Braves looking for ace at Meetings

Braves looking for ace at Meetings

LAS VEGAS -- Braves general manager Frank Wren had visions of landing his ace long before the Winter Meetings arrived. Now he's simply holding out hope that he'll find one before they adjourn on Thursday.

Wren and his staff arrived Sunday afternoon at the Bellagio, the site of this year's Winter Meetings, looking forward to the opportunity to do much more than enjoy one of the most palatial buildings on the Las Vegas strip.

For more than two months, Wren has been actively pursuing an ace, and it's no secret that his focus has long rested on A.J. Burnett, who is arguably the best available free-agent starting pitcher not named CC Sabathia.

The Braves have provided Burnett with a four-year contract that includes a vesting option for a fifth year that one Major League source has deemed "very attainable." This week, they'll gain a better understanding about which teams might pose the biggest threat in their bid to lure the veteran hurler to Atlanta.

The Yankees, Blue Jays, Phillies and Orioles have all reportedly shown interest in Burnett, who would stand as the most significant pitcher to come to Atlanta as a free agent since Greg Maddux.

While attempting to land one of the best starting pitchers on this year's free-agent market, members of the Braves management team will pause to personally congratulate Maddux as he announces his retirement during a Monday morning news conference at the Bellagio.

But attending Maddux's retirement announcement is obviously just one of the many things Wren has on his agenda. After saying goodbye to arguably the greatest pitcher they've ever employed, the Braves will take advantage of every opportunity to say hello to Darek Braunecker, who came to Las Vegas hoping to move closer to determining where Burnett will pitch next year.

As Burnett's agent, Braunecker will be one of the most popular figures during this week's Winter Meetings. He has repeatedly said that his client will definitely have the opportunity to accept a guaranteed five-year contract.

Braunecker said Atlanta became an even more attractive destination last week when the Braves acquired Javier Vazquez from the White Sox. Wren also landed left-handed reliever Boone Logan in the six-player trade.

The acquisitions of Vazquez and Logan erased two of Wren's needs, and he removed another component from his checklist when he signed backup catcher David Ross on Friday.

Along with an ace, Wren is also still attempting to acquire a power-hitting outfielder. Without much interest in the outfielders on the free-agent market, he has pointed his attention toward the trade market and said that he may not fill this need immediately.

Wren knows there's a chance he might find more attractive opportunities to land an outfielder later this offseason, or possibly during Spring Training. Thus, he's not putting a time constraint on his search for a player that could add much-needed power to his outfield mix.

The Winter Meetings will conclude on Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft. With their 40-man roster currently full, the Braves aren't in position to make a selection during this Draft. But this could certainly change as this week progresses.

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