Nor was it surprising to hear that the Yankees are seemingly making a serious bid for Burnett. Now the Braves find themselves among the teams waiting to see if Burnett's reported offer is accurate.

The Braves still have an interest in Derek Lowe, whose representative, Scott Boras, will have no problem patiently waiting for clubs to provide his client top dollar. If Lowe opts to pitch in Boston or any other Major League city other than Atlanta, the Braves would then find themselves dipping into the next category of available free-agent starting pitchers.

This category would include Jon Garland, Randy Wolf and Oliver Perez, who all have the capability of being profitable gambles. At the same time, Wren is talking with a number of teams with the hope of finding a trade opportunity that might not have been available as recently as last week.

"The one thing about the trade market is that there's always a chance that it can change," Wren said. "Teams have plans going into the offseason, and, when those plans change, the teams shift and might have something to offer that wasn't available in previous conversations."

As things continue to unravel, there's certainly a chance the Padres could return to the Braves and attempt to complete the negotiations that weren't completed last week.

With a need to significantly slash, the Padres seem to be in a position where they almost have to trade Peavy, and the general consensus is that the Braves have undoubtedly provided them the best offer to date.

Before Atlanta pulled out of active negotiations last week, San Diego GM Kevin Towers was encouraged enough by the offer that he's not ruling out the possibility of reengaging with Wren in the near future.

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"You never know," Towers said. "We certainly made more progress with them. We were able to ID and agree upon a large part of the package."

The Padres are seeking Major League-ready pitchers, and the Braves were willing to provide this with a choice between Jo-Jo Reyes or Charlie Morton. In addition, it's believed Wren would have also highlighted his package with shortstop Yunel Escobar and outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez.

When the Padres continued to ask for this package to be further sweetened last week, Wren grew uncomfortable and opted to focus his attention elsewhere.

Before the Braves start investing more time in their pursuit of Peavy, they'd like to get a better sense of what it would take for Peavy to waive his current full no-trade clause. The 27-year-old hurler's no-trade rights become limited in 2011 and '12, the final two guaranteed seasons of his current contract.

Because Atlanta has a policy to not provide no-trade clauses, Towers has wondered whether Peavy would even agree to any trade involving the Braves.

The policy to not extend no-trade clauses dates back to 1990, when current team president John Schuerholz came to Atlanta to serve as the general manager. During that time, the Braves arguably have never traded a player who would have been worthy to demand such a clause.

But this of course has a lot to do with the fact that this 18-season span included 14 consecutive division titles and little need to undergo a major roster reconstruction process.

Even though the Cubs have already re-signed Dempster, they haven't completely ruled out the possibility of adding Peavy to their already impressive starting rotation. But they'd likely have to get at least one other team involved to create a package that would satisfy the Padres.

Towers has admitted it will be difficult for the Cubs to create this package.

"The team you're dealing directly with has to have something to offer a third club," Towers said. "That makes it much more difficult. A lot of times, your trade partner may not have what it takes to get the player you're looking for. ... And if it's a contending team, they don't want to give up their established players."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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