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NL East Watch: The Braves' Bold Move

Fresh off their trade for Javier Vazquez, the Atlanta Braves have moved quickly and aggressively to try to lock up another top starting pitcher, making a significant offer to free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett. The offer, which GM Frank Wren has confirmed, was for four years with a vesting option for a fifth year. Financial terms were not disclosed, but it was believed to be for roughly $15 million a year.

A straight four-year deal would not have been enough to get a deal done, while a five-year guaranteed deal would not be a wise move for the Braves, considering Burnett's age (32) and injury history. The vesting option, then, was a solid compromise. If Burnett makes a designated number of starts or pitches a designated number of innings -- the specific terms are unknown -- the fifth year would kick in automatically.

It is doubtful the Burnett camp will jump on the offer immediately -- and they would be fools to do so, given the apparent interest in Burnett by the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Phillies, Orioles and Blue Jays -- but things could move swiftly from here. The signal coming from agent Darek Brauneker is that a guaranteed fifth year would get a deal done, and given the number of teams involved I would be surprised if someone doesn't give it to him. It may even be the Braves.

With Tim Hudson (elbow surgery) expected to be out until Aug. 2009, here is how the Braves' rotation might look on Opening Day -- with each pitcher's ERA+ last year (adjusted for park and league effects, with 100 being league average) if they get Burnett:

RHP A.J.Burnett (105)
RHP Javier Vazquez (98)
RHP Jair Jurrjens (116)
RHP John Smoltz (165, in limited action)
RHP Jorge Campillo (109)

Solid. Very solid.

By Dave Sheinin  |  December 5, 2008; 7:57 AM ET
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Comments (Eric Seidman) projects this rotation as a 4 to 6 win improvement over last year.

The length on Burnett probably will drive off the Red Sox (

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 5, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Excuse my ignorance, but I have no idea what those ERA+ numbers mean. Can't we just use regular old ERA?

Posted by: chrisduckworth | December 5, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

With Greg Maddux "announcing" his intent to retire next week, can Glavine & Smoltz be that far behind? IMO, Smoltz gets punted from this best-case starters lineup, to be replaced by either Charlie Morton (RHP, 4-8, 6.15ERA) or James Parr (RHP, 1-0, 4.84ERA). BTW, Parr's only win was against the Nationals.

Posted by: BinM | December 5, 2008 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Someone has to do it:

This qualifies as news - Laird to Tigers for 2 pitching prospects.

This qualifies as rumor and is more enjoyable - Nick Cafardo's speculation on potential signings and team needs. Somewhat incredibly, he has the Nats interested in Griffey Jr. He also has virtually every team in the NL interested in Ibanez.

And here is Jayson Stark. Peavy, Dye, Putz, Greinke, and Hermida as trade targets.

Finally, Varitek turns down arbitration.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 8, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 8, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

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