Wren leaves Meetings satisfied
General manager acquires lefty reliever, valuable utilityman
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Braves general manager Frank Wren's roster reconstruction isn't complete. But when he left the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Thursday morning, he was able to drive back to Atlanta feeling good about what he'd accomplished during this year's Winter Meetings.
Wren arrived in Nashville on Sunday looking to improve his roster in four specific areas. He quenched two of those desires on Tuesday, when he acquired left-handed reliever Will Ohman and versatile utilityman Omar Infante from the Cubs in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jose Ascanio.
"We're happy we were able to fill two key spots," Wren said. "We're by no means done with calls and our attempt to try to make the club better. But I think if you'd have told me on Sunday, when we arrived, that we would leave with a left-handed reliever and a guy like Infante as a super utility guy, I'd have said it was a successful meeting."
If possible, Wren would still like to add experience to the current options he has to play center field and serve as his backup catcher. He's evaluating trades that would fulfill these needs and has had some discussions with 38-year-old veteran Damian Miller, who would be targeted to serve as All-Star catcher Brian McCann's backup.
While finding more experienced options at these two positions might be the priority, Wren is also working both the trade and free-agent market in search of relievers who could add depth to his bullpen.
"There's attrition in bullpens every year," Wren said. "You'd like to have as many guys as possible every year going in [to the season]. ... You literally look under every rock to see if you can find pitching so that you don't dismiss anything that comes across."
Wren has been happy with the progress Mike Hampton has realized since straining his right hamstring on Thanksgiving Day, and he hasn't even discussed acquiring starting pitching since signing Tom Glavine two weeks ago. He's happy with the rotation's depth, and based on the interest other teams have shown in some of his starters this week, it's safe to say he has quality depth in this department.
Jair Jurrjens, who was acquired with Gorkys Hernandez from the Tigers in exchange for Edgar Renteria in October, has definitely drawn interest from other clubs. On Wednesday, three different teams inquired about the 21-year-old right-hander's availability and quickly learned that he's not available.
Wren's decision to trade Renteria the day after the World Series concluded proved to be wise. Had he waited and allowed the Tigers to make other moves -- namely Wednesday's, in which they sent six top prospects to the Marlins in exchange for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis -- they likely would not have had the opportunity to gain top prospects like Jurrjens and Hernandez.
Wren's ability to fill most of his primary roster needs quickly has provided him a solid roster base and the ability to spend the next few weeks and months adding depth to specific areas. He says he's got a couple of minor trades that could be finalized once other teams create roster spots or learn that other trade possibilities aren't going to be fulfilled.
"It's small moves that we think make us better," Wren said.
Wren's transactions have seemingly been appreciated by many of his players. During a telephone conversation on Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Francoeur expressed excitement about the versatility that Infante provides.
Likewise on Tuesday, while at the Winter Meetings to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award that Baseball America was presenting him, Glavine and Greg Maddux, John Smoltz said he already saw a deeper roster that would be able to hide some of the weaknesses that were exposed last year.
"Options are everything for us," Smoltz said. "Baseball exposes [your weaknesses] over a length of time. You hope at the beginning that it doesn't. But reality says that it always does."
Deals done: Wren's only transaction was to acquire Ohman and Infante from the Cubs in exchange for Ascanio. To make room on the 40-man roster, Willie Harris was designated for assignment.
Rule 5 activity: The Braves lost right-handed pitcher Sergio Valenzuela, who was taken by Cincinnati with the sixth pick in the Major League phase.
Goals accomplished: Wren filled his primary bullpen need with an affordable veteran reliever and also provided manager Bobby Cox with some flexibility via the acquisition of the versatile Infante, who can play six different positions and provide speed on the bases.
Unfinished business: There's still a desire to find an experienced center fielder to fill the role until Jordan Schafer is deemed to be ready for the Majors. Along those same lines, Wren wants to find a catcher who could fill an everyday role if McCann was sidelined with an injury. Wren also wants to continue adding depth to his bullpen.
GM's bottom line: "We like Ascanio. But when you can get two key guys while really only giving up one key prospect and somebody who didn't really figure into your team in , you're happy with that." -- Wren, on Tuesday's trade
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.